by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
The fantasy genre is one where imagination is able to fuel untold stories of every kind. Unfortunately, it is a genre that is often rife with cliches and tropes to an almost comical degree. Fortunately for us, the makers of The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk are on a path to take on every cliche possible, and poke fun at it all the way down in a dungeon crawling RPG format.
This game is not the first foray into this overly complex and joke-filled world. The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk originally took the form of a French podcast, in much the same vein as other D&D style podcasts such as Sneak Attack and The Adventure Zone. With what little this non-French speaking reviewer could find, the game is based on the same plot as the podcast, where a group of adventurers are hired to go into the Dungeon of Naheulbeuk to acquire the twelfth statue of Gladeulfeurha in order to accomplish some unspecified prophecy. The Amulet of Chaos, a prize from spinning a prize-wheel that seems to have very ominous effects on whoever claims it as theirs. That’s not even the oddest portion of the dungeon, as after the prologue gamers will find themselves in a fully functional tavern within the dungeon, that acts as the hub for the campaign.
Accompanied by a snarky, omnipotent narrator that players can pick the gender of, gamers take the reigns of a party of… imbecile beginner adventurers. A cowardly Thief, ditzy Elf, novice Wizardess, arrogant Ranger, brutish Ogre (that only the Wizardess can understand), violent Barbarian, and a Dwarf that is… well, quintessentially a Dwarf - a fact that the narrator insists upon quite often. While the Ranger often insists that he is the Leader, gamers can choose to move about the map with any character they prefer, some of whom have ‘field moves’ that can effect exploration. The best examples are the Thief’s trap sensing/disarming, and the Ogre’s destruction of environmental blockades. The characters do have varying field speeds as well, from the Ogre’s lumbering and the Thief’s VERY careful and slow movement, to the rapid pace of the Ranger.
The game’s wit is fast paced and keeps things coming, from poking at other fantasy worlds such as Skyrim (the ‘arrow to the knee’ line specifically) to commenting on D&D tropes such as not needing to worry about dragons in the dungeon since according to the bestiary, they are outside the party’s level range. In between, the party also manage to continually bicker at each other. Clearly, they are bound together not by camaraderie or friendship, but by the promise of loot, like any good adventurer.
Then there’s the combat, a turn-based strategy style, where characters are moved around on a grid filled with obstacles that they can use as either half or full cover. Even the position that the character is facing is decided, giving them a specific field of vision where they can use their skills and avoid being flanked. In true D&D fashion the battles are decided by an almost mind-boggling number of factors that the stats of each character influence. These include magical and physical resistance stats that prevent the characters from being affected from being knocked over. Each character is able to move a number of squares on the grid depending on their agility. They also have ranged and melee weapons that can be equipped to add versatility and make certain they have uses outside of their usual range. This is important because ranged attacks like bows can’t be used when there’s an enemy in melee range, which means the Elf may end up useless if someone gets in close to her, unless she’s equipped with a blade as well.
That was just one example of a situation gamers will come across in the battlefields of Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, and skills or level-up effects haven’t even been touched on yet. Certain characters can achieve synergy if they are nearby another character. For example the Barbarian and the Ogre can synergise, and both can synergise with the Wizardess. These examples tie into skills because they need to be unlocked upon level up, as a Passive Skill, rather than the Active Skills that are more familiar to RPG fans, unlocking further capabilities in battle.
One final part of the combat that should be mentioned is the ‘luck meter’. Any time bad luck occurs, such as an attack missing, an enemy getting a critical hit, or one of your party getting a ‘crit fail’ for an attack, a gauge starts to fill up at the bottom of the screen. This gauge is apparently the work of a goddess of luck and can cause specific tide turning events to occur in battle, from giving a character an extra turn to suddenly healing them. The gauge needs to actively be used, so feel free to save it for a rainy day when you really need a helping hand.
Unfortunately, the game does have some flaws. Fortunately, they are in the ‘field’ portion of the game, rather than the ‘battle’ portion. Players may struggle to operate the camera while exploring the halls of the dungeon, and will find some hilarity in the odd tracking when they attempt to communicate with an NPC. The whole party shifts around so a specific character can try and chat with the NPC and sometimes the characters seem to give up halfway through the route, unable to find a straight path to the witty dialogue. In all though, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a very enjoyable game, and one I recommend to anyone that has even a passing interest in the tropes and cliches of fantasy worlds and Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. As one myself, I’m about to head back to the grind.
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Clever Humour, Polished combat and nice RPG elements
Wonky Camera and tracking in the exploration portion of the game