Dungeon Lords

Dungeon Lords

Written by Tyler Sager on 3/3/2005 for PC  

I recently got my hands on the most recent build of Dungeon Lords, a Diablo-esque action RPG that is shaping up to be a very fun romp. Rather than the eye-in-the-sky perspective of most Diablo clones, Dungeon Lords brings the action much closer, with an over-the-shoulder third-person-shooter viewpoint. And even though I was playing a beta with placeholder sounds, rough-around-the-edges visuals, and not-quite-balanced encounters, I found myself having a blast. When the polish and finishing touches are applied, I predict Dungeon Lords will be the cause of many a late night of gaming.

While the final product will offer a wide range of races and classes to choose from, I was only able to play a Human Fighter in the build I had. Even so, the amount of customization possible is impressive. Character creation is typical of many action RPGs—apply points to various vital stats and skills. With several dozen different skills to choose from, characters can be tweaked to preference rather easily. From what I can see, each skill is available to every class, so the large burly fighters can throw around the occasional fireball if they so desire. However, each class leans toward a certain set of skills, and these skills are cost less upgrade points to purchase. Fighters obviously get a discount on the martial skills, while mages have an easier time learning the four branches of magic. There are also a wide range of general adventuring skills available, such as lock-picking and bartering.

Adventuring itself is a rather straightforward affair. Since this is an early build, I wasn’t able to discern much backstory or plot. I started by a campfire in the woods, when a stranger wandered in and told me about a lost princess or something of the sort. From there, I proceeded to hack my way through orcs, skeletons, and the usual denizens of fantasy RPGs on my way to and through the castle. Character and camera control took a little while to become accustomed to, but after a short time I was hacking and slashing with the best of them.

Melee combat is a simple matter of equipping one or two of the myriad weapons available, and left-clicking on the enemy. Different weapons have various fighting patterns, and multiple clicks will bring about fighting combos. I’m not sure if these combos are anything more than aesthetic, but they look quite nice. In addition to hacking away, a shield can be brought to bear with a simple right-click, so many fights are circling dances of dodge, block, and strike. While not incredibly deep, the complexity is a step up from most games in the genre.
The magic system looks very interesting. There are four schools of very different magic, and I wasn’t able to fully dive into any of them. There’s the traditional “blast-em” magic, an enhancement magic, something called “Rune Magic”, and an alchemical-type magic. Spells are collected much like ammunition—they’re found as treasure. There is also a maximum number of each spell to collect, so a mage may not be able to have more than 10 fireballs at any given time. This brings up some interesting tactical decisions, as the most powerful spells are probably also the rarest. This is an interesting take on the tried-and-true “mana” system used by most games, and I think this could be a refreshing new direction.

Everything looks pretty good for now, even for a work in progress. I’m not really able to critique the graphics and sounds, as much of that will be polished and touched up before the final release. What I’ve seen looks very promising, though. While I doubt Dungeon Lords will be the Next Big Thing in action RPGs, I won’t be surprised if this becomes one of the best Sleeper Hits of the year.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.

Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.
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