Developer: Global A Entertainment
N Amer - 06/19/2007
DUNGEON MAKER: HUNTING GROUND Review
When I was a child, Dungeons and Dragons was about the most popular (non-video game) way for several pre-pubescent friends to spend the late hours of a summer sleepover in the unused camper of the David house. We loved the idea of noble warriors entering cryptic dungeons and doling out some two-handed broadsword justice to whatever nasty critter happened your way. In fact, we were so enamored with the whole D&D thing, we would draw dungeons and place monsters in it, then attempt to recreate the experience out back with wooden swords and shields made with the help of our fathers (sadly children can't do this anymore without fear of the police being called). So when I got the preview of Dungeon Master last month, I was looking to help realize some unfulfilled quest of freeing my fellow warriors who were turned to stone because Mom said I had to come inside for dinner. Well, the preview portion is over and it's now its time to play in the big leagues of a full retail copy of the game.
In Dungeon Master: Hunting Ground, you play as a new architect/warrior who has come to town to make a name for himself. Buying the large cave outside of town, you are going to save the town by attracting the monsters to your dungeon rather then the town. Laboring intently, you must design a dungeon that is complicated enough to attract monsters so that they will want to stash their loot inside, as well as making it quite nice looking with marble floors, fountains and custom made walls. Apparently, this year's monster is all about being chic. So you build the dungeon a bit at a time, attract monsters, then you go and clean out the dungeon in your "once a day trip" to the dungeon, collect any and all artifacts and money, return to the town, get some rest in the local inn, buy supplies, maybe get a quest or two and repeat. As the game continues on, your dungeon becomes more and more elaborate, and after time, some really interesting monsters begin showing up. And ultimately, you are trying to attract the biggest monster of them all, the Wandering Demon, a powerful monster who has made it his business to lay siege to the land.
"I told her to turn off the gas stove!"
Yes, I know I am oversimplifying things; you do make good by talking to the townsfolk who will sometimes give you items to help out in exchange for doing little things for them. As a matter of fact, you start the game pretty much being considered not much more then horse feed as the last few dungeon makers either died or took off after realizing they couldn't hack it (apparently in this world, the profession of dungeon maker is a somewhat common profession). Either way, you bring in the right treasure and it can get you moving in the right direction; however, the game doesn't follow as cohesive a track as it should. Yeah sure, you enter the dungeon once a day, kill everything and bring your treasures back to town, but then you can easily find things spiraling out of control as your dungeon becomes too big to clean out daily. Or you enter the dungeon one day and find way more creatures than you were prepared for. Or you go several days in a row and there is hardly anything in the dungeon to help turn a profit. Or, you can claw your way through several days of pain and misery saving up enough money to buy a fancy item to place in your dungeon after being told that a particular monster is attracted to it, and then nothing.
So in a way you could say the game's pacing is off a bit. I had to start over completely after playing around 14 hours as I could see things beginning to be too far out of control for my character to contain it. And while I honestly believe the idea behind the game is sound, the implementation is not. Now that being said, the second half of what drives Dungeon Maker, is the action in fighting as a foil to the dungeon creating. Very wisely, the action is not a turn-based RPG, but rather a real-time action style game with you controlling the action from a third-person perspective. In fact, your character uses both melee weapons and magical attacks while doing your daily dungeon cleansing. It also helps (as your dungeon gets really big with multiple floors) that there are teleport points called warp points that bounce you around the dungeon more quickly. Fighting the creatures is essentially deciding whether you want to use a quick weaker attack or a stronger slower attack and all combos in between. If anything, the action side of the RPG can get a bit boring and repetitive, and in fact you will see the same monsters for quite a while before anything really cool comes around.
"All these rooms and no bathroom to be found."
For a PSP title, I liked how Dungeon Master looked; the character designs of the people in town obviously are influenced by anime with their cutesy faces and sometimes gothic clothing. There is even a set of girl twins that make you feel a bit off with the way they are drawn. Yes the graphics have their place, and sometimes they don't come across as sharp as other games of this genre but it is a noble effort as far as the graphics go. Some decent lighting effects are pulled out of the air and like I said the character designs do an ample job. More importantly though, is the building of the dungeons - a fairly uncomplicated experience as it is more magic based than carpentry based. If you have the cash, then you can expect new hallways and vestibules in your future, which incidentally look all right. I was surprised at some of the items you could put in your dungeon as it began looking more like a castle in some parts. Hey, whatever the monsters want, they get, right? There is a simple little ditty that keeps things light and airy when in town so as to contrast the dark, dangerous dungeon. I couldn't help but think the game would have benefited from some voice acting. As it is, you read everyone's dialogue.
Lastly, even though I do not know anyone else who has this title yet, you can swap up dungeons with other players via ad-hoc and get a good idea of how someone else may address the problem of monster infestation.
Review Scoring Details for Dungeon Master: Hunting Ground
It isn't terribly difficult building a dungeon, but it can get out of hand if you don't design accordingly. Fighting those same monsters makes for a point-counterpoint experience, but even the action sequences can get a little boring.
Ample graphics, nice character design, but the monsters could have been made more menacing looking in my opinion.
There is no voice acting and I think this game would have benefited from it.
It can be a challenge gutting it out and trying to maintain a dungeon you can regularly wipe out. Like I said I had to restart because I was just doing everything wrong (it felt like it), and waiting as long as you do to see some really kick butt monsters can be trying.
I think this is a fabulous idea, but the end result feels so uneven.
My hat's off to the folks at XSEED for coming up with a pretty nifty idea. But there is the kind of frustration felt in this game that will really turn off some players. If you can beat this 30-or-so-hours game, then you have the kind of determination and chutzpah that very few do.
A combination of RPG action and dungeon building simulator
Reviewer: Mike David
Review Date: 07/18/2007