Dandara is another new entry into the strange relatively new subgenre of Soulsvanias, and yes, it actually does use the core mechanic of Dark Souls instead of just comparing itself to Dark Souls because it’s difficult.
Despite the potential experience loss, it’s not really that tough either. It’s not easy either, but it’s definitely not as punishing as Dark Souls. There are some tough enemies, some of which require some pretty furious dodging, but they’re not as frequent and you’ll come to learn that many of them can be quickly death with by letting off a quick missile spam barrage.
Bosses are a different matter, sometimes requiring multiple attempts to get their more complex patterns down, but even then, even the toughest boss here isn’t going to make you pull your hair out like Dark Souls. The big, “real” bosses are pretty impressive in how creatively their environments and attacks are designed, but unfortunately there are very few of these boss fights to see here.
There are only 3 big boss battles to be found here. There are technically several other boss fights, but all those ones feel more like mini-bosses at best and can usually be taken out with little to no effort using the standard missile spam technique that you can deal with all the normal enemies with.
No, the real enemy in Dandara is the environment itself. See, in Dandara, you can’t run or jump in the standard manner. Instead you move only with directional leaps from one white surface to another. This leads to a lot of twisted gravity-defying environments, which are weirdly both the best and worst things about this game.
The plus side is that there are some really well-designed levels that make great use of the leaping mechanic by forcing you to adjust your way of thinking about navigation a little in order to find your way through what will initially seem like some pretty complex mazes.
On the other hand, this can get very disorienting. Rooms tend to rotate a lot as you make your way through them, but the map doesn’t rotate with you or show your position in a room, so in a lot of the many rooms with multiple doorways, it can be difficult to tell which one you’re actually standing at. Finding your way through this world can get a bit confusing later on too, as you’ll run into a lot of areas where it can be pretty unclear if you’re supposed to come back later because you need an item you haven’t found yet or if the difficulty has just randomly spiked and you just have to deal with it.
At around the mid-point of the game there will be so many branching paths that unless you get lucky, you’ll be spending an uncomfortable amount of time doing a lot of trial and error and backtracking just to figure out where you’re even supposed to be going, and it can be a little frustrating.
In a way, I suppose that’s fitting with the theme of the game though. It’s all very surreal and directionless, as if you’re in some perpetual dream state. The plot is so vague and obtuse that it might as well not even exist. You’re either going to have to like the gameplay and the feel of the game enough to motivate you to continue, because you sure aren’t given any other reason to.
This is not to say that I didn’t like the game though. It does have its problems, from those mentioned above to the severe lack of variety in weapons and items. It feels amateurish in ways, but it’s clear that these are some very talented amateurs. While not perfect, it’s still an impressive and fun debut from Long Hat House, and I am interested to see what they come up with next.