Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00

Dungeon Rushers Early Access Review

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Goblinz Studio’s Dungeon Rushers is a 2D tactical role-playing, dungeon-crawling-and-building, item-crafting, and turn-based fighting game (phew). In contrast and on the surface, its protagonist Elian is not much more than a whiny, annoying, and simple-minded character, whose profession is that of a toilet cleaner. Yet while Elian begins his story with nothing other than a Scourer’s Brush, he is also pretty explicit in his refusal to be a mere porcelain shiner, and consequently, he decides to pick the worthier path that we as gamers would expect: that of the fearless and mighty powerful dungeon-crawler.

The dungeons in Dungeon Rushers are designed D&D style, with square hex grids clouded in fogs of war until discovered. Naturally in such an environment are treasures to be found, shrines to pray at, enemies to fight, and traps to avoid. Such will be the mission of our retired janitor, and by no mean will you find there an easy task. Thankfully, among the game’s greatest features is the sadistic humor with which its creators exacerbate the frustration of your struggling self.

The comical tone arrives early on, right after meeting the Dwarven accountant to be precise. That’s right. The Dwarven accountant.

Or the axe-wielding warrior, Thorgrim, whom Elian first questions on the fact that traps cannot be avoided. To a guy like Thorgrim, the fun lies in the danger intrinsic to your choice: “if there’s a trap in the way, you either deactivate it or set it off.” Deal with it.

Thankfully, dealing with traps, or praying at statues, is an easy one click decision. The fights, however, are tactical, and very much play like a traditional RPG. Think Final Fantasy. Each character in your party has different abilities and attacks. Elian is suited for ranged combat with a bow; Thorgrim is great with his Whirlwind ability, hitting all enemies within a single column. Pod, a minstrel you meet a few dungeons later, is great at buffing your party. The battles themselves take place on a two-by-three grid, wherein you’ll place on the frontlines heavily-armored warriors like Thorgrim, thereby protecting your weaker but buffed out characters. Speed, or initiative, is important as well, even if the fights are turn-based. Ignore your reflexes and you’ll soon learn the pain of wounded characters knocked down during round one.

Characters also have dungeon abilities that can help you navigate. Elian can disarm traps and scout tiles before reaching them. Thorgrim can find easily find treasures, or sacrifice himself to traps for the good of the party. Pod can recharge mana and put groups of enemies to sleep before battle. Melinda can stalk a group of monsters and consequently increase chances of a critical hit.

Skills available are extremely important to master, due to the fact that Dungeon Rushers is a difficult game. Characters level up, but dungeons give no indication of level requirements. This means you never know how harsh and vexing the experience will be. In addition, healing potions are in short supply, and until Vampire Melinda jumps on your team, you’ll have no other way to restore HP. However, as the game progresses and you get a team dynamic working, your journey will, I promise, become easier.

Dungeon Rushers’ enemies are also a very nasty bunch. You’ll start by fighting measly skeleton warriors, but you’ll soon be dealing with heavily armored lancers, skeletal riders buffing fellow evildoers, skeletal arbelists wreaking havoc from afar, and necromancers lighting your characters while resurrecting the fallen.

All within the first section of the world map.

Items, however, and the crafting of items will help. At the workshop you can craft a variety of weapons, armors, rings, amulets, potions, and buffing beers. Creating each will help you level your crafting skill, which in turn allows you to craft higher tier items. The system works well,  and gearing up your character is rewarding. Still, I do wish equipping a new piece of armor would cosmetically change your character. Unfortunately, Elian always looks like Elian, and Thorgrim always looks like Thorgrim. It’s a shame: part of the joy we get out of RPGs is characters going from puny peasants to total badasses.

What Dungeon Rushers misses the bar with, it makes up in an absurdly silly journey filled with hilarious encounters, and conversations filled with meta humor. Dungeon Rushers also allows you to build your own dungeons, filling them up with traps, enemies, shrines and statues, and of course, treasure. The creation process is easy and fun, and when the game does launch, you will be able to play maps designed by other players.


The Verdict

Overall, Dungeon Rushers is a lot of fun to play. The tactical battles, the plundering of dungeons for loot galore, and the goofy dialogue, all add to the pleasure of playing the game. Sure, Dungeon Rushers is filled to the brim with nostalgia, but it is also a blast to play. Go ahead. Embrace the “one more turn” mindset.

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Christophe Parker

Christophe Blake Parker is a writer, actor, and teacher living in Oakland, CA. His first real gaming experience was with Everquest and Games Workshop tabletop games such as Warhammer and Warhammer 40k. He is thinking of starting a kickstarter campaign to fund his Steam Wishlist.