Dungeon League – Early Access Preview
Developer – AcheBit/Surprise Attack Games
Publisher – Surprise Attack Games
Something I think large developers struggle with on a regular basis is injecting character in to their games. Sure, they may look really pretty and play real nice, but sometimes it can feel like something’s missing. Games often need something to make them stand out against their counterparts, lest they risk being amalgamated into the great, gaseous sphere that is “video games” and then being largely forgotten about.
Dungeon League doesn’t have this problem. In fact, If there was ever a game that I could recommend based on it’s level of character alone, then I’d recommend this one ten times over and its only just hit early access. A dungeon-crawling, competitive coming together of pixels, colours and deadly demons, Dungeon League seeks to pit players against each other either in a variety of different party battle modes, only a handful of which are available at the moment. I’ll talk about them in a little bit, but first, I’ll tell you what it’s all about.
Up to four players can grab a controller and a spot on the couch, choose which of the four teams they’d like to represent, then pick their All Star. All Stars are the ones who put their bodies on the line in Dungeon League, with each having different abilities that assert themselves to different play styles. Each character would fit just as well as fit in to any standard dungeon-crawler RPG (except maybe Albert, the Rainbow Unicorn) and thus doesn’t take very long to figure out if they’ll work for you or not.
Of the modes currently available in the Early Access beta (v1.2 for those playing at home) there are three game types available. Free Play is the first, which drops you as a high-level character in a box room with endlessly re-spawning enemies. It affords a good chance to acclimatise yourself with the game’s pace and directional attack mechanics, without the stress of competition. It’s also a good place to test out different All Stars to see who works best for you. Then there is the Tutorial, where the Trainer will hilariously put you through your paces whilst also putting you in your place.
Last up is Tournament, which is the main mode that pits teams against each other in a best-of-five match up, and you can play either 1v1(v1v1) or as a team in a 2v2. There are a number of different game types, each selected at random at the start of each two minute round. There are the standard modes modes such as Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, both of which are quite fun. Obelisk is my favourite, which is basically a Domination-style round where you need to capture and hold as many of the three obelisks in the dungeon as possible, with points tallying up as the round progresses.
Then there is Witches Eye, where the players must find and grab the eye, then protect it for as long as possible. Lastly there is Race, which is pretty self-explanatory. A race from the first flag to the last flag with the player who runs the furthest winning. This mode seemed a little more luck based depending on where you start in relation to the first flag, but held my interest as something a little different.
Each player starts the beginning of each round in their own small room placed in a random corner of the map. When the round starts, they open the door into the procedurally-generated dungeon filled with monsters, traps, and collectables like gold. At the end of each round, the players return to the character screen, where they review their XP gains, spend their earned points with the Trainer on upgrading current skills (or learning new ones). They can also go to the shop to buy items that can be equipped to provide a quick buff, or if you don’t like the items on display you can bribe the lovely shopkeeper and she’ll swap the items over for you. It gets more expensive each time though, so be warned. She’s a greedy ogre!
Dungeon League is hilarious as well as fun. The deprecating form of the Trainer during the tutorial had me in fits not five minutes in, and the commentary also adds to the excitement of when a team scores points. The excitement, for me at least, comes from mixing PvP and PvE in a way that’s super accessible and easy for anyone to pick up. For a game that’s being developed single handedly by Sydney based developer AcheBit, it shows its potential off from the moment you pick up the controller. You can tell this has been a labour of love, with a level of refinement that’s impressive despite its only recent release. It’s makes me optimistic for the future of Dungeon League.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.