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April 2019

Dungeon Souls

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Black Shell Media
Release Date: TBD

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Preview - 'Dungeon Souls'

by Brian Dumlao on Nov. 20, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Explore dungeons and fight huge bosses in Dungeon Souls, a top-down roguelike hack-and-slash dungeon crawler.

Roguelikes have quickly populated Steam in a short period of time, and while that means there's a great selection for fans, it also means that those games usually resort to some gimmick to make them stand out. Dungeon Souls, however, doesn't do that. Instead, it simply provides an experience that is both familiar and solid.

The easiest way to describe the game is as a top-down roguelike in the traditional medieval setting with an emphasis on action. You start the game by picking one of eight classes, three of which are locked from the beginning. As expected, the classes differ in their stats; for example, the barbarian is the strongest of the group while the archer is the speediest. They also differ in their attacks, with most of the classes using projectile weaponry while a few are purely melee characters. Upon entering any randomized dungeon, your goal is to find and activate all of the required sigils and return to the warp point before an indestructible enemy kills you. Occasionally, you'll face a boss and his minions, but most of the time, you'll take on the varied hordes the game throws at you.

Like any good roguelike, there are tons of items to obtain that provide abilities like extra attack power, magic defense or the chance to pull in coins from afar. You can level up after killing enough foes to give yourself more health, and there are shops where you can spend coins for more items and potions to refill your health or give you a temporary strength buff. Of course, enemies are relentless, and they even respawn after some time. There are traps in each dungeon, including explosives, large boulders and spikes in the floor. Bosses employ all of these and turn the game into a sort of "bullet hell" shooter with all the projectiles they throw. As expected, you will die often, and death means losing all of the items and progress you've gained, so you're back at square one.

There are two things that do give you some reprieve from the constant deaths. The first is your XP, which you keep after death. Each class has its own XP meter, but constantly playing and progressing helps them level up. Not only does this mean increased stats, but it also enables them to open up other locked abilities. Attacks are unique to each character, so playing with each class is an even more distinct experience, since each character unlocks his/her own skills.

Another source of reprieve is your cash, which is also carried over between playthroughs. Initially, having that cash means that you can have a better chance of getting the more powerful items from the shopkeeper. However, fiddle around with the character select menu for a bit, and you'll discover that the cash can be used to buy levels for one of nine passive abilities that range from increased attack and defense to the ability to regenerate health over time. The good news is that the passive abilities are universal, so gold earned with a thief, for example, can be used to grant starting buffs to a necromancer.

Those two things combine to provide the player with the drive to keep pushing to progress in the game. It also helps that the game is addictive in its own right, thanks to the responsive combat system and constant flow of action. It also seems fair in that, save for the bosses, you're insanely powerful creatures aren't going to pop up out of nowhere in the middle of your run. If anything, you'll likely fall to numerous foes assaulting you at the same time. It's important that you don't get too discouraged, so you're driven to try again after a defeat.

As far as presentation goes, Dungeon Souls is pretty good. The pixel graphics are pretty much par for the course nowadays, but they still look nice, especially with each creature standing out against the background and with so many effects working at the same time. There's also lots of loot and blood, making combat appear to be more rewarding. On the sound front, the game doesn't have much in the way of a soundtrack, and only a handful of tracks is available, but the effects are satisfying. The only flaw so far is that the audio isn't very clear when you're hit, so you can die before you realize that you were near death or being hit in the first place.

Since the game is in Early Access, there are lots of promised features that haven't arrived yet. More items, secret levels, characters, and multiplayer are just a few, and all of those are indeed welcome. What isn't mentioned, though, is controller support. This is a strange omission since the game's keyboard/mouse setup seems perfectly transferable to a dual analog controller, especially since there aren't lots of action buttons to use. You can, of course, use the Steam Controller as a nice substitute, but for those who want to use another controller without having to use a third-party program for emulation, you're out of luck.

Dungeon Souls is a straightforward but fun roguelike that is very addictive. The multiple classes give it variety, and so does the dungeon randomization. While you need to do a ton of grinding to get anywhere in the game, the universal stat upgrades and the cash carryover between playthroughs helps mitigate this a bit. Unfortunately, there's no solid release date for this yet, but if you're interested in another roguelike, Dungeon Souls is worth checking out.

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