Review

Dungeon Dashers Review (PC)

Dungeon Dashers is a 2D top-down turn-based dungeon crawler from Australian indie-developer Jigxor. The game features a pre-set party made up of four different classes, a simplistic story, tactical combat, and basic puzzle solving. The graphics appear charming and the premise has potential even if it is similar to things we’ve seen before. Nevertheless, as always the most important question is: ‘How fun is it to play?’

You control four different classes of hero who are introduced one at a time in the first couple of missions. The story-line, offered primarily in dialog pop-ups, demonstrates that each has a distinct but shallow character. They are some of the most traditional RPG tropes that we’ve ever known: the zealously pious knight, the grumpy old wizard, the secretive quiet rogue and the sarcastic eleven archer. Each has a distinct set of attributes, combat abilities, and special skills.

Characters can be customised in between missions

Gameplay happens turn-by-turn, with action points being infinite when there are no active enemy units on the tiled game board. The maps tend to feature a handful of rather basic puzzles, such as shooting arrows at a bell, smashing some rocks, or using the rogue’s ‘blink’ ability to jump over blocked tiles. Occasionally there are a couple of switches to flick or some floor-plates which require pressing, but really it doesn’t offer the kind of complexity which will keep anyone taxed for too long. The reward for such puzzles is unlocking new items or gold, which can be used to buy consumable or upgrade items.

The levels are played in sequence as the characters travel across a rather simplistic looking paper map, which additionally offers the ability to replay previous missions in order to search for items which you may have missed. The missions take place in a small variety of locations, such as several underground locations and an over-ground forest; although this variety surmounts to little more than different monsters and a new tile-set. Occasionally in between levels you are presented with a smidgen of story, which is mostly made up of a few paragraphs of text.

When enemies appear, which mostly happens when the door to a new room is opened, a turn-order is decided, presumably based on the characters’ speed attribute, and units must then act in sequence using a set number of action points. You can end your character’s turn early if you wish but you are unable to switch between characters in the normal way at this time. Tactics consist of the standard, ‘put the tank at the front,’ ‘nip out and chip away with the rogue,’ and ‘shoot from the back with the ranged units’. There’s not too many occasions when the combat situations are actually that threatening, unless you do something really stupid or get lazy and move one character too far ahead of the pack.

Everything is well programmed but doesn't offer a highly compelling experience

Of course the various different abilities and weapons do offer mild level of depth to the battle play. For example the mage’s ice ball which doesn’t do a lot of damage but can freeze one of the enemy heavy hitters for one turn, or the rogue’s invisibility ability which saps his life but allows you to sneak out of nasty situations. In addition there are some area of effect abilities and game mechanics such as an increased critical chance on flanking and back attacks which help to build further complexity. But for the most part the combat is rather simple and not thoroughly compelling. Thankfully the game has a button which allows you to speed up the enemy’s movements so that you don’t have to sit around watching the computer take turns.

In between missions you have the option to change your characters’ equipment or skills to the new ones you may have acquired. Interestingly enough, new equipment, although mildly superior, often comes at costs which make it more akin to a side-grade than an upgrade. For example; a new weapon which offers greater damage but at a cost of action points.

The game’s presentation has been designed competently. The graphical style certainly has a certain 16-bit charm and appears to have been created with some care. The sounds are well done with the crashing noises of fireballs hitting flesh or the smashing of boxes in particular having a satisfying crunch. The music is retro stylized, providing a degree of nostalgia and the ambient noises help to give the variety of level-settings a unique feel. On top of that, there is a level-editor available which is apparently the exact same tool the devs used to create the game – so that’s nice!

The game has some graphical charm

For me, where Dungeon Dashers really falls down is in maintaining interest levels. I was probably most invested in the game right at the very start when it seemed as if the game was story-driven and the characters appeared to interact frequently. However, the game started to drag just a few levels in. This could be due to the lack of complexity and difficultly. Overall I can’t help but feel this game would be better suited to iOS or Android markets that are naturally more suitable for casual games; on such a system an RPG styled dungeon crawler of this quality would stand-out as somewhat unique instead of appearing rather bland on the PC.

The game itself functions quite well and for a budget title it is certainly quite well polished. Unfortunately it is not tremendously compelling and doesn’t provide anything that we have not already seen before. The story-line isn’t interesting enough to drive the gamer forward and the battles, for the most part, are too repetitive to be of great interest. On the up side, the graphics and sound are put together very professionally and for a certain type of casual gamer it may offer an experience worthy of the budget price-tag.

Top game moment: The snippets of dialog driven story-line and character development, which appear to offer some hope of plot-driven interest.

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