There’s a little bit of depth to it as well – albeit only a little bit. You can choose from five playable characters to begin with, ranging from a hulking and nasty looking muscle-bound brute to a vampire prince (the Goth’s choice) and an elfin queen. As usual in this sort of thing, whacking monsters gives you experience and enables you to level up, and when that happens you can distribute points between your three major stats: health, SP and Luck. You need SP to equip weapons, armour and various support items, but also to attack with them, which means that – initially – you have to think carefully about what you wield and when you use it. You also have to think a little about how you upgrade your stats as you level up. On top of this, while you will find new weapons as you upgrade, the game also features weird idols in each level which allow you to ‘synthesize’ two or more weapons together to make new ones, adding new abilities or simply extra damage-dealing stats as you go. On top of this, you can also go to sleep, at which point your character has peculiar and slightly abstract dreams during which they can select additional combat skills to learn. The price of that handy fireball, demon hand or heal spell is usually to kill large numbers of particular types of monsters. Handily enough, this is simply giving you extra reason to do what you would be doing anyway.
As you might expect, Circle of Doom is combat heavy. In fact, it’s combat heavy in the same way that a Quattro Formaggio pizza is cheese heavy. If you don’t really, really, really like combat, don’t go near it, because you’re going to be sick of the taste by the time you’re a quarter way through. Now, I haven’t got a huge problem with combat heavy. I didn’t hate Ninety Nine Nights because it was combat heavy, but because it was stupidly designed. I didn’t hate Diablo, Titan Quest, God of War, Heavenly Sword or Spartan: Total Warrior for being combat heavy either. In fact, I quite liked them. The problem with Circle of Doom is that it really is just a question of blundering from group to group of monsters, swinging your current best weapon with occasional breaks to use a ranged weapon, spell, special ability or side arm. There’s really no more to the combat than that.
There’s no ingenious mechanic that makes you think about timing or build up to a spectacular frenzied attack. There’s no sign of any real intelligence from your enemies, who seem content to trudge dutifully towards you once activated, with only a few magic-using foes who sneak around launching their chosen spell upon you. There’s no real need for strategy, intelligence or courage or anything much beyond opposable thumbs and the sense to press the health potion key when the bar gets low. When the only parts of the game that require your active engagement are a) navigating the mini map b) managing your inventory c) synthesizing weapons and d) sorting out the stat upgrades when you level, I think it’s time to worry.