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December 2023

Naheulbeuk's Dungeon Master

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Artefacts Studio
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2023


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PC Preview - 'Naheulbeuk's Dungeon Master'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 12, 2023 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

A dungeon in danger! Build, manage, and defend your tower in the satirical heroic fantasy universe of Dungeon of Naheulbeuk - from a shaky establishment to an infamous lair!

The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk came out a few years ago as a game that tried to parody other dungeon crawlers, albeit with more of a tactical twist rather than action. It was fine but nothing special, as the gameplay felt repetitive and the humor was hit-and-miss. It seemed to be successful enough to merit another game in the form of a prequel, Naheulbeuk's Dungeon Master. It also happens to be a game that ditches the dungeon crawler format for something entirely different.

You play the role of Reivax, a half-goblin who answered an ad to be the latest recruit to a dungeon run by the eccentric evil wizard, Zangdar. Despite what the ad said, the dungeon is in really bad shape, with little reason for any adventurer to raid it. Since no one else will even look in your direction, you take the job to make it the most attractive dungeon in all the land, while your boss takes all of the credit.

Those who have played The Dungeon of Naheulbeck will find that the humor has the same tone. The game tries to go for absurdity, with a dungeon guild acting as an agency that's more akin to being mafioso or a magazine dedicated to reviewing other dungeons. There's a mail order catalog for artifacts, and the job descriptions for dungeon employees are quirky. There's also a tavern attached to the dungeon.

As far as gameplay goes, the game does a complete shift away from dungeon crawling into dungeon management. If you're expecting the likes of something like the classic Dungeon Keeper, you may be perplexed because the game doesn't immediately throw you into the action. In the hour we had with the game, the only traps we could put down were chickens to alert you when adventurers enter the dungeon. You can see skirmishes, and the game shows hints of what you'd expect to do, like placing different traps in a floor or playing on multiple floors, but we never did that due to time and embargo restrictions.

In the opening hour, you're tasked with building rooms for your minions to sleep and train in addition to restrooms so they can relieve themselves. You'll beef up your tavern with more drink and food variety, since customers and minions will be coming from different races. You'll decorate your dungeon and get into the process of hiring minions and tending to their needs, so they don't strike or outright quit. Except for a few instances where heroes invade your dungeon, this has a bigger focus on the management aspect, with the dungeon simply serving as a backdrop rather than an integral part of the game.

The first hour of the campaign is essentially a long tutorial to show off the game mechanics. The presentation is decent. The environments provide a good contrast to the brighter exterior of the castle. The camera never really gets to a ground level, but it gets close enough to see that the major characters roaming around are distinct and animated. The music is also good, and the voice work is nice.

The game has no controller support yet, but we tried it out on the Steam Deck, especially since the system was designed to handle this sort of thing. Players will need to make changes to trackpad sensitivity and game configurations, as the default cursor speed makes navigating menus and selecting minions a bit finicky. The options for zoom and other things aren't there initially. The game runs at the system's 1280x800 resolution, and the defaults are a good mix of medium and high graphical options, which results in a mostly 30fps performance with only a few dips. This isn't too bad for a strategy/management game, since high frame rates are nice but not really needed. Battery life goes a little over two hours on a full charge, so you'll want to drop everything to low if you want to squeeze more game time before needing a recharge.

There's potential in Naheulbeuk's Dungeon Master. The approach with the dungeon management aspect is different from what many may expect, and those who stick with it may find the approach to be charming. Whether that charm remains after several hours is completely dependent on whether you can get an intelligent force of dungeon dwellers going — and whether you get some versatility in dungeon crafting. There's still a month of bug fixing to go before Naheulbeuk's Dungeon Master is released to the public, and we're looking forward to seeing how the full game pans out.

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