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Dungeon Crawler

Review: Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon

Nov 27 // Ben Davis
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon (3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NintendoMSRP: $39.99Released: November 20, 2015 To start things off in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, the player will take a short personality test. The test determines which of the 20 starter Pokémon they will become; it also chooses their partner. However, the results can be overruled if the player is unhappy with their chosen 'mon. The game picked Mudkip for me, with Torchic as my parter, so I just went with it. The story of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon revolves around a human who has been turned into a Pokémon and has lost their memory. The Pokéhuman wakes up in confusion to find that they're being attacked by a group of Beheeyem, but they're quickly led to safety by a kind Nuzleaf with a southern accent who shows them the ropes and brings them into town. Once in town, the player will make some new friends, meet up with their destined partner, and begin going on expeditions into mystery dungeons. From here, the main storyline will begin to reveal itself in bits and pieces. There are whispers of Pokémon around the world mysteriously being turned to stone, the Beheeyem are still following the player, and their memory of being a human refuses to return to them. Eventually, everything will start to fall into place and a grand adventure of world-ending proportions will unfold. But before all of that happens, there are dungeons to explore. These make up the core gameplay, of course. Mystery dungeons are made up of randomly generated grid-based floors filled with enemy Pokémon, items, and traps. Enemies only move when the player moves, so sometimes it's best to take things one step at a time so as to avoid suddenly becoming overwhelmed with foes. [embed]322769:61271:0[/embed] To attack, just hold down the left bumper to open up a menu of four possible moves, then select an action. It's also possible to combo moves with other team members by tapping the right bumper, which activates an "Alliance" to hit an enemy with multiple moves at once. Strategy is key to winning battles. Sometimes the best course of action is to waste a turn so that the enemy might move closer, opening up the possibility to land the first strike. Or, maybe it would be safer to switch positions with another teammate so they can take a blow and allow others to heal. Perhaps a liberal use of items will get the player out of a jam. A lot of planning and foresight is necessary in order to survive most confrontations, so simply spamming attacks is not going to cut it for the most part. Moving around dungeons will slowly heal injured Pokémon, but it will also decrease a hunger gauge as well, and if hunger reaches zero then the Pokémon's health will slowly begin to deplete. On top of that, there are status effects to worry about, such as poison or burns, which will stop Pokémon from regenerating health and will hurt them. Other effects, like confusion, can mess with a Pokémon's movement or ability to act. This can prove to be very annoying and potentially dangerous, so it's always a good idea to have the proper items available. Actually, a big part of mystery dungeon navigation involves managing items effectively. Only a certain amount can be held at once, but items will be scattered about all over the place and will quickly fill up the bag. It's a good idea to figure out which are the most important and plan accordingly. Some of the more important ones are oran berries and reviver seeds which are necessary for healing, elixirs which replenish the PP of moves, apples which stave off hunger, and wands and orbs that keep enemies at bay or help with dungeon navigation. There are also "Looplets" which act as the sole source of accessory. These can be upgraded with "Emeras" or gems which provide a wide array of different effects to help with combat and navigation (some may even cause a Mega Evolution!), but the Emeras will disappear upon exiting a dungeon. If the player fails a dungeon, they will lose all the items and money currently being held, unless they opt to wait for a rescue mission. These can be arranged on Pelipper Island, where the player can request help from other players via passwords, QR codes, local wireless, or IR connection. Alternatively, the player can simply return to their old save in order to retain items and money, but of course progress might be lost. Helper Pokémon can also be sent out from Pelipper Island for streetpass purposes, although I haven't encountered any yet. While story dungeons will force the player to use specific teams of Pokémon, normal dungeons will allow the player to choose any three Pokémon they wish to use. More Pokémon can be recruited by completing expeditions or simply chatting with folks around town, so the pool of possible allies will continue to grow larger and larger. All 720 Pokémon are available to be recruited, including legendaries, gender variations, all forms of Unown, and more. Using Pokémon in dungeons will allow them to level up and and learn new moves. I don't believe they can evolve, but since their evolutions can also be recruited, it doesn't really matter too much. Normal expeditions are where Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon really shines, but unfortunately they are few and far between until the main story has been completed. Free play finally opens up in the epilogue, but players are looking at about 20+ hours of gameplay and cutscenes before that happens. Aside from that, my only real complaints are the lack of skippable cutscenes and the fact that some story missions don't provide much opportunity for preparation. Even though it often allows the player to choose the items they want to take along and check out the shops beforehand, I still occasionally found myself woefully unprepared for story missions and ended up getting stuck with lousy equipment. The game also tends to save before long cutscenes right before boss fights, so I was forced to rewatch the same scenes over and over again whenever I died. The one before the final boss was particularly frustrating; it was so long! I'd have to say my favorite part of Super Mystery Dungeon is the way the Pokémon are portrayed. In most games and in the anime, the Pokémon simply say their own names and their personalities, if they have one at all, can only be implied. The main cast of characters in Super Mystery Dungeon consists of a good mix of Pokémon from each generation, and they're all given their own voice, each with different quirks, opinions, personalities, and sometimes even accents. It's really fun to learn about these guys in a new light. Some that I liked before I ended up hating this time around (like Pancham and Shelmet, those jerks!), while others that I may have ignored in previous games quickly became some of my favorites (like Espurr!). The cutscenes may have been long and the story may have been a little over-the-top, but I'd say it was worth it in the end just to get to know some of the Pokémon a bit better. Having never played any of the previous entries in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, I can't really compare it to the earlier games. However, for my first foray into Pokémon roguelikes, I had a great time! The difficulty seemed to ramp up considerably in some places, but between items, Emeras, and the random elements, I was generally able to figure out a strategy that worked well enough for me to just barely make it through. But if that doesn't work for some players, there are always the rescue missions to fall back on in case of an emergency. If you're like me and you haven't tried a Mystery Dungeon game yet, this one comes highly recommended. I'm fairly confident fans of the series will not be disappointed either. On its own, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a quirky, light-hearted spin-off with well-developed dungeon crawling gameplay that provides a satisfying level of difficulty and gives the player plenty of room to develop their own strategies, all the while offering tons of customization options with a huge roster of potential allies and moves. It's a solid entry in the Pokémon franchise. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Super Mystery Dungeon photo
Like Magic(karp)
The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spin-off series transports the colorful cast of pocket monsters from the role-playing games into the challenging world of a roguelike dungeon crawler. Super Mystery Dungeon retains the charm...

