EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by William Thompson
previewed on PC
DOWN IN THE DUNGEONS
At first glance, Dungeon League looks like it could have come straight out of the 1980's as a ported Commodore 64 game. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as some of my favourite games came from that era. Dungeon League has you taking on the role of a dungeon crawling All-Star as you take on friends to become the ultimate dungeon master.
Although Dungeon League has a multiplayer focus, I decided to play through the short tutorial and had a go at Freeplay. The tutorial does its job and walks you through all the aspects of the game. Freeplay quickly became dull though, as you continue to destroy wave after wave of enemies. There doesn't seem to be any point other than to test out the various units and their abilities. The real fun comes as a local multiplayer game (online multiplayer is in the works, but not yet available). The game can be played with two to four players, but with four players, Dungeon League is at its most fun, either as an all-in brawl or a two on two teamwork skirmish. Right now the only mode of play available is the Tournament. The aim of the Tournament mode is to be the first to win three victories over your opponents. Although the game was fun with just two players, it is definitely at its peak with four local players battling it out to be the Dungeon Master.
Players get to choose from one of the four teams. The teams are all made up of the same characters though, so whether you play on Viper, Unicorn, Dragon or Griffin, you can still play as the warrior class, the ranged class, or the Wizard class. Each has varying stats which provide both advantages and disadvantages to each of the classes. And, as expected each class has a different skill set available to them.
Although there is only one game mode available currently, there are a number of game types or Quests within the mode. The Obelisk quest is basically a version of conquest where players are tasked with capturing obelisks that are placed around the map. The aim is to stand next to the obelisk until it lights up with your team colours. Once lit up, it grants points until someone else captures it. The more obelisks you capture, the more points you gain. The Race quest has players racing around the map passing through the various checkpoints as often as they can. Of course, your opponents and the dungeon monsters will attempt to prevent you from doing so.
Witches Eye is an interesting quest that has players searching through treasure chests in search of the titular Witches Eye. Once found, whoever controls the Eye gains points over time. Other players must then attempt to steal the Eye off the current owner. Deathmatch, is just that...a deathmatch, as players attempt to kill each other as much as possible. Capture the Flag requires gamers to steal the flag from enemy bases and return them to their home base, whilst also preventing others from doing the same.
The variation in Tournament challenges keeps Dungeon League from becoming stale. And with rounds only lasting a couple of minutes, that excitement continues. Players will certainly gain a favourite, and possibly one that they would rather not play, but having different quest modes will require gamers to find a different strategy for each quest mode.
After each round, XP is granted depending on performance during that round. Scores are awarded for completing the quests, defeating monsters and killing off the other players. Characters level up fairly quickly and gain one skill point for each level reached. These skill points can then be used to learn or improve upon skills or increase health or mana. Currency is also accumulated that can be used at the shop between rounds. At the shop, special weapons, shields or artifacts can be purchased that improve attack or defense. The leveling system works quite well, except I found that in a two player game, the player who gained more points in the first round generally had the advantage for the remainder of the contests. This was not as evident in the three or four player games though.
OK, so the visuals are not stunning by any means, and as mentioned they look more at home on my old Commodore 64. The maps have a pixellated 2.5D top-down view and are somewhat dark. But considering that they are representing dungeons, that is to be expected. The colourful characters and monsters make up for the darkness though, and the spells and abilities that some of the characters produce result in explosions of more colour. I did, at times, have trouble with locating my hero in all the mayhem. Since players don't always spawn at the same point, it can often take a few seconds to register when your hero respawns. This can be hazardous to your health, as NPCs and human players alike can attack you while you search for your new re-created character. This does have its advantages too, as human enemies do not know where you'll respawn either.
PARTING PARTY THOUGHTS
Dungeon League currently only runs using a controller. And as such, if you wish to play with four players, you'll require four controllers. A large screen or a connection to a large TV would also be advantageous, as four players crowding around a laptop screen is not an optimal solution. With the possibility in future of online multiplayer, these issues will not be present.
As a party game, Dungeon League is a heap of fun. Characters level quickly, rounds are over in the time it takes to boil an egg and there are enough variations in the quest types to keep gamers entertained. With the short rounds, Dungeon League is definitely a game you can play during a lunch break or while waiting for the pizza delivery guy to arrive before a night on the town. The visuals and audio are cool, but won't win any awards. I'm really looking forward to seeing the other modes, especially Dungeon Ball, which is supposed to be a take on American football. Dungeon League is definitely worth a look.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.