This isn't a sweet Harmony
The Castlevania series isn’t known for its’ overhauls. While it took on the form of a Metroid style game with Symphony of the Night to get people to coin the term “Metroidvania”, it has pretty much been the same formula over and over since then, for better or worse. When it was announced that Harmony of Despair would be a multiplayer-driven and not a story-driven game, people raised eyebrows, and those eyebrows can be kept high to some extent knowing that this isn’t exactly the best overhaul the series has hoped for.
Harmony of Despair is a 2D dungeon-crawler loot game in the styling of Monster Hunter. You get into a party, you go through a level, collect loot and defeat enemies and eventually fight a boss. At the end of each stage, you equip and buy new gear and sell off gear you won’t need. It sounds simple enough, right? It’s not so hard except for the fact that the menu system is pretty clunky, and finding a game online can be a chore since the Quick Match feature doesn’t really work. While playing a level is simple enough, getting to one can be troublesome. However, the menu system is one of the least worrisome parts of the game.
The developers of this game didn’t seem fit enough to tell you how to do certain aspects of the game, like how to level up characters’ magic spells, which actually vary from character to character. This is a core aspect to how some characters play and it’s sort of baffling as to why they left it out. It’s not just that aspect, either; there are a lot of aspects they expect you to know about before playing the game. This really limits the number of players who can play and enjoy the game right off the bat.
The game also expects you to know what a character’s Constitution, Mind and other various symbols and abbreviations mean without a thorough explanation. For example, I had to look online at numerous forms as to how to absorb glyphs for Shanoa and how to upgrade Charlotte’s magic spells, which are actually simple tasks; but it’s the little things like that which makes this game such a hard sell, even before the steep asking price.
At 1200 Microsoft Points, Harmony of Despair is not going to get many buyers. Therefore I can only recommend it if you can get at least two to three other friends to join you on a journey through the normal mode. The game is fun to play, but only with others. By yourself, it becomes a chore due to the high amount of grinding you’ll need to get some good drops. For a Castlevania game, this is really cluttered and confused, and is a major step back in the franchise. If it weren’t for Lords of Shadow, I’d probably call the franchise dead like I do with Sonic due to this game. But judgment on that must be withheld for the moment. This game however, is okay. Good times can be had, but it won’t be had by many.