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Dungeon Stars Early Access

Dungeon Stars is a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler developed by Furnace Games that focuses on fast-paced action and rapid character progression. The game glorifies its “addicting button-smashing action” and promises a beautifully rich environment. But is Dungeon Stars an evolutionary step for the saturated dungeon crawler market, or is it just another dungeon crawler to add to the pile?

The running man

In Dungeon Stars,your character is always running, meaning that your options are to light attack, heavy attack, block, or cast spells. At first, like any dungeon crawler, hacking away at large groups of enemies is pretty fun — but not having the ability to move takes more away from the game than it adds. By the end of the first chapter, it becomes extremely clear that what you’ve played so far is what you’ll be playing for the remainder of the game. Your character runs toward enemies; if they’re armored you do a heavy attack and follow with a plethora of light attacks, and if they’re regular grunts you simply spam light attack. If you have good enough gear or a full party, blocking almost becomes irrelevant because you either won’t take much damage or the fact that health potions are dropped nonstop means that you can always quickly heal in between rooms.

Combat feels much more like a mobile game ported to PC than a PC dungeon crawler. The closest thing to variety that the combat has is its rock-paper-scissors style of handling elements. Just like any other RPG, one element beats another so it’s in your best interest to swap characters to avoid being against the element that beats yours. The elemental system could be interesting if it didn’t hold such little impact on the game. The map shows you what element each floor has, and most times each floor only has one element. If the game had you flipping characters on the fly more frequently, it might be more engaging, but even with all of these systems it’s very easy to play this game from start to finish without even looking at the screen.

Infinite power

One of the best features in dungeon crawlers is the buckets of loot each fight leaves. Filling your pockets with gold and new gear and watching your character grow from a raggedy peasant to a god that slices through enemies like they’re made of tissue paper is one of the most rewarding feelings in gaming. Sadly, that is not to be found here. The few items you find in each run are useless. The levels where I found more than four pieces of gear were extremely rare and almost always were only good for selling in the shop. The limited gear I did keep was typically from the star portals that randomly open up from completing core levels.

The intended idea is that you’ll fight through a more difficult level for better loot, yet, like the rest of the game, it’s extremely easy. The gear you use does not change your character’s appearance, nor does ranking your character up, which is extremely disappointing. From the very start you chop through enemies in two hits. The upgraded gear is only there to maintain your initial power, not increase it. Progression is stagnant. The closest thing you’ll ever see to progress is an additional status effect granted to you by a piece of gear.

Saving the best for last

The only thing that I can truly commend Furnace Games for is the artistic direction. The characters are extremely simple, but they’re animated and colored in a charming way. The mix of 2D with 3D was an excellent choice and the lighting really adds an interesting dynamic to the characters. The only major complaint I have is that the enemies lack a variety. Simply throwing a helmet on top of a familiar enemy and having it be deemed a newer, stronger enemy does not count. Boss fights should be something to look forward to, yet I always knew that each boss would simply be a bigger version of the enemies I had already been fighting all game.

4

The Verdict: Flawed

Dungeon Stars claims to be an evolutionary mix between hack-and-slash dungeon crawling and “addictive button smashing action,” yet the only thing present here is the button smashing. The game doesn’t have any deep variety, which is only mildly compensated by the beautiful visuals. I had a lot of hope for this game and it’s really disappointing to see how poorly it was executed. Only time will tell if this title can be saved.

Stephen Martino
Written by
May 23, 2018
Published in Action

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Stephen is the dedicated game critic of his friend group and always has a new recommendation he just can’t keep to himself.  Whether a AAA release or a hidden indie gem, he’s always the one his friends will consult when thinking of picking up a game.  Stephen started his love for gaming back with Resident Evil : Code Veronica on the Sega Dreamcast.  After dumping way too many hours into it, he moved to the Xbox 360 and then the PC upon realizing just how much he loved modding and customization in games.  If you ever plan on playing a game featuring customizable characters with this Brooklynite critiq, you’d better free up your schedule because you know he’s going to be fine-tuning every last slider and color. 

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