While Japan might be the undisputed king of the turn-based RPG, we do see interesting genre entries from elsewhere sometimes. Dungeon Rushers from French developer Goblinz Studio has the look and feel of an old school pixelated RPG, but it includes some interesting elements to spice things up for a new generation.
The hero of this tale is Elian, a young unskilled plumber with aspirations to become a big shot adventurer. With little else in the way of motivation, you set out to dive into countless dungeons, defeat hordes of enemies and discover new characters, items, equipment and more. For an RPG the game puts very little focus on the story, which focuses on a dungeon exploration company.
The game features a somewhat pixelated art style which brings to mind much older games in the genre. The enemies, characters and environments all exhibit an adequate level of polish and the game manages to look vintage while not looking cheap and lazy. You adventure through the dungeons by moving your character marker around the grid-based maps one tile at a time.
Aside from just enemies, you’ll encounter events and find loot in the dungeons as well. Although the maps get bigger the further you progress through Dungeon Rushers, they generally were very straightforward and simplistic. The events housed in the dungeons can be beneficial or detrimental to the player, casting a variety of curses or buffs. I found that these carried negative effects most of the time, unfortunate since there’s such an issue with healing in this game.
has a great sense of humor and doesn’t take itself at all seriously most of the time. Whether this humor excuses a complete lack of character development or meaningful interactions in the campaign is another issue. Combat is basic though snappy and fun. Characters and enemies are arranged across a front and rear row; the front rows take the bulk of the damage until you can reach the backrow or target it with ranged techniques.
The animations for most of the attacks are extremely simple, to the point where it’s surprising when a character does something to light up the screen or influence all combatants. Each character you get adds a different element to the combat, making the entire party feel important and crucial to success. Your dwarf is good for taking and dishing damage on the front row, while the lowered defense and ranged capabilities of the minstrel make him suited for back row play. It takes a while before the enemies present a continuous challenge but the difficulty does pick up.
Despite the simplicity the combat is paced well, especially in tandem with the unique way of adventuring and they combine to make the game feel trim and snappy. One major complaint I had was the lack of health potions in the game. In the beginning of the game you can buy a precious few from the shop and later on you can make them when you have enough ingredients, but it isn’t nearly enough. 20 hours into the game there was still no signs of a character who could cast a straight up healing spell on any character.
The problem is that as the dungeons become more challenging and your characters are attacked more and more in each battle, not being able to heal them means you’re really just journeying to the game over screen in some areas until you’ve leveled up enough (you keep earned experience and items after being defeated) to power your way straight through it. You get a character at one point that can heal herself and any allies on the front row with her with each normal attack the team performs.
In most cases, this was enough healing to keep my front row in decent shape through most of the adventure. Unfortunately there was no way to extend the effect to the backrow so whenever a backrow member fell in combat we needed to flee the dungeon or go for the game over screen. In the shop you cannot buy multiples of any item; whatever you buy is gone for good and when the store refreshes you may or may not see the item again.
The contents of the shop only refresh when you complete a dungeon or see the game over screen and the chances of seeing a health potion for sale shrink as the game continues, it seems. You can craft potions but you will not receive enough drops from enemies to build up a decent supply unless perhaps you grind certain enemies. In addition to potions, you can also craft equipment, accessories and other items.
I found that even after leveling up the crafting options, there weren’t many different weapons available for the characters. A way to automatically optimize a character’s equipment would have been quite useful given that characters can equip several items at once. The game lacks variety over the long term and the dungeon diving becomes quite repetitive after a certain point. There are many dungeons between story developments (of which there are shockingly few anyways) and nothing else to engage to add excitement.
The comedic dialogue of the characters can be entertaining but it leaves them feeling one dimensional and flat. It’s as if they can crack jokes but are incapable of emotions. The game features a multiplayer mode that allows you to create dungeons and battle teams that try to plunder them. The confines of the combat made this mode totally unappealing to me, but it’s there. Technically there were some concerns but I don’t know if my experience was unique. At least once the game froze up completely and had to be brought down with task manager.
There’s also quite a bit of noticeable screen tearing while you interact with the inventory screen. Sometimes I would target a certain enemy for an attack and the character would attack a completely different enemy, which resulted in some early deaths for my party. None of these were game breaking bugs but definitely not a lot of fun.
Despite all that it’s lacking, such as an interesting stories and characters, sophisticated or innovative combat mechanics, and compelling game-play outside of the dungeon, Dungeon Rushers can provide an entertaining experience for genre fans. It’s chock full of humor, has a colorful nostalgic visual style and has solid combat mechanics offering a decent challenge.