Very Quick Tips: Bloodborne: The Old Hunters

Nov 24 // Chris Carter
[embed]322164:61224:0[/embed] General tips (contains light, general spoilers): For a quick rundown of how to access the DLC, check out the video above. To locate the object to fight the optional boss, get to the point where you raise the giant elevator after the first boss fight (the room with the two human hunters). Step on and then step off to raise another platform. Grab that item and return to the main room in the Cathedral near the start of the DLC. Note that this one seems to be paced to fight after the first. If you're struggling with the DLC, try to at least have a Soul Level of 100 before attempting it. As always, it's possible to beat it no matter what your current level is, just keep that in mind. To obtain the Holy Moonlight Sword, talk to the head that appears after the first boss battle. If that doesn't work, equip the rune you obtained after beating him (Rally Bonus) and try again. If that fails, kill the head and take the weapon. For the boss that has multiple enemies, try to focus in on one at a time and quickly take them out. If you wait too long and don't keep track of the ones you've damaged, they will overwhelm you. When they summon the meteor attack, try to sprint around the arena clockwise. If you roll, you might get stunlocked. Alternatively, the Old Hunter's Bone spell is a great thing to trigger and use when the meteor chant is initiated. This one took me a while. After defeating the third boss (the humanoid opponent inside the clock room, pictured above), to get to the final area, you'll need to use the item you get from that fight on the giant window. At first I wasn't positioned correctly and nothing came up, so try to move around a bit if it doesn't trigger.
Bloodborne DLC tips photo
Wake up from the nightmare
When Bloodborne launched, I provided a series of tips for newcomers. They're still very much relevant for the dawn of the Old Hunters DLC pack, which debuts today, but I figured I'd provide a few add-on specific pieces of info. Note that there are light non-specific spoilers involved.

Bloodborne photo

Here's how to access the Bloodborne: The Old Hunters DLC

Step by step
Nov 23
// Chris Carter
Bloodborne, much like its predecessors, is a relatively esoteric game. Even simple things like locating a $20 DLC package can be hidden beneath the surface, so here's a quick rundown of how to enter the Old Hunters add-...

