Paradox Interactive is one of those companies that I have a soft spot for because of what they do. Where some companies seem to find comfort in creating signature games, like Square Enix with their Final Fantasy series, Paradox is one of those companies that say “man, I really want this kind of game to exist, we should totally make it exist”. Their resume reflects this belief with a long list of games that differ completely in every way. Ranging from the friendly-fire beat down of Magicka to the grand militaristic War of the Roses, Paradox likes to take risks. Their latest risk, a 4-player dungeon-crawl known as Dungeonland made by Critical Studios.
Dungeonland is a bit of an interesting one, even by Paradox’s standard. Based around DnD’s style of having a dungeon master attempt to kill a group of unsuspecting heroes, Dungeonland is a comedic romp through the park, literally. Players play one of three heroes that go to a park where the Dungeon Maestro does everything in their power to kill the heroes. Once inside, heroes will meet a wide variety of monsters as they bravely attempt to survive the Dungeon Maestro’s twisted theme park.
COMEDY MEETS DND
Team Oriented - DungeonLand is one of the few games that says “this is a team game” and means exactly what it says. The three classes provided for players to choose from have a large variety between them for a reason. In theory, a team of three rogues could probably handle one of the many attractions found in DungeonLand, but in reality, they would have been much better off having each of the three classes represented. Each of them are unique in their own way, and missing one of them from your team’s composition can really hurt your chances of survival, even if no one wants to play the fat mage.
A Unique Concept - The concept of Dungeonland is unique, and rarely seen. Three heroes against one supreme ruler makes for an interesting party game amongst a group of friends, to say the least. Even if there aren’t that many unique levels, no two playthroughs are ever the same. Each Dungeon Maestro builds his own deck of evil monsters, and each hero can be played in multiple ways. The amount of unique playthroughs for each dungeon available makes this game something that can be played amongst friends over and over again.
Hilarities - Perhaps I’m a bit too old school for my own good, but I can’t seem to enjoy many games these days that take themselves seriously. Dungeonland breaks free from the serious plague of recent titles like Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite by being shamelessly funny. Everything the characters say is comedic gold, and it’s fun to play a game that knows it’s just a game. Even if these jokes get old after the third or fourth play-through, the fact that nothing takes itself seriously is appreciated.
Easy to Pick Up - Whether you’re the Dungeon Maestro, or one of the heroes, the game is quick to pick up, and players can easily familiarize themselves with it before their first death. The heroes play in a way that’s not dissimilar to the famed Gauntlet titles, and the Dungeon Maestro finds himself on a slightly altered RTS screen with simple one click controls. It’s one of those games that doesn’t hold you back with its controls.
Simple, Yet Beautiful Graphics - Dungeonland isn’t one of those titles that try to push computers to their graphical limits. Rather, it takes simple designs and creates them in such a way that they will stand the test of time. These graphics may age a bit, but they’ll easily survive longer and still be considered pretty when held up to other titles that come out this year.
No Real Single Player - A big issue with the title is that it’s meant to be played with other people. The single player functions while endearing and well-meaning don’t hold a candle to the enjoyment of the multiplayer. It’s more of a glorified tutorial that helps you understand what you’re doing before you get online and little else.
Hideous Characters - The design may be simplistic, and beautiful, but the characters aren’t. Amongst the three primary characters, none of them are visually enthralling. While this may be due to the designers wanting to keep everything light-heared and not serious, they’re hideous and bothersome to look at. Dungeonland’s primary characters simply look unforgivably bad.
Gets Old Fast - With only three worlds to explore, Dungeonland gets old fast. I mentioned in the positives that it’s a fun game that’s different every time you play, but even that gets old. The concept of “get here without dying” is made interesting in DnD because of the creativity allowed to players. Dungeonland is very minimalist. You can’t avoid a fight by seducing the warlord’s blind grandmother, you simply go from point to point killing things. The only creativity allowed is in how the Dungeon Maestro may try to kill you, and even that becomes repetitive after a while. It’ll be fun for the first 5-10 hours, but after that you’ll be looking for a new game.
I liked Dungeonland, but I wasn’t in love with it. It’s an interesting concept that doesn’t exactly have a lot of other examples to base itself off of. The gamble with making new games that are completely different from other titles is that you don’t have a whole lot to base your idea off of. The concept of one player trying to kill three other players is an interesting idea, but it’s just flakey, and transparent.
Dungeonland could have had so much more to keep players enthralled. Sure they gave players some tools to keep themselves occupied, but all they did is create a short detour. In reality, Dungeonland is a short game that’s fun while it lasts, but doesn’t have that ONE feature that keeps me coming back for more.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*