Strategy role-playing games typically come in two flavors: games in which you either amass large armies of units (such as King's Bounty) or those in which the focus is to gather a group of heroes (such as the Disciples series). Grotesque Tactics 2: Dungeons & Donuts takes the Disciples route, so the basic setup should be familiar to anyone who has invested time in the genre. Unfortunately, the game is let down by a plethora of problems, including a shallow combat system, incomplete translations, and a slanderous sense of humor that makes this an uncomfortable and tiresome experience.
In Grotesque Tactics 2, the emo star of the first game, Drake, must form his own adventuring guild and assemble a group of misfit adventurers. The guildmates you acquire are an assortment of characters that are little more than stereotypes, such as the jive-talkin' black man, the ditzy blonde, and a holier-than-thou angel that loves nothing more than to bicker with a dark undead adventuress. If you thought cookie-cutter characters was the only unoriginal aspect of the story, there's some bad news. Drake suffers from the most well-worn plot trope: amnesia. As he regains his memory, you learn more about his past with some of his companions and the deadly fog that's plaguing the world, which has driven you underground to The Sanctuary (not only is it a safe place, but it's also your quest hub).
The story isn't interesting, and the same goes for the quests that you pursue in this tale. Within The Sanctuary are several factions--the mercenaries, the elves, and the humans--and you spend a great deal of time running among their bases and multiple dungeons as you accomplish tasks to curry favor. Your reputation with the various factions is important; as you gain more rep, you earn more quests and advance the plot (for what it's worth).
Early on, many of these quests are tedious, such as those that involve cooking meals for people. What's worse, you may receive a quest that sends you into a sealed-off area that can only be unlocked by completing a different quest. Grotesque Tactics 2 doesn't make the natural order of quests clear, and this, combined with quests that require you to interact with multiple character, makes for a lot of running back and forth around the Sanctuary. Such quests serve as mindless padding between the combat missions and makes you pine for the moments when you can use your sword rather than fry up some vittles.
Unfortunately, you face a different set of problems during combat. While exploring on the map, your companions march with you. But you can't set their marching order; the AI takes care of it. So when combat starts, they're all in a jumble, and when combat ends, they sometimes spread out. This can be problematic if they initiate another battle while spreading out, especially if you're not ready for a battle. When combat occurs, it's pretty standard turn-based fighting. You control your team against the AI foes, who are about as smart as a colony of sea sponges. They generally rush into the fray, targeting your guild members willy-nilly. And they never focus on healers; they just attack whoever is in range first.
The options available in combat are limited. As you level up, you can acquire and boost abilities on your character's skill tree. The sad thing is that a number of skills on these trees duplicate skills of other characters, so combat suffers from the lack of variety. And the skills on these trees are bland. Combat never feels truly tactical--fighting is all about simply whacking a foe, using a limited area-of-effect spell (that's centered on you, so you can't even fling a decent spell at your opponent), or shooting an arrow at the enemy. The only real tactical option comes with back attacks, which grant more damage.
The execution of combat is spotty, and the localization of this German game is a real issue. You receive the "Translation is missing" option in some conversation menus. This message also appears on some doors and gates in the dungeons; while the information isn't essential, it's nice for things in your game to have names. Sometimes, these names are still in German. The game also has some crash bugs, including one annoying crash that happens whenever you try to put more than three points into one of a character's skills, limiting his progression on that portion of the skill tree. These flaws point to one thing: The game isn't finished.
But what really sucks the joy out of Grotesque Tactics 2 is its humor. Sometimes, it seems to be poking fun at genre conventions, but the humor isn't sly--it's downright disrespectful. Nearly every female non-player character has a ditzy or sultry voice and is dressed in a skimpy getup. A number of these characters also make come-ons to you, and the dialogue is frequently laced with innuendo. The gear for your female guildmates is either a dress or a leather outfit, all of which seems more appropriate at a strip club than in an adventuring company. Holy Avatar, the demigod character, is a blond Adonis that keeps a harem of adoring maidens. You even have to steal one of their bras in a quest for a goblin that wants women's underwear for "sniffinz." (Gross!) And though women bear most of the brunt of the game's offensive characterizations, that's not always the case. For example, Deacon, the black character, talks in jive and keeps hitting on one of the female characters. Without wit or charm, Grostesque 2 ends up merely serving up more of the same stereotypical shlock that it intends to satire.
Grotesque Tactics 2 seems intended as a light take on a serious genre. Instead, it's a sexist disaster that is offensive when it means to be funny and flat when it means to be fun. Rather than deep combat, you get mindless tactics. Instead of interesting character progression, you face bland skill trees. The game isn't stable and is unfinished in parts, and the story leaves little impact on you. This all adds up to make Grotesque Tactics 2 one of the worst strategy RPGs in recent memory.