It’s that time again - a new grid based first person dungeon crawler has been released and I’ve been really looking forward to this one! I've been following it’s progress for a while and building up a fair amount of anticipation and expectation. Now it’s out, and even if it’s in Early Access right now, I could not resist giving it a play through. I’m normally quite reluctant to playing Early Access games, since I’ve more than once witnessed developers gladly taking my money and then abandoning further development.
I decided to keep this preview article rather short, as I will write a full review of the game as soon as the game has reached final status. The reason for this is that there are still quite a few bugs and glitches that needs to be ironed out, and I suspect that a few features will be considerably altered and some new ones implemented down the line.
Ok, so let’s start at the beginning! Upon start, the game guides you through a quick tutorial which covers the essential stuff. It’s not like this is a terribly complicated game genre and most people should be able to grasp the mechanics fairly quickly by themselves, but Dungeon Kingdom introduces a couple new interesting ways of interacting with the environment. One is that you can set furniture and other things on fire. It's not always useful, but it’s a ball of fun :)
After a short intro you arrive at a tavern where you’re asked to assembly your party of up to four characters. The character generation is pretty stock and parts of it remind me of Dungeon Master, which is not necessarily a bad thing. As you can see from the picture above the character portraits are simply stunning. It’s the best I’ve seen in any RPG to date, and that’s including various AAA games.
In all, the graphics throughout Dungeon Kingdom is both beautiful and inspired. This is where this game really shines and sets it apart from most of its “brethren”. Legend of Grimrock 2 has undoubtedly set the benchmark for visual quality for this genre, with Might & Magic X being a strong runner up. I do not claim that the new benchmark is Dungeon Kingdom, but it falls nicely into a confident and deserving third position.
The attention to detail is ever apparent. The environment is beautifully crafted and offers enough variation to keep your interest peaked. The graphics for the user interface looks very nice too, with those big 'n' purty item icons.
The combat is of the real-time side-stepping variety which is a throwback to classic crawlers like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder. It’s also the same style used in the Legend of Grimrock series. I am not particularly fond of this type of combat mechanics, as I prefer turn based combat, but if everything else in the game comes together nicely then I can tolerate it.
Spell casting is done by invoking a set of runes in correct order. You can assign up to four spells to quick access slots. One thing I'd really like to see is a journal or spell book that lists the spells you've discovered on your journey. For now I recommend writing them down on paper.
Character progression is fully automatic, and the stats and class level of your characters improve automatically based on your actions. A character has four level types. Warrior, Ninja, Priest and Wizard. Repeated use of melee weapons increase the warrior level, while using ranged weapons increases the Ninja level and so forth. This makes sense for large open world games like Skyrim where you have tons of skills and abilities, but in games like Dungeon Kingdom I really prefer to have the classic levelling with point allocation system.
Currently the game lacks an auto-mapping feature. While I prefer to do my own mapping on paper, I see that this is something a lot of people will want to have. I've been told that this is being considered for a future update, so let's cross our fingers for that :)
Dungeon Kingdom suffers a bit from being Early Access, as you would expect. There are quite a few bugs and glitches at this point, and some features appear to be a little rough around the edges. The developers are very helpful and quick to respond to user requests. I've already seen changes and improvements made based on community feedback. I am confident that the developers will mold and nurture Dungeon Kingdom to be a game retro dungeon crawler fans should not be without.
To conclude this preview, Dungeon Kingdom is a very beautiful and visually inspired dungeon crawler with a lot of potential. There's enough unique features to make it interesting, and it ticks many of the boxes in my check list for enjoyable dungeon crawlers. The guys over at Hydro Games have their dungeon crawling hearts in the right place and I have nothing but respect for anyone that still create games of this genre in 2015.