Review: Bloodborne: The Old Hunters

Nov 23 // Chris Carter
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters (PS4)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: November 24, 2015MSRP: $19.99 (requires core game) Throughout my complete five hour playthrough of The Old Hunters, I couldn't help but think that most of it could have just been in the full game. In fact, a lot of layouts are straight-up reused, not only from an aesthetic standpoint, but in a literal sense. The grand cathedral steps are recreated and only slightly altered, and roughly half of the DLC feels like it could have just been an extension of Yharnam. In some ways that's perfectly fine as it matches up with the rest of the experience, but in others, it's underwhelming. The enemies in particular are new, but a chunk of them aren't as memorable as the foes from other Souls DLCs, in the sense that I didn't really have to alter my tactics to confront them -- a large reason why I love add-ons for previous iterations. The biggest draw of course is the abundance of the titular Hunters, humanoid enemies that operate similarly to the player character. Sure there were a handful of them in the base game, but here, they're front and center, ready to flip some of your own tactics on you. Other enemies aren't as iconic, as there's a decent amount of repeats, from werewolves, to the Cthulu-esque giants, to standard infected townsfolk. The zones are a mixed bag as well. It wasn't until the last stretch of the DLC that I really saw something unique, even if everything up to that point was well designed. Most areas are open, and in the latter half, there's a decent amount of exploration and puzzle solving required. There's also a few mysterious NPCs to deal with, which is a Souls tradition, and I'm happy it was carried over here. [embed]320746:61140:0[/embed] So how are the boss fights? Par for the course, really. While I won't spoil anything, the first major encounter is heavily entwined in the game's lore, and this hulking monstrosity is a sufficient challenge if you're going at it solo. The rest of the boss fights are down down to earth, featuring smaller enemies that mirror the encounters with the aforementioned Hunters. I wasn't blown away by any of them, but I enjoyed the fights all the same, mostly because of the fact that I'm a sucker for smaller scale battles. In all, you're getting roughly five hours worth of content for the core story (about 10 if you do everything), 10 weapons (including a new, good shield), and five bosses. The new "League" update is available to everyone, and augments the overall package quite well. I might sound down on a lot of aspects of The Old Hunters, but ultimately, it will satiate most fans out there. The fact that it was supposed to be two DLCs that were merged into one makes sense, as part of it feels like cut content, and the other half seems like wholly original work. While I'm glad I had an excuse to drop into the world of Yharnam once again, there's a part of me that feels disappointed that this will be the last, and only add-on for Bloodborne. If you're curious as to how to access the DLC, check out the video above. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Bloodborne DLC review photo
All Nightmare Long
While many gamers out there are fighting the good fight against DLC, From Software is certainly making the case for it. Dark Souls had one of the most fantastic add-ons of all time in the form of Artorias of the Abyss, w...

Darkest Dungeon photo
Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon aims for PS4, Vita this spring

Eyes on the inside
Nov 18
// Jordan Devore
Darkest Dungeon is bringing its madness-inducing dungeon crawling to PlayStation 4 and Vita in spring 2016. Those carrion eaters and shamblers are really going to pop on your TV! Speaking of: the PS4 port will be playable at ...

Southern Nuzleaf and other odd Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon characterizations

Nov 02 // Steven Hansen
[embed]318625:60961:0[/embed] The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has always been weird. It takes an existing series (Mystery Dungeon) and slaps Pokémon over it, much like Pokémon Conquest, which is just Nobunaga's Ambition. Except this spin-off necessitates a story, one wherein you're a human turned Pokémon who talks a lot with other Pokémon. Super Mystery Dungeon starts with an Internet-style personality quiz to pick what kind of Pokémon are you (from the series' long range of starters) and remind you that you're playing a game aimed at children ("Your friends are playing tag, you want to jump rope. What do you do?"). It also asks if you prefer EDM or rap music. What a time to be alive. After being misidentified as that goofy fire monkey, I overruled the quiz and picked Smugleaf ("Snivy") as my spirit Pokémon and had Squirtle as my suggested best friend (I named him Squad, after the goals). And then here's this weird gosh darn Pokémon village with a clutzy Squirtle everyone's mad at and a Goomy lost in a cave he was goaded into by a group of teen Pokémon and look there's a pocket monster making a, "Don't have a cow" joke in reference to a Miltank and what whacked out world did I wander into. While the Pokémon brand was enough to sell me on Red Rescue Team a decade ago, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon doesn't feel like 10 years of progress separated by four more iterations. Heck, I even prefer the 2D sprites to these 3D models, though the presence of all 720 current Pokemon seems like a huge selling point for a lot of folks. Still, while I suspended disbelief for the human-turned-Pokémon jaunt 10 years back, this crossover still feels so out of place to me, from the out of place items to a dweeby Deoxys floating around in space real startled by Rayquaza. But these kind of grindy dungeon crawlers aren't my bag, so I'll just continue to stand on the outskirts and be fascinated by the left field characterizations of familiar creatures. The rest of you can enjoy Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon on November 20.
Pokemon preview photo
More of the same
What would Pikachu sound like if it could talk? I don't mean its "pika pika" parlor trick, but what if you asked it which Steve Zahn movie it liked best, or if it knows how to change a car's air filter? Pokémon offers ...

