God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll (archmage) wrote,
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll
archmage

PC Game Review: Dungeon Lords

So, for anyone who cares, my take on Dungeon Lords:

Don't.

OK, on to a little more in-depth. Dungeon Lords, well, let's be nice and say it falls short. Hell, why be nice? This game probably should not have been released.

Positive things first:
  • The game is pretty, visually, for the most part. Not amazing, mind you, but rarely am I seeing things and commenting on how bad they look, or how much more improvement could be used. The undead, so far, are fabulous. Occasionally I'll see something that makes me cock an eyebrow (such as pixelation around hanging tree-vines, which proper anti-aliasing should have taken care of, or the fact that the water plane in lakes isn't flat, but rather gently slopes , etc., like hills...but doesn't move, so it's not waves), but, generally, it's pretty good.
  • The character advancement is interesting. You'll choose a class in creation, and that class will determine the skills you have the opportunity to learn, and as the game goes on you'll have the chance to learn newer, more specialized classes that expand you skill range. As you play, you'll get experience (for character levels) as well as "advancement points", which you can spend to pump up skills and attributes, as you see fit.
  • Magic tends to auto-target, which is nice, as do ranged weapons
  • If you die, you may simply "revive" right there on the spot. You'll only have a third of your health, any unspent advancement points are lost, and you'll lose a random point of stats, but that's the price you pay (if you have resurrection magic in your inventory, though, you'll come back, full-health and fine)
  • There isn't a lot of background music, so it doesn't get too annoying and monotonous
Negative things:
  • Many, many things are represented in the manual and the game as things that can be done...but just aren't there. Dreamcatcher Games claims they chose to take some of those things out (for whatever reasons), but they left the buttons and things in the game and manuals, making it confusing. For instance, the game claims hitting "M" will give you a mini-map...but doesn't. Character creation gives the options for changing appearance...but you can't. Shields can be degraded and need repair, and the option to repair them is at any seller...but nothing happens (and the Repair skill you should be able to learn never appears). Supposedly, you can "rest" at camp-fires and fireplaces...but most of the time the option is not there, and usually, the FIRE isn't there.
  • Speaking of missing things, the world is EMPTY. 99% of the time, the rooms are big empty spaces, with no furniture, no nothing. Sellers and shops usually have a bar or counter, but there are no chairs, tables, and whatnot around. I've seen furniture in maybe two places so far
  • While there are no "load screens" (most of the time, though moving from indoors to outdoors and into major areas has a slightly longer version of the following), the game does tend to "hang" every couple of minutes to load in the new areas and/or handle creature spawns, so the constant motion/immersive element of never stopping to load a new area is lost by the constant stuttering (Microsoft's Dungeon Siege handled this EXCELLENTLY)
  • Random voices are not chosen well, I've had many NPCs walk past me and speak in a voice of incorrect gender
  • Combat is tedious; while you may increase your skills and even get "weapon combos", you are in free-roaming third-person view, and thus as you run at an attacker, his side-step means you run right past him, and spend most of your combat time running in little circles and figure-eights, just trying to line up your swings. Being able to "lock" on to a target would be a MAJOR help
  • Speaking of opponents, DL does something that always annoys me in games; random spawning creatures. You can walk an area that is closed off, and confirm that you have cleared the area of enemies, and suddenly a horde (and, especially outside, I do mean HORDE) of something comes at you from the hallway you just left. That's just cheesy and unnecessary
  • If you watch closely, there are "areas" to the game, meaning creatures sometimes will refuse to cross doorways or thresholds, which leads to more cheesy fighting where you stand just inside some doorway and slash at a creature that refuses to step forward and fight you.
  • The polygon collision detection needs work. It's like I read somewhere, the world is full of fish hooks coated in glue. Too close to a wall or corner, and you may just stop moving, until you back up a step first.
  • For all it's storyline and whatnot, the game is "run-from-point-A-to-point-B-and-kill-everything-in-between", over and over again. The only system of fast movement from town to town is obscure in it's usage,and the way to activate them is only lightly explained, and damn hard to discover (why is it in all these games, there's always a way to teleport from town to town, but no one remembers how to do it?)
  • The game is pretty buggy. Reading forums for the game reveals all manner of problems people are having, making the game worse than a lot of betas. Why Dreamcatcher chose to use an older game engine is unknown (probably because it was cheap to lease), and why they didn't polish the game up and fix a lot of the little annoying problems is a mystery. It's like they didn't bother play-testing it, or doing much quality control, at all
So, there you have it. Long, monotonous, and touchy, I don't actually recommend it. Dreamcatcher Games is not exactly a market leader in the PC game world, though they have shown that they have staying power...Hell, they've been around forever, and survived in a world where game companies like Black Isle, Looking Glass, and Raven (all makers of games that got great reviews and sales) have died out. Personally, I think it's like this: DCG is kinda like McDonald's: the product may not be as good, but it's usually good enough, and easy to make, and sells for less. The huge companies make make prettier games, but the audience is less, and cannot afford all the $50 games out each month...but might be willing to drop $20 on a lesser game that looks just interesting enough to kill a few days in play. Thus, the company stays in business, and keep cranking out the games, while some others, investing millions on trying to make the next big thing, fold and close their doors, even after a major hit game. Maybe, one day, some of these companies will take a page from DGC's book, and realize that selling the games for less means they'll actually sell more units, and make their money anyway (as well as making happy gamers)...but let's hope the page they look at isn't the one with Dungeon Lords on it.
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