Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dokapon Kingdom: The Mid-Game Gap

Just past the mid-point in Dokapon Kingdom, my brother has been caught in a trap of sorts caused by a flaw in the board layout of Dokapon Kingdom. Because the fifth continent of the game does not have a weapon shop of its own, it is really easy for a character who was behind the curve during the fourth continent to fall almost hopelessly behind the game's frontrunners, which may take characters out of the game disappointingly early.

The problem has its roots in the nigh-inaccessible nature of the fourth continent, the game's analog to South America. Not only does the player have to cross through three other continents to reach the fourth continent, but the fourth continent is cut off from the rest of the board by a forest dungeon that is approximately the size of a continent in of itself. Since the fourth continent is so far away from the rest of the board, a player can't afford to go there lightly. Now then, the fifth continent is connected directly to the early parts of the third continent, and is thus easy to access from the main part of the game board. However, since the fifth continent has no weapon store of its own, a player who wants to purchase new weapons during Chapter Five has to abandon the fifth continent and trek all the way back to the fourth continent's weapon store, placing that character very far behind the rest of the pack.

Because of the way Dokapon Kingdom's Story Mode is structured, two of the four players in my current game have been placed in this bad situation. During Chapter Four, when the towns on the fourth continent became up for grabs, Player 3 (a CPU) never even made it onto the fourth continent due to bad luck on movement rolls and in combat. Furthermore, my brother (Player 1) never got the right rolls to make it to the Weapon Store, even though he spent some time on the fourth continent. On the other hand, Player 4 (another CPU) and I did get out hands on up to date weapons and shields. Unfortunately for my brother, he didn't have time to stick around and buy weapons because Chapter 4's end of chapter event forced all of the players to quickly scramble back to earlier areas. Once that was completed, the fifth continent was open for business and became the focal point of the game, making the trip back to the fourth continent too time consuming to be worth it.

Unfortunately for my brother, not having up to date equipment is a serious draw-back. First off, it is very hard to take on the new, more powerful monsters of the fifth continent with weapons and shields from the third continent, and if a player can't kill those monsters, he will fall behind the level curve and be unable to capture towns. While it may be possible for such a character to beat some monsters, level up, and take a town, a character with better equipment will do those things faster and with less effort. Compounding the problem, it is nearly impossible for a under-leveled and under-equipped character to take on another player in direct combat. So, Chapter 5 has so far led to a significant widening of small gaps between players that opened up based on relative luck in Chapter 4. At this point, Player 3 has almost been completely shut out of the game, and my brother is going through hard times.

While it is necessary for a competitive game to eventually solidify the standings, this is much too early in the game for that. There are still two whole continents to go before the game is decided. Games like this are a lot more fun when it is a close race and most of the players have fair odds of taking the lead. Even though I am now in the lead, the current situation just isn't very satisfying. While it still remains to be seen whether or not Chapter 6 will give a chance for those who are behind to catch up, it might still be a very difficult task for those who have fallen behind due to the increasing power of enemies and the vast gains the leaders have made. What it all comes down to is that the game would have had a much more level playing field if the fifth continent had just had a Weapon Shop.

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