Dungeon Lords, the action-RPG from Heuristic Park and Dreamcatcher, is an exercise in frustration. It’s frustrating because, throughout the game, I could see exactly what the designers meant to do, if only they had enough time. They obviously didn’t, though, because Dungeon Lords is one of the most unfinished titles I’ve come across in quite a while. And while I’m fairly confident that Dungeon Lords would never be a great game, I think it might have been a good one.
The problems begin with character creation. Players can choose from a variety of races, only 2 of which have female options. Next, players choose from one of four generic fantasy classes: Mage, Fighter, Rogue, or Adept (cleric). After picking from a rather nice selection of skills, I was then introduced to the first of a long line of frustrations. The character creation screen shows the options to alter character appearance. The manual devotes an entire section to character appearance. But this feature doesn’t work yet. So after several futile clicks, I resigned myself to the default Dwarf face, and dove into the game.
Gameplay is pure hack-n-slash, and quite linear despite the initial wide-open feeling. Find a quest from the few NPCs populating the world, carry out that quest, rinse and repeat. The story revolves around gathering five sacred Relics of Power to stop a crazed evil wizard from destroying the world. It’s fairly generic fantasy fare, made all the more blasé by uninspired dialogue and voice acting from the NPCs. Quests themselves were often confusing, relying on nonsensical triggers to further the plot. I found myself unable to move through a particular quest without first randomly stumbling upon an NPC somewhere in the wilderness, with no clue as to why meeting this individual would further things along. There is a quest log included, but it was quite buggy, often ignoring current quests or leaving finished quests in my “to do” list.
Combat, the heart of Dungeon Lords, quickly becomes monotonous. Left-clicking swings whatever weapon is currently equipped, right-clicking blocks with a shield. With enough skill, weapon combos can be chained together by clicking repeatedly, although these combos more often than not leave the character wide open for counter-attack. After a few battles against swarms of rats or goblins, everything seems the same. A few of the later monsters have some unique attacks, but most simply charge forward blindly, thanks to some poor AI. Thankfully, I found my character could out-run just about every monster in the game, so while tromping through the wilderness, I’d just keep running with the hoards of baddies behind me, and I’d hardly ever be touched. Once I hit a town or new load screen, the monsters would vanish, and I wouldn’t need to waste my time dealing with them. In dungeons, where it’s a bit harder to run away, monsters would often get caught in doorways and corners. In fact, I beat most of the boss battles by simply standing to the side of a door and filling the enemy full of arrows for about 10 minutes.
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