Am I the only one who has a problem with this - Darkest Dungeon and Iratus

A quick summary of my issue:

I love Darkest Dungeon, and when I saw Iratus: Lord of the Dead come up on steam and in pre-release let’s plays I got somewhat enthused, but now, 6 episodes into a let’s play, I’m getting a really squicky feeling. The map is a straight up Slay the Spire ripoff, the graphics and character design are B/C or Beta version of DD’s, the combat and management looks like it’s essentially been ripped straight out of DD with a decent, but not overly thorough reskinning, etc. I initially thought it might have been a Red Hook studios product, but it’s a completely new studio.

It feels like I should have some ethical concerns here, and shy hard away, but I was curious if other people with more knowledge and who are more plugged in have a different perspective.

Like the title says: Am I the only one who feels this is really squicky?

I have not played Iratus, but this post did jog a memory of reading this Reddit post from one if the game developers pitching Iratus and explaining the inspiration and influence of Darkest Dungeon.

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Thank you for the link, that was quite enlightening. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel much better, but provides some insight that lets me approach this in a more informed way.

Much appreciated.

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I can see how you’d feel uncomfortable with it. Since it can feel like the DD team put all the work in to make a cool system and then another team gets to skip that initial step.
But I feel like there is, and should be, room for devs to look at something they like and say “we have ideas on how to do this in a slightly different way that appeals better to our personal sensibilities”
And I think they go into that in the attached article.
This feels like “Darkest Dungeon but more of what we want” and as someone who has been begging for someone, anyone, to make a good modern Final Fantasy Tactics ripoff for years, I’m pretty sympathetic to that.
I think this feels more like Darkest Dungeon (and Slay the Spire since you mentioned that) hitting people in a way that resonates and spawns a mini subgenre in the way that Dark Souls has done. Vambrace: Cold Soul did the same “take what we like from DD and a roguelike Slay the Spire map and tweak it the way we want”
Not that the presence of other copycats should convince you its ok, its just that other games doing similar things makes me think this is more of a sub-genre thing rather than a straight copy thing.

Sorry, but I’m gonna ramble here.

We’ve been here many, many times:

  • Angry Birds basically being just a flash game that been copied hundreds of times.
  • Are battle royale games clones or just a new multiplayer mode ala team deathmatch?
  • Capcom losing a lawsuit against Data East over Fighter’s History “copying” Street Fighter II
  • Minecraft essentially starting with Hatsune Miku wanting to do more with the idea of Infiniminer after its development stopped.
  • Candy Crush being only a slightly different version of Bejeweled.
  • The whole Threes vs 2048 debacle
  • Bloodstained openly being marketed as a continuation of the “Igavania”.

All of these cases can be argued either way, but ultimately come down to the law and the policies of storefronts like Steam. But since I don’t give a shit about either and they’re both incredibly arbitrary and inconsistent, the real thing that determines it is just… what your gut says.

Personally, each case comes down to a gut feeling, but there are some easy ones to write off:

  1. The People Involved - If Sakaguchi wants to make a new Final Fantasy game in everything but name, he can go right ahead. If Brenda Romero wants to make a new Wizardry style game, who am I to stop her? And we all want Kojima to be able to just make Metal Gear if he wants cause fuck Konami. No one person makes games like this, but they are creative leads with a resume that establishes their expertise in this style of game. You can’t seriously look at these people making what they know and call it copying.
  2. Time - If a game comes out decades after the game it is “copying” and the original creators (or, more likely, the rights holder) haven’t done anything with it since, then who cares? Disc Jam was a shameless rip on Windjammers, but with 13 years between them and absolutely zero indication that Windjammers would ever return, I don’t think anyone has the right to shame High Horse Entertainment for what they made.
  3. Spin - Okay, you’re making a game inspired heavily by the newer XCOM games. It’s gonna have the same kind of tactic battles and out of combat strategy that feed into each other. That’s fine… if you have the right spin on the idea. Massive Chalice is a great example of how to do this well. Anyone who played X-COM: Enemy Unknown will know exactly what the gameplay loop is going to be, but Double Fine took everything else about the game and went for something new. The game is fantasy instead of modern day sci-fi, stylized low-poly instead of semi-realistic, takes place over generations instead of years (adding another layer of strategy of keeping bloodlines going), and not entirely gun based, making all encounters closer in range (and levels a lot smaller). It was like XCOM… but in every facet of the game, it was very much its own thing at the same time.
  4. Purpose - What experience are you trying to give your player? Even if a newer game is very close to an older game, you can use that closeness to play with player expectations or tell a narrative with a scope that includes the original. Eversion is a simple example, as it uses its Mario-esque gameplay and cutesy platformer asthetic to reveal something more sinister. Spec Ops: The Line used it being “just another modern military shooter” to tell a story… criticizing modern military shooters. Regardless if you believe either are successful, they used the templates of games before them and attempted to give the player a different experience
  5. Technological Difference - An edge case, but relevant with VR development in the last few years. If your game offers a similar experience and aesthetic, but is not just using a mouse/keyboard or controller to play it, then you are offering a substantially different experience even if screenshots of the game look similar. (Using a touch screen just as a button not included, of course.)

There are probably others, but those are the ones that stick out to me.

Iratus has none of these.

There is no overlap in the developers of the game, it is ripping the style and the gameplay on two games that are very recent, there is multiple times in the core gameplay loop of the game where it mirrors its “inspiration” exactly, there is no commentary on its “inspirations”, and they’re both PC games. So the easy disqualifiers are out.

Doesn’t mean the game is necessarily a copy, but based on what’s there, I can’t see where an argument could be made for it not just copying Darkest Dungeon.

Say you gave me the words “gothic horror”, “roguelike”, and “turn based combat” and I set out to make the most extremely cynical design documents based purely on the game being marketable based on recent mega-successes in the indie market, I would end up with something that looks almost identical to this game.