Online - 05/24/2007
Dungeon Runners Review
NCsoft knows a bit about making massively multiplayer online games. When the company decided to take an old engine, built for a game that didn’t see the light of retail, and revamp the experience for a casual MMO outing, the result was Dungeon Runners.
The game itself is a point-and-click adventure that comes in two forms. There is the free-to-play form, which gives players the bare bones of the game, and then there is the monthly subscription fee, which allows players access to items that the free-to-play gamers won’t get. Like what, you ask?
Well, a bank vault for one thing. If you don’t pay the subscription price, you only have the space that your inventory will allow, which isn’t much. Also, as you crawl through the game you will find drops that are of much better quality than what the general player can equip. These items are unlocked and available for members only. As a member you will also get priority when logging into the game. And potions, which for non-members take up one inventory slot each, are stackable for members. The cost of being a member is $4.99 a month. Insidious? You bet. Smart marketing? Yep.
The game itself is a dungeon crawl that can be tackled either solo, or in groups. In that regard the game caters to everyone and allows for a customizable experience. The avatars are customizable as well. Not so much in the way they look – you have limited choices when creating the characters, and the main way to differentiate yourself from others is through armor and weapons – but in the way you build your character. You can multi-class, choosing from melee, ranged and magic skills. It does cost to train, but you will get coins from selling loot, gaining gold in combat drops and through accomplishing quests. You do start with a set class, and rudimentary skills, but what you do from that point on is up to you and your gold supply.
The game is a point and click and it really takes that role seriously. You point the cursor on the ground and click to move. You target an enemy and hold down the left mouse button to continuously attack. A click of the right mouse button will trigger the slotted special attack you have in that spot on the hotbar.
The world geometry is not always spot on. You might see a rock formation within a zone sitting about a foot above the ledge it is supposed to be on. Loot can fall into the ground and can – at times – be rather hard to see.
The game itself is a very loose excuse to kill stuff in a PvE (player-versus-environment) setting. There is no overarching story, and no plot points to worry about. You go into a village, get missions from NPCs and then go out and accomplish the task. Head back to the NPC, turn in and maybe you have unlocked the next zone. There are portals that will enable you to travel back to a village, or to major unlocked areas.
Dungeon Runners does not do a lot that is new or different, but what it does do well is inject humor into the game. Take, for example, a skill that a ranger can get called Trigger Happy. The skill description is: “You have a nervous twitch with your trigger finger resulting from a work-related accident involving a branding iron, a penguin and a large bucket of coffee beans.” Of course there is more to the description, including what the skill actually does. And some of the weapons, or armor, have humorous names, like the Lukewarm Opaque Ghost Buckler of the Noggin’, or a weapon with the speed rating of “Grandma.”
Graphically the game employs a cartoonish look, bright, vibrant and colorful. The music is passable and does not interfere with the flow of the game. It does pick up when you are in combat, as a tempo to the action. The interface is pretty standard, though the combat keys can be a bit painful after playing the game for several hours. To continue to attack, you keep the left mouse button depressed. The right mouse button will trigger your special attacks. You queue those in slots on either side of your hotbar. The camera is controlled by moving the cursor to the edges of the screen or by using the arrow keys on the keyboard.
The game is, by no means, truly innovative. It does, though, have entertainment value. You can jump in and play for 10 minutes or for several hours. Experience flows freely and you can level up your character painlessly. In the hack’n’slash vein of titles like Diablo, Dungeon Runners is a nice little game created with tongue in cheek and fun in mind.
Review Scoring Details for Dungeon Runners
The game is easy to jump into and play. The downside is that some of the controls can be a bit finger numbing. Holding down the left mouse button continuously for most of an hour or so is not much fun.
The effects are well done, but the main problem lays in that drops can be obscured by the environments.
The music is looped but good. The environmental sounds are also nice. Some of the voiced characters are entertaining as well, though not totally appropriate for the setting.
This is a game built for casual gaming, and it shows. The game is right for playing in smaller doses.
The community can be sarcastic, but is generally helpful.
This was a tough game to score, simply because it does not offer much more than hack’n’slash entertainment. If you go through the game at the appropriate zones for your level, you won’t have a terribly difficult time of it. But the game, which success oriented, can still be entertaining.
Dungeon Runners does not push the MMO genre conceptually, but it does deliver in terms of casual hack ‘n slash fun
Reviewer: Michael Lafferty
Review Date: 07/19/2007