Well the Winter Uprising of Xbox indie games is finally upon us, and developer Eyehook Games is the first to deliver, and they do so with a title that doesn’t disappoint. It was a wise decision to launch the event with a genre that most gamers seem to enjoy, and that’s the dungeon crawler. This genre in particular seems to do well with the smaller and independent studios, with the most recent success being the PC budget title Torchlight.
Initially players are greeted with the option of choose 1 of 4 classes, including your standard fare of warrior and mage. I played as three of the classes: the barbarian with his 360 degree sword attack, gambler with his radiating damage-over-time poison blast, and finally the tinkerer who fights alongside a mechanical friend which zaps foes. Upon choosing a class, a page of text will explain the unique situation as to how each of them appeared in the dungeon. Despite the different starting attacks, I noticed little difference between characters, a fact exacerbated by the fact that each character can learn the others’ attacks. Players progress and allot skill points into each of these skills, and another set of statistic points are granted at each level and distributed into categories such as attack, dexterity, defense, and the ever-elusive luck.
Fortunately dungeons are randomly generated to break up the monotony of playing through multiple times, and you will, as the save feature deletes your save upon loading it and one death leads to a permanent game over. If there is one pitfall I can find with this title, it is that. It’s a trait inherent in the roguelike genre, but there is nothing more frustrating than progressing 20 levels only to be killed to start all over. I found the punishment for death to be too hard for my tastes, especially after my last review of The Deep Cave, which takes just the opposite approach. What I did find rewarding however, were the randomly scattered “?” signs, which upon approach, bring up a dialogue box for players to interact with. A variety of scenarios are present and can be anything from a group of orcs challenging you to a drinking contest to potentially win a weapon, to a witch asking for your toe in return for a gift (or curse) of your surprise. Of course players always have the opportunity to turn and walk away from the situation, but where’s the fun in that?
Graphically Epic Dungeon is similar to the arcade classic Gauntlet, which many of us have come to love over the years. One unique aspect is the fog of war, which appears over a level and dissipates when a players explores it. Players also carry a lantern that needs to be filled from time to time with vials of oil or else the screen will slowly grow darker.
In keeping with the dungeon crawler spirit, loot is scattered throughout the game and is either dropped from enemies or lying on the floor. Players manage their inventory with the select button, which has slots for a weapon, armor, ring, and amulet. Every few levels yields a vendor to trade with or identify items, just like Diablo.
So does Epic Dungeon bring anything new to the dungeon crawler experience? No, but it does what it came to do, and does it well. The Xbox indie platform is an ideal environment for such a title, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of them. If you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers, or just looking to fulfill your nostalgic fix, Epic Dungeon is just for you. If this is a sign of things to come, then the Winter Uprising could prove to be an outstanding promotional tool for the greatly unappreciated platform.
Epic Dungeon was provided for review by Eyehook Games. It is available for 80 MS points ($1).
UPDATE: Epic Dungeon has flown to the ##1 Top Downloaded slot on the dashboard in just its first day of release, as seen here. Congratulations!