Dungeon Souls showed some fun promise when it was initially released in its Early Access Days on Steam. Clearly it’s inspired by similar games with developers, Lamina Studios, acknowledging clear influences, yet the game attempts to add its own features to the roguelike genre in order to entice players.
Despite the complexities such as character classes, levelling stats, weapon and armour forging, a lot of this gets lost in the game. This however doesn’t hold back the game which proves to be engaging and fun throughout. For what the game strives for, Dungeon Souls feels like a bare bones yet action-packed game that revels in its ever-escalating action and levelling, and item systems that seeks to only create louder cacophonies of explosive enemy encounters. The gameplay can become addictive as you progress level by level encountering escalating hordes of enemies that get tougher as you power up your character. While this remains consistently immersive throughout, the unfinished feel of the game and lack of polish wears away the player’s enjoyment.
Dungeon Souls plays like any well know roguelike game, players waltz through randomly generated dungeons collecting loot and destroying enemies. The developers here also try to build some sense of backstory and context to the game setting where each of the characters are trapped souls that all must be freed in a sense to defeat the powers that are keeping them trapped. Players progress through levels by opening gates and face progressively tougher bosses while upgrading your character and making him stronger. The game loops itself ad infinitum increasing difficulty by adding more enemies and stronger bosses. Permadeath gives it an added element of risk and difficulty as players would have to start again from the beginning if they once. It helps give the feeling of depth to the game as well as the procedurely generated maps that makes the gameplay feel fresh and different each time.
Games can be categorised by their complexity. There’s content rich games with expressive and rich gameplay that require practice and patience to earn the ability to play them efficiently, there’s also mindless, action-oriented games that lets your brain turn itself off allowing instant gratification with simplistic inputs. Then there’s Dungeon Souls which is somewhere located in between and isn’t sure what it wants to be. There’s a clear dissonance between a game that presents various gameplay options the player can utilise in a player versus the simplistic hack-and-slash gameplay. Passive abilities which can be purchased with accrued coins enable players to increase stats but you might not even realise such a feature existing with only a small icon tucked in the corner of the character selection menu making you aware of its existence. Simultaneously, it might beef up your characters stats so as remove further challenge in the game.
The game has an interesting array of characters that players can unlock eventually with their own stats and abilities. The rpg mechanics are interesting as is accruing items that help along the way, although through playing the game players might discover they could power up their characters attack more with item gaining with its stacked effects than through levelling up. Items seem to have much more of on impact on gameplay and negates the idea of different playstyles based on character selection, leaving only unique abilities as a saving grace of the character selection system. Perhaps if the local co-op featured would let players combine different character classes then perhaps it might have added purpose but the straightforward gameplay overall doesn’t suggest it would need something like this. There’s also the crafting system in Dungeon Souls which doesn’t feel necessary at all and cumbersome to use with its poor layout and the bad job the game gives at explaining how it works. The game can still be enjoyable to play the problem is that a lot of these features often feel superfluous to the game overall.
Sometimes playing this game you might ask yourself what the developers were doing between its initial early access release in 2015 and its final full release a few days ago. Your game might crash, icons might fail to load or animate properly, screenshots might not show up after you erratically attempted to take some in the middle of a barrage of attacks and spells in the middle of a gigantic horde of monsters. It’s clearly noticeable that the game lacks polish in certain areas and strains the overall playing experience. Graphics and audio also feels frequently bare and lacking polish. Bosses will only say one or two lines repeatedly with different inflections as if they decided to add in each take of the lines instead of coming up with new dialogue to say. Visually this game can feel quite noisy as the more players dig deeper into the game, the more frustration occurs with its messy overlaying of explosions and buggy text that overlap each other endlessley. The art style itself would be fine, if not derivative and bare otherwise.
The game is a bit of a mess at times, but at its essence is a game that runs surprisingly smooth despite the obfuscating chaos of enemies and text blaring on screen. The core gameplay concepts are well-executed and proves a challenge for players initially.This gameplay and aesthetic is derivative of many other titles in this genre but it still proves to be enjoyable and not something the player might consider once they slowly sink into the circuitous gameplay. If you’re looking for something simple and fun with minimal difficulty or interaction then this game would please you provided you can ignore all its unnecessary features and unfinished feel.