The dungeon crawler genre has had a lot of games join its ranks in the past few years. Some try to push the formula and re-invent the wheel. Others rely on the nostalgia of tried and true mechanics but refine it in a way that shines like it never has before. However, there is also the middle of the road where it just exists; feeling like another game trying to cash in on a running trend. Dungeon Rushers is a phone game ported to consoles, developed and designed by Goblinz Studio and Plugin Digital, that attempts to take its spin on this ever-changing genre. Relying on mystery of what’s next and the classic turn-based combat system made popular by classics like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Dungeon Rushers attempts to mix in more modern mechanics such as crafting to try and bring the user an experience all its own. It hopes to have you excited to attack every dungeon in sight and explore the secrets within. The question is, is it worth breaking down the dungeon walls or leaving the dusty chests within to be nothing but an abdicated memory?
Players start out as a lowly toilet cleaner named Elian who has always dreamed of a better life as a dungeoneer, seeking glory and treasure. He runs off as his former boss yells at him that he had such a future, but Elian has bigger dreams in mind. As you enter the first dungeon, you are introduced the basic mechanics of the game. You are represented as a token of Elian on a grid-like base with only the directions you are able to go to know where to head next. As you pass each square you open up the dungeon more and more to discover enemy encounters, ancient relics, chests and even traps. Each of these events can vary from relics, which give you curses or positive effects, to enemy encounters from industry staples, such as undead skeletons or goblins. You start off with just your toilet brush as a weapon, but you soon will find a sword and bow all your own, as well as other companions to join your journey. The game is presented in a traditional 2D format with an advanced pixel art design for the sprites as you see the action unfold in the turn-based format. You then continue your journey through dungeon after dungeon until you have completed your dungeon raid party and leveled them up. There are many weapons and item upgrades to equip our heroes in whatever way you feel is best to their traits. As you progress, you will hear the banter between our heroes as they continue to quest on for the glory of conquering the dungeons ahead.
Funny Writing: You can tell very shortly after booting the game that the creators of this game have a light sense of humor. I mean, after all, you start the game as a toilet cleaner with dreams for the better life. As you add members to your party, the writing in the game definitely shows their personality which is a really nice addition. From small jokes to awkward run-ins, it will definitely give you a solid laugh here and there.
The Road Ahead: The whole mechanic of genuinely not knowing what’s behind the next tile is a very nice touch that will keep you guessing. Entering a dungeon with no idea how many enemies lie ahead or how far until the exit definitely adds a level of mystery to every encounter. Elian does have a cool ability where you can showcase the next two adjacent tiles to give you a clue; however, this does take stamina which doesn’t replenish until you are out of the dungeon unless you use potions to replenish it. All and all, as the core mechanic of the game’s dungeons, it does an excellent job of giving you that feeling of mystery. Especially seeing as it is presented in a top-down display. Choosing right or left can be the difference between the enemy encounter you were hoping not to find and the relic that gives you exactly what you needed.
It’s All in the Preparation: Dungeon Rushers expects you to know you need to prepare for the unknown. The games three main meters Health, Mana and Stamina don’t replenish at the end of the fight. To make it through a full dungeon, you will definitely want to pick up some potions and keep them handy for when close calls arise. Luckily the dungeons you will conquer will not just reward you in classic gold, but in various crafting items so that way you can craft these magical elixirs yourself. Health and mana are pretty straightforward, however, stamina is a bit craftier of a resource. You really only use it for the various traps. Our heroes have abilities to take care of these traps so they either hurt less or never go off at all, but that’s where the stamina kicks in. As far as battle goes, you will face various types of mob style encounters where you might just run into one or two skeletons or a whole squad of five goblins that have various abilities. With the dungeons getting larger and larger as the game goes on, the understanding of how potions and enhanced items work is more and more neccessary. Each dungeon has to start with some sort of plan.
Variety is the Spice of Life: After about three to four dungeons you have a very solid idea of what you have gotten yourself into. Battles don’t really change, just the number of enemies you are encountering in that particular instance. There are sometimes effects on the battlefield such as fog that will sometimes cause you to not go after the target you were after to try and spice things up, but that’s about where the depth ends. Each hero has 3 different types of attacks, but you will most likely come to realize that you only use one, maybe two out of the three and it doesn’t really do anything to expand on it. Every dungeon has a set of three challenges that when all three are completed in the same run unlocks a heroic version of that dungeon where the layout is different and the enemies are stronger. Sadly this doesn’t offer that much of a challenge. Crafting feels dialed in like it was just something implemented into the game to say that it was there. Outside of the benefit of not having to spend the in-game gold, there really isn’t anything special that this offers to you. Enemies aren’t a very diverse cast either, every area has it’s race of enemy so to speak, and the only thing that really changes is are they some form of wizard, soldier or cavalry. None of this does anything to change the challenge for you as the player because these enemies don’t scale with you. Get in over your head? Then just go grind some more until you can just sweep house with their dusty remains. As a whole, it just could have benefited so much from something as simple as some small changes to really flesh out each dungeon rather than feel like a monotonous grind to get to the next location where you get to do the same thing over again with the only change being maybe adding a new party member at designated spots or the dialogue prompts that happen ever so often.
