With the release of My Life as a Dark Lord, Square Enix continue to embrace Wiiware and expand the Crystal Chronicles world that has become synonymous with the Nintendo platform. When Wiiware launched just over a year ago, many would argue that the flagship title was My Life as a King; a Sim City / Little King’s Story style of RTS. It appears that with the Crystal Chronicles universe, Square Enix are happy to vary their approach to the series, despite going against a traditional formula which has rewarded them with so much success. My Life as a Dark Lord is certainly no different in its attempt to do things differently from its ubiquitous turn-based RPG heritage.
The simplest description of My Life as a Dark Lord is that it’s a tower defence game. The twist, hinted at in the title, is that you play as the bad guys. You control Mira, the evil daughter of the Dark Lord who has imprisoned himself in a crystal that resides at the top of your tower. Protecting that crystal from attacking Mages and Bandits, by creating floors and filling them with monsters, is your primary task. The monsters you command are instantly recognisable, many of them appearing in other Final Fantasy titles. The characters all look very polished and have a look most comparable to Kingdom Hearts. Despite being evil it’s still a bright, colourful, andhappy affair rather than a dull, menacing one. But the twist of playing as the bad guys doesn’t really effect the gameplay – it could have easily worked in the more traditional format, but at least here it succeeds in differentiating itself from other games in the genre.
The ultimate goal is to conquer all of the land by moving your tower across the world map, defeating various castles and thus acquiring Karma. This is used to strengthen your monsters and expand the number of floors you can create in your tower. Negative power is the other currency used to spend on summoning floors and monsters. This management becomes essential if you are to withstand the increasing strength of the attackers and bosses. The floors and enemies you choose all have specific attributes, giving the game great strategic depth. For example, ranged monsters work well against magic units but are weak against Bandits. It’s crucial to master and exploit these strengths and weakness to succeed. Finding the balance between spending your points in preparation and throughout the mission becomes very addictive and is where the games main strength lies.
It’s unfortunate that its only real weakness is indicative of the genre. Repetition quickly sets in and no amount of variation in monsters or items can deter this. This will limit the playing time down to short sections, which is fortunate as it’s very easy to pick up and play at any time. The only DLC available comes in the form of additional monsters, costumes and items to place in your tower, and they come at a high price. This suggests they still haven’t got this aspect of DLC worked out yet and while the omission of any DLC won’t stop you from enjoying the title,they may aid in making the game easier as many give you additional Karma points and negative points to spend.
My life as a Dark Lord highlights why downloadable games work. It’s definitely not something you would happily spend £30 on due to the repetition and lack of variation. However, for 1000 points (equivalent to £10) you get an enjoyable, well presented,and at times very addictive, little title.