Affogato Preview – Bring on Tower Defense Waifus
The Tower Defense genre often presents reversing the Attacker and Defender role as a novelty. As a core mechanic, Tower Defense reversal has often seen minimal usage within the genre. Affogato heeds the call of this reversal and implements it within a full-fledged JRPG, boasting mechanics and gameplay you typically wouldn’t find in a Tower Defense game.
The story begins with the player taking control of the titular witch, Affogato, in her quest to do contractual work in the city and meet payments by her deadlines. Affogato runs her coffee shop, the Witchery, which is the base of operations for her and her archdemon familiar, Mephista. Despite this, its primary source of income is resolving the havoc caused by demons in her city.
The core gameplay consists of entering stages that will let you spawn familiars via your Witch Cards on the map. Familiars will traverse the map in a line until they reach the end, which houses a stage boss that needs to be defeated. Outside these stages, there is an overworld where the player can interact with characters, accept quests, and discover clues. The player will also control Affogato in a coffee brewing minigame that adds an extra layer to interact with your customers.
While the combination of these mechanics seems solid, they all start to fall apart in practice. Within the current scope of the demo, the reverse Tower Defense fails at establishing engaging mechanics past the initial stages. To commence gameplay, you must cast a Witch Card at the cost of your initial Penta, which is your summoning currency.
The fail state of a level is when you run out of active familiars and do not have enough Penta to summon any new familiars. The problem with Penta is that gaining Penta is extremely railroaded. A few enemies will carry Penta, which is indicated above their heads. Once an enemy is defeated, you gain the Penta. While there are other ways to earn Penta, the player will not have access to them from the start. In addition, the player can only summon one familiar per Witch Card at a time.
It is possible to resummon a familiar if they are defeated, but it is impossible to go over the max amount of familiars per Witch Cards you brought. Finally, there is a lack of initial stage variety. While the game will let you control intersection directions, the open-ended level designs are made pointless by the mandatory route that will net you enough Penta for summons before you reach a game over.
The core gameplay also lacks any diverse character deployments. There were no maps that utilized splitting up your characters. The only place you can summon is at the current spawn point or next to your active character. The player can slow down time or pause the time to give them a chance to summon or change intersection directions.
The ability to freeze time and the forcibly synergistic nature each familiar has on one another will lead the player to freeze the game and change all the arrows all at once. Unfortunately, the ability to freeze active gameplay made it far too easy, though essential in smaller maps, as it would often misclick a directional selection. After a few stages, this gameplay loop became tedious and lacked engagement.
This game features a Time Management system that limits the players to a few actions per day, with a deadline after a specified amount of days. Working the coffee shop and increasing your stats are a few things you can do to pass the time. Unfortunately, however, the demo did not offer enough game time to display the full implications of this time management system.
There is an explorable overworld, though it only consists of running around and interacting with people or objects. Audio and visual bugs were present within the overworld that hindered the experience. The coffee brewing minigame, while visually pleasing, also seemed to be very rudimentary, as it only consisted of dragging and dropping ingredients. The player only needs to follow a guide and then enter an appropriate amount of spices, which may become monotonous further down the line.
Affogato’s current state is style over substance, as while the art and music excel in their presentation, the gameplay has shortcomings in almost every regard. In the full release, a refinement of existing mechanics and implementation of different playstyles to the core gameplay could bolster a unique concept.
One addition that should be included is summoning multiples of the same familiar and spreading to have them spread across the map. More player involvement in the overworld and brewing minigames would also help diversify the established gameplay loops. Along with patching the audio and visual bugs, Affogato does have the potential to establish a unique mix of reverse-Tower Defense and modern JRPG.
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