Dungeonland Preview (PC)

2012 seems to be an odd year for Paradox – they’ve started out strong with Crusader Kings II, and there’s still the likes of War of the Roses to look forward to, but they’ve also got games coming out that don’t seem all that special – Dungeonland (to me), seems like one of those games. It’s not because it looks poor conceptually or anything, and there are some good ideas to boot, it’s just not the most inspiring of titles. A curious mash up of Trine and Magicka, this is a game that seems to promote team-work and is not shy about throwing you in the deep end.

The concept at least has the right idea. An evil dungeon master has become tired of not only his world-dominating schemes being thwarted by big-chinned heroes, but also of the fact that they always tear up his house in the process. So he’s built a theme park for all adventurers where they can quest and thwart evil to their hearts content, and with any luck get themselves killed in the process. Playing as either ‘The Mage’, ‘The Warrior’ or ‘The Rogue’ (I guess there wasn’t enough budget to give them names), you must fight through the three different environments that Dungeonland has to offer, before taking on the evil master himself.

If you’re going to survive Dungeonland, teamwork is essential

The gameplay is very reminiscent of old-school co-op brawlers, like Streets of Rage. Obviously the technology and themes are different, which is why we also bring up Magicka and Trine for comparisons. We got some limited hands-on time with the game, and perhaps the strongest thing we took from it is that it’s hard, and possibly slightly unrelenting. Walking through what clearly was the entrance to a theme park, we instantly encountered a wave of low-mid range enemies… which was then followed by another, and then not two minutes later a mini-boss was trigged… I lost count on how many times I died, but it really does take the whole concept of working together and beats your face bloody with it until you start doing what it wants you to do.

It’s about the only downside about Dungeonland, in that it is heavily dependent on there being real people with you. An odd thing to criticise a game for, I know, but personally I think it’s dangerous ground to have a multiplayer game and not have it able to stand on its own offline too – sadly, we don’t all have friends we can play with, or at the very least we don’t all have friends who get games at the same time we do. We’re not even sure how the co-op AI is going to fare in this game, as I’m pretty sure I heard some comments with regards to the game being ‘designed’ to be played by real people, so AI companions could be a bit suspect.

As mentioned above, there are only three classes in Dungeonland and they follow the classic archetypes. There is room for customisation and improvements though – we were presented with two basic weapons load outs for each class, plus some other abilities that you could choose between, and there are even customisable looks and appearances as well. The game itself is full with items and treasures that you can either find or buy with gold from vendors. This title also supports drop-in/out local AND online multiplayer, which is also a good idea. We get the feeling local co-op is making a comeback.

The environments are varied and bizarre

One of those other ‘good ideas’ we talked about earlier is the possibility for a fourth player to get involved. They would take on the role of ‘Dungeon Master’, and set the challenges that the heroes would face. The levels themselves are already premade so you can’t mess with the environment, but as far as we can tell (sadly the mode wasn’t demonstrated, just talked about) you can set what monsters appear and how many, what mini-bosses there are, where the loot and treasure is, and all of the other ‘variables’ that the AI would randomise if you didn’t have a player at the helm. It’s an interesting mode, and definitely one that old school D&D fans would enjoy.

There’s plenty to look forward to in Dungeonland, we’re just not convinced it’s going to be anything special. So much of what made Magicka good was accidental, and we’d be surprised if this game has the same effect. Still, the Dungeon Master option will probably be the biggest draw here, and provided you can get four people and several hours together, you’ll probably have a good time. It’s in pre-alpha at the moment, so we’ve got a while to go but the game is pretty playable as is – which probably speaks more to Paradox’s new policy on QA and Deadlines more than anything, but still impressive. Dungeonland is due out on PC and Mac, sometime in Q4 2012.

Most Anticipated Feature: Since there wasn’t a lot available regarding the Dungeon Master role, we’re looking forward to seeing the real deal there.

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on May 02, 2012
Looks a bit...overly cutesy I guess?

Probably not for me.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on May 02, 2012
It is slightly cartoonish but it doesn't really matter that much. I can handle cutesy graphics well enough, I enjoyed dungeon defenders until the game turned into a grindfest. If it plays well with friends then i'm interested.