Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Global A
Release Date: June 19, 2007
I'll admit that I'm one of the growing numbers of gamers out there who are embracing the current trend of creating hybrid games from multiple genres. I have no problem playing a swap-three puzzle game in the middle of an RPG quest, since it breaks up the tedious elements of both games. Likewise, I love the idea of having to build a town or even a dungeon as part of a RPG; it opens up all kinds of possibilities and helps to immerse players into the gaming environment.
In Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground, you help a small town clean up its local monster infestation by building a multi-level dungeon with water fountains, storage rooms, bedrooms and treasure rooms. You'll then return to the dungeon on a daily basis to expand the dungeon and fight its new residents. Numerous town citizens will assist you with your endeavors and even reward you handsomely with gold and other helpful objects if you complete a few quests for them. Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground utilizes a unique method of character development: You'll increase your skills by eating different food types and utilizing special roots (which you'll need to feed with animal fangs) to increase some of your stats.
There is a distinct routine that you'll follow while playing Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground. You'll usually spend your "virtual" morning interacting with the citizens of the town, which may include making purchases and selling off items that you've recovered in the dungeon. Next, you would enter your dungeon and either rid it of any monsters or thieves that have moved in overnight, or work on further improving or expanding your dungeon. The better you design and upgrade your dungeon, the more monsters and riff-raff will come to reside. After a long day of constructing and fighting, you will return to town, where you will usually head for home and fix yourself a meal (increases certain stats, based on the recipe) and get a good night of sleep, which renews HP and MP.
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground could benefit from a tutorial to assist new players with getting up to speed much faster. You receive some suggestions from the citizen's of the town; in particular, you have the help of a "wise man" who, for a token amount, will provid advice on dungeon construction and other more proprietary game topics such as stat building by using roots and fangs.
My initial progress in constructing a dungeon was slow because even though you are given quite a few pieces of dungeon to start with, you quickly realize you will need to come up with a lot of gold to finance your construction and upgrade efforts. More monsters mean more money, although you'll quickly discover that you'll accumulate much more gold from selling the dropped objects from your defeated monsters and rogues. As you might expect, you'll want around 70% of your dungeon to be made up of corridors, and you'll also want to buy and install corridor upgrade kits to make the dungeon more attractive to your temporary guests. Initially, I was left with the impression that there wouldn't be that much space to build a dungeon in, but I was wrong; you'll find that you're given ample room to build very complex dungeons.
An important tip for those who have spent a bit of time fighting: It's in the manual (but who ever reads those?), but holding down your "R" button and selecting your Circle button, you can quickly access your potions screen. Additionally, by selecting your Triangle button while holding down the "R" button, you can quickly access your magic menu to fire off a spell in a hurry. Without these shortcuts, battles become substantially harder, and level bosses are next to impossible to beat unless you have exceptional stats.
When you're above ground and taking care of business, you'll spend time and money in several specialty shops. The building shop is your primary source for supplies to construct your dungeon. Different options will be made available as you progress, and quantities may be strictly controlled. It is possible to sell back supplies for gold, but it's usually not worth the loss, and you're more likely to need the building supplies in your dungeon. In the Town Market, you'll find most of the ingredients to prepare your meals. You'll want to make sure you're stocking up occasionally, so you can always prepare a meal to eat at the end of the day. Eating different meals is the only way to increase the various stats of your character. The Apothecary is where you'll go to get health potions and where you'll be resurrected in the event you didn't make it through a battle. One of the town's more functional buildings is that of the Museum. Besides being a source for a few of the quests, you're able to review the monsters you've defeated in your adventures, as well as review some of the objects that you've encountered, collected or used.
Visually, Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground is not exceptional and may initially even seem a bit strange in appearance, especially when you're above ground and taking care of business in the town. All above-ground art follows along with the 2D cartoon style of illustration, while dungeons are distinctly 3D with 2D monsters. The overall presentation of graphics is good, and the dungeon layouts are well designed. The dungeon creation tools and interface are also intuitive and easy to use.
Occasionally, I found that the music did not fit the general nature of the game. Distorted hard-rock guitars, as much as I love them, don't work well in a standard dungeon-type RPG. In contrast, all of the in-game sound effects seemed to be appropriate.
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground is a single-player game with the ability to share dungeons with another player. Although the title doesn't allow for multiplayer games, you have the ability to swap dungeons with another player via the PSP's wireless Ad Hoc mode. Downloaded dungeons are made available on the same game map by going to the ruins which are adjacent to the regular player's dungeon. One interesting restriction that has been placed on transferred dungeons is that you'll only be able to explore another person's dungeon up to the level that you've reached in your own dungeon. As you are able to descend to additional levels, you'll be able to go back to the downloaded dungeon and then access these additional levels as well.
Although you will start off slow and perhaps a bit confused, Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground quickly grows on you to the point of becoming addictive to play. The hybrid construction/RPG nature will make sure you don't burn out quickly on any single element. I recommend role-playing and/or construction fans to consider adding Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground to their libraries. Its unique features and gameplay make for some great entertainment.
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