To anyone that knows what Amorphous+ is, this will probably sound completely insane. If you don't, I'll fill you in. Amorphous+ is a top-down Flash game made in 2008. You can see a gameplay video of it
, and you can play it here.*
So how the heck is this thing like Dark Souls? At first, there doesn't seem to be much of a resemblance. Amorphous+ is extremely casual; while you can get a few items later on, the vast majority of the game is controlled by moving the mouse to move, and clicking to attack. None of the RPG elements in Dark Souls are there; no leveling system, exploration, story, acquisition of items during gameplay, formal systems for dodging or blocking attacks, or even a health bar.
However, Amorphous+ has one similarity which is arguably the most important; the gameplay is highly dependent upon preventing your character being trapped in an animation while an enemy is attacking you. Your standard attack is an AoE sword attack which can hit multiple enemies, but leaves you vulnerable after swinging. The most common enemy type doesn't kill you, but stuns you for about a second if you bump into it, while other types will happily take advantage of your stun animation to kill you – which happens instantly, by the way. The combat is completely based around the idea of positioning yourself such that you can attack without repercussions, rather than attacking something as soon as you see it.
While individual enemies in Dark Souls may have more complicated AI which responds to your behavior by evading and countering your attacks, similar kinds of situations emerge naturally from unique combinations of enemies in Amorphous+, and this is because enemies affect (and are affected by) the environment. For instance, several enemies leave behind splashes of residue upon dying, which may slow, blind, or kill anything that moves over them. These can normally be avoided with ease, but can ultimately result in you painting yourself into a corner if you're surrounded by too many enemies. Alternatively, some enemies may require you to carefully hit an enemy, retreat, and hit them again. While these tactics are easy in an isolated environment, the presence of other enemies can complicate this task greatly.
All in all, these mechanics lend themselves to a game which is extremely cerebral and methodical. Every time I die, I get the impression that if I could watch a replay of my death I would instantly see one or two things I could have done differently.
So how did I end up liking this more than Dark Souls? If I'm being honest, it's that this game can be just as difficult and punishing, yet manages to be far more accessible. Over the past few years I've found myself less and less interested in exploring, getting lost, crunching numbers, and optimizing class builds. For as stock-standard as most of these things are to a traditional RPG, they feel antiquated, abstract, and tedious to me. (This is probably a big reason that I find myself enjoying Monster Hunter more than Dark Souls; picking out armor can be tedious, but at least your missions are straightforward, telling you what you're going to fight and where you'll fight it.)
Amorphous+ is immediately understandable; it takes all of about 10 seconds to learn how to play it. And while a new enemy will probably kill you the first time you encounter it, toying with it in practice mode after you've unlocked it will give you enough understanding to be able to handle the next time around. And despite this, the game manages to retain its difficulty, not because of the enemies, but because of the novel combinations of enemies and environmental factors that complicate your decisions.
*There are several ways to play Flash games after the shutdown on January 12th. Some people set their computer clocks back to before the 12th, whereas I download the games and open them with an offline Flash Player.
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