|System: PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Hudson Soft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Hudson Soft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 12, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Healing you when you are low on health, ridding status effects when you are poisoned or fatigued or just staying the hell back when you want a one on one; see how nice that would be if a computer controlled character could simulate a real player? Unfortunately in Dungeon Explorer, you'll have to put up with a group of compatriots who suffer from "Leroy Jenkins" syndrome. Now, all that's been said thus far pertains to when you venture out of the main town, which is the other point of interest when you are not slaying monsters. Using a similar setup to that of Guild Wars, you will grab what quests and items you can in the central hub and then head out into the wilderness with up to three assistants depending on the difficulty. Though helpful at first, the tagalongs will quickly get overwhelmed and you will find yourself having to revive them continuously, especially during the boss fights. There is an option to keep your party on the defensive, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference.
It goes without saying that the multiplayer option fairs much better than the single player because of the interaction. You and up to two other players can take part in some dungeon crawling, with the options available being based on the host's main file. As with the story mode, there is the central hub and alternate pathways depending on how much of the story the primary player has progressed through. Another nifty implementation is that you can gain recovered items in this mode, including potions, weapons, armor, and more. The only disappointment is the inability to bring experience points over to your main file, making the incentive to play longer sessions a bit lower. Also, it has to be wondered why the single player option allows up to four characters to join, while the multiplayer only features three. All in all though, after the redundancy that was the story mode, the multiplayer mode was a welcomed feature. No computer controlled A.I. to baby sit, and the gameplay was surprisingly lag free.
The most surprising feature of the PSP has been its graphical power, which has allowed several big name games such as God of War and Grand Theft Auto to come close to PlayStation 2 quality in their handheld representations. Then of course you have games like Dungeon Explorer, where the budget was obviously much lower. Though character models and landmarks are distinguishable, they are grainy and really lack polish. The camera angle also detracts from the exploratory aspect of the game, giving off the impression that you are trapped in a perpetual barrier rather than an open environment. Several of the dungeons have their own unique look, but a lot of the rooms are generically recycled, which is evident in the later trials. If you were expecting the audio to make up for the graphics' lack of flare, then you'd be sadly mistaken. The themes of Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts are quite ordinary and tend to be on the redundant side. The lack of voice acting is also a major detriment, since the standard for advanced sound effects has been in place for quite some time now.
What is it about decade late sequels that always manage to sour a classic? It seems that the developers of these remakes forget what made the originals so special, which is why the expectations can be set a little high when waiting for their release. Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts, as well as the just released Warriors of the Lost Empire, are just as bland in gameplay as they are in their unoriginal titles. Think of an offline version of Phantasy Star Online, but with poorer visuals, limited move-sets, uninteresting music, and repetitive gameplay that offers no real rewards. You'd then have the latest Dungeon Explorer. If you are starving for a new RPG or even if you are into dungeon crawlers, then you will have to wait a little longer to satisfy your palette. Luckily for you PSP owners, God of War: Chains of Olympus is right around the corner. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do something exciting; wonder if the bowling alley is still open.
CCC Freelance Writer