Dungeon Souls is a game developed by Lamina Studios that came out officially this year, after being in early access. As the name suggests, it is indeed a classic dungeon crawler. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it is a game in which you pick a character and fight enemies, all while trying to reach the top level of the dungeon or escaping it. Games like these are really fun to pass the time, especially in groups.
Main Menu and Tutorial
Upon turning the game on, you’re met with a main menu which gives you a few options. You can jump straight into a single or multiplayer game, go through a tutorial or visit the arcana forge where you can create weapons for you to use within the dungeon. I started with the tutorial, with my Xbox 360 controller plugged in.
At first, things went pretty smoothly. Walking forward, hitting things…they’re pretty easy mechanics to grasp, even upgrading abilities and skills. Unfortunately, the button configuration was incredibly confusing. The tutorial was telling me to press buttons on my controller which didn’t do what the game was telling me it would. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to use a potion. Additionally, the tutorial would not let me even advance until I had done the button command on the screen. Not to mention that if you miss instructions, there’s no way for you to find out about them again. You can press “Quick Restart”, within the pause menu, but it seems to toss you somewhere else within the tutorial, confusing me even more.
Gameplay Mechanics and Controls
So, I decided that jumping straight into the game would be a better option to learn the controls. You can map the controls to fit what works best for you (which is great), but it should still be reflected correctly within the tutorial. Also, when you’re launched into a dungeon, there’s no story behind why you’re there or what you have to do. It is assumed that the player should already know what to do, which isn’t great for casual gamers or for those unfamiliar with the drama. The classes to choose from were the Warrior, Thief, and the Archer, all with unique skills and attributes. I’d highly recommend starting off with the Warrior, as they have the highest health, which you’ll need as you figure out how the game works.
There are a few clunks within gameplay besides controls. The shop only allows you to buy one item before it disappears. A warning would be nice, so the player can prioritize what they want to buy. Also, the inventory is strange. I’m unsure how items stack, how many I can hold, and how to use a single item. If you have two potions stacked, the game will use both of them. This is annoying if you’re trying to preserve supplies for a boss fight.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the fact that if you die, you don’t respawn. This kind of survival run doesn’t appeal to me but may to other players. At the end, it will tell you how many dungeons you cleared and how many kills you completed. That’s perfect for competitive players who want to beat their friend’s scores. In local play, this is a bit of a turn off. If I die pretty early on, the other player gets to keep playing, while I stare at black screen. They can’t heal you with their potions or even revive you. You just have to watch them play. Also, local multiplayer forces one player to use a keyboard, which has a totally different set of keys to use.
I can say that I like how enemies trickle in after a set period of time, or if you pass certain areas. You have to activate marks to open the portal to the next floor. The enemies keep the game interesting, otherwise it’d feel like I was passing the same mark over and over again (which admittedly, I did a few times). The bosses are also interesting, albeit difficult to face, even on easy. Stock up on your potions! The graphics and audio are pretty great. The music was playing on a loop, but it’s a nice enough tune where you don’t feel like it’s too much. The graphics are reminiscent of the genre’s origins. Today there are a lot of 3D dungeon crawlers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just nice to go back to 2D graphics every once and a while.
I can’t overlook the unclear controls in Dungeon Souls. The gameplay couldn’t make up for the confusing tutorial. While the game does have many good qualities, I don’t see it appealing to anyone outside of fans of the genre. The lack of story makes the game uninteresting, and when my character dies, I’d prefer to shut off the game and play something else.