Are You Ready to be a Hero?
October 2, 2008 – When playing dungeon-crawling games, the thought that is probably least likely to cross your mind is “I wonder what all these monsters are doing in this cave?” Dungeon Hero, slated early next year for Xbox 360 and PC, attempts to frame the narrative surrounding dungeon-based games in a whole new way. What if all the hapless monsters you mercilessly slew in past dungeons were actually members of an innocent and exploited goblin race? And what if this race needed a hero? Would you step up to the plate? Should you?
The as-yet unnamed main character of Dungeon Hero has been described as a “psychopath” who has been roped into helping the dungeon-dwelling goblins find a way to cheat death. Although this initially sounds a little antagonistic towards the game’s many goblins, the game does take a very sympathetic tone towards these creatures and allows you to experience the age-old goblin conflict from a whole new perspective. Even though this may sound like a bizarre setup for a game, it seems that the unique storyline will lay the groundwork for many more unconventional facets.
For instance, while Dungeon Hero purports to be a new take on the dungeon-crawling genre, at heart it is more of a hack-and-slash adventure. The gameplay system is best described as an action platforming-style game. However, the game does carry several elements from the genre that inspired it. For instance, your progress in the game will be directed from a central hub where you will be able to speak with different characters who will serve as the chief mechanism to guide your adventure. Characters will muse about different problems and residents, and your character will have to make adventure decisions based on what he hears from the goblins around him.
The battle system looks to take a heavy amount of cues from established action games like the Devil May Cry series as well as God of War. Dungeon Hero has completely done away with the traditional dungeon-crawling gird and menu systems of old in favor of a more active battle system. The hero is able to do some fairly amazing acrobatic attacks with a sword and a shield, and control will be facilitated via strategic button mashes. There will also be a host of specialty moves including head butts and side swipes that will become available as you level up the main character’s skill set. The developer has confirmed that there will be more than 250 unique skills that your hero will be able to learn throughout the game.
The dungeons in Dungeon Hero also look like they have taken a nod or two from established platforming titles. The dungeons feature a strategic design, and several of them have floor layouts that are conducive to intense and challenging combat. For example, one of the dungeons in an early screenshot shows a very narrow hallway with enemies teaming in from one side, with your character defending a small, central area. It is unknown whether Dungeon Hero will utilize randomly generated floor models like other titles in the dungeon-crawling genre, but at this point it seems that the different environments will help shape the strategy, which would rule out the randomly generated element of the genre.
Aside from the floor design, the dungeons in Dungeon Hero will also sport a very high level of detail. Instead of sparsely populated caves with treasure chests, Dungeon Hero builds communities within these dark settings. There will be connected living spaces in the different dungeons, and the game tries very hard to make the dungeons feel like a living, breathing abode for the oppressed goblin population. There’s no telling what you’ll find in each dungeon you explore, and Dungeon Hero looks to get rid of a lot of the predictability issues you find in many traditional dungeon crawlers.
Dungeon Hero is a very interesting title that seems to be teasing great meaning out of some of the smaller aspects of dungeon-crawling gameplay, while ignoring some of the bigger facets of the genre. Is this a good thing? Well, only time will tell, but this micro/macro approach could yield some very interesting results. It will be exciting to see if Dungeon Hero can really pull off such an ambitious take on such a well-established genre. One thing is for sure, however, you’ll never see dungeons in the same way again!