Lack of Depth: Dungeon Rushers introduces quite a few mechanics; however, it doesn’t really make an effort to make any of them stand out. Your combat is the most basic as turn by turn gets; choose your move and wait in line. There are no action prompts or random effects that really spice up the combat at all. If you are at level or even with the monsters or if you are at a lower level but well prepared, you won’t find too much of a challenge here. Crafting feels thrown together. It is all very basic, and I found myself really just making potions so I wouldn’t have to buy potions. The dungeons don’t really give you them inside, and the shop only has one or two at a time, making stockpiling difficult. But crafting serves as a means to bypass this. You have but one mode in the game and that is Campaign, which really could use help on all fronts from story all the way to dungeon appearances. Even the soundtrack isn’t very diverse. You will find yourself hearing the same dungeon, battle and main overworld themes over and over again without an end in sight. Even if one of these many features in the gameplay stood out and shined, it could make up for the lack of diversity in some of these areas but the reality is, they don’t. It really strikes as one of the dead down the middle games that doesn’t really bring anything unique to the table, and the game suffers heavily for it.
No Additions: This game was originally made for cell phones before being ported to PC and consoles, and this really shows just about everywhere you look. Although I liked the style of how you navigate the dungeon, you can tell this was made to be played with a touchscreen. With that being said, however, there has not been anything added or enhanced from that version, and it is for all intensive purposes a straight port. Now that obviously doesn’t give it a pass for not bringing something different or dynamic to the table, but something unique for when it came to consoles would have gone a long way. The PC version did get a dungeon creator for the community to be able to make their own dungeons for others to play, however for us on console this feature was not carried over. This doesn’t add too much to the game, however, seeing as still even if it is community made, it is still the same mechanics, enemies, traps and everything else you experienced in the game’s campaign. Nonetheless, some added content or maybe even the fleshing the game out more as a whole would have been more than greatly appreciated.
Lack of Narrative: Outside of the initial bit of story about Elian and his dreams for dungeons, we really don’t have any kind of goal given to us. It is all for the glory and the riches, which is fine if we were given what motives outside of that causes the heroes’ motives of going from dungeon to dungeon risking their lives. You do have the witty banter between the characters throughout the journey and of course their meetings, but nothing into their goals, aspirations or backstory to help you care about them and what they are trying to achieve. Even with Elian’s story, it is hard to stay connected to what we are really trying to accomplish here outside of what seems to be basically going from dungeon to dungeon with hopes of being rich and famous for the sake of being rich and famous. Even if after every dungeon there was a bit of narrative or a goal established to help you carry through this grind, it would make for a far more pleasant experience. After you get all five party members and leveled them up to the point you want them to get to, there really isn’t anything that will keep you past that point to continue until you have finished every dungeon offered. This feels like such a missed opportunity and one that could have helped gloss over the mechanics issues.
We are Experiencing Technical Difficulty: Through my playing of the game I ran into many random bugs. For one, any time an achievement is unlocked you are crashed back to the main menu. This happens even in the middle of the dungeon. Now sometimes you can load back right where you were, and it is no big deal. Other times, you have to start over from the beginning of that dungeon which is extremely frustrating especially when you have properly prepared and almost gotten through everything just to have that reset. I also experienced some random issues where the game completely crashed and had to be restart from the game menu, however, this might have just been me. Overall with this being a game that ran perfectly fine on a cell phone, it should run like a dream on an Xbox One. These are issues I am sure they can simply fix with a patch but it really dampened the experience as a whole for me.
Dungeon Rushers wanted to be a game that ported from cell phones seamlessly to consoles without a hiccup and offered a tried and true dungeon crawling experience; however, with very basic and not fully fleshed out mechanics and a lack of narrative, the game falls flat and misses the mark compared to its contemporaries. If you are looking for just a grindy experience for the sake of just grinding, then this might just be the game for you. However, if you are looking for a true dungeon experience that offers significant challenge and great depth or even just a classic style game to enjoy what made these style of games great in the first place, then this is definitely not it. All technical difficulties aside, this should be far more than what it is for what it claims to be.
Score: Limited Appeal
Dungeon Rushers was developed and published by Goblinz Studio and Plugin Digital. The game released on May 25, 2018, for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.