Review: Overlord: Fellowship of Evil

Oct 29 // Jed Whitaker
Overlord: Fellowship of Evil (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)Developer: CodemastersPublisher: CodemastersReleased: October 19, 2015MSRP: $18.99 When Codemasters announced it was making another Overlord game, it was met with excitement. That is, until people saw the gameplay; a top-down hack and slash Diablo-like. After having played the full seven-hour campaign, I can tell you if you were expecting a bad Diablo clone, you weren't far off. The combat feels like a combination of Diablo and the Gauntlet series: mindless button mashing and killing lots of enemies. Let me stress that when I say mindless, I mean mindless; there were times I could literally feel myself looking away from the screen and staring at the beige walls in my lackluster apartment while I instinctively mashed the attack button, not a thought going through my mind. I've played lots of dull games in my day, but this one takes the cake and takes a giant dump on it, then throws it into a dumpster half filled with water, trash, and drowned rats. While that description may make it sound interesting, I assure you this is one train wreck you won't want to go near, or even look at. Fellowship of Evil's visual style reminds me a lot of early Unreal Engine 3 games, as the game is mostly shades of brown, red, blue, and gray. There are only a few different locales you'll visit, and only one single level was easy on the eyes, which is the very last level that somehow bursts with color. [embed]317942:60902:0[/embed] Aside from trudging through long, ugly levels with snooze-fest combat, there are puzzles to complete, if you can call them that. Is it really a puzzle if the answer is mere feet away, or if the camera obnoxiously pans to the next step in the puzzle as if  you couldn't have just figured it out yourself? These sorry excuse for brain teasers have you stepping on switches in a certain order or sending the correct colored minion through colorful fire to step on a switch to open the gate to the next area, just so you can continue mindlessly beating swarms of the same few enemies, over and over and over. Since this is supposed to be a co-op RPG, up to four people can suffer through this monotony together, gathering loot after each wave of enemies is destroyed throughout levels. Instead of having loot drop from enemies, Codemasters decided to spawn tons of breakable chests that explode, throwing various forms of currency in all directions. The first time this happens I couldn't help but feel excited, but after seeing it over 50 times I couldn't be bothered to care. Each form of loot can be used to upgrade your character and minions, as well as purchasing new weapons; none of which are needed. Every character feels very overpowered and upgrades only make them more so, so there ends up being very little challenge by the end. Minions can be used for combat, but seem to serve little purpose other than distracting enemies, which isn't really necessary since they can easily be stun locked just by chipping away at them until they are dead. Some boss fights require minions, but use the same colored fire gimmick as the puzzles, and are just as mindlessly dull. Not only is this sorry excuse for a game boring and ugly, it is also quite buggy. Various times throughout my play through I encountered enemies freezing in place on death, or comically flying up and off the screen. While playing on couch co-op only the first player actually gets any loot, while the other players can collect loot but not spend or save it, thus just denying loot from player one. This may be by design as I was playing on the PC through Steam which has no way of signing in multiple players to their accounts, but Codemasters should have thought of that when it decided to sell the game on Steam in the first place. I played a majority of this game online, or at least in the online mode as only one time did a random player join my game. In the middle of a level another player popped in, helped for a bit, then disappeared before the level was over with, and that was it. It seemed like a smooth experience, but clearly there aren't a lot of people playing this online, nor should there be, because it is utter tripe. The only enjoyable part of the entire experience was the writing and voice acting. Gnarl, the narrator from the original games is back and leading the charge again, making clever little quips and jokes along the way. Hilarious but I don't think many people are willing to eat a shit sandwich to get to a diamond, or in this case a few chuckles. Overlord: Fellowship of Evil is an experience I'll be glad to forget: a mindless, tedious, boring excuse for a game that tortures the player throughout, much like the characters in the game torturing the poor souls of the innocent. Maybe that is the point and Codemasters has done an amazing piece of art. As if.
Review: Overlord: FoE photo
Shit. That would be my review of Overlord: Fellowship of Evil if one word reviews were passable, but since that isn't the case I guess I'll give you all a few paragraphs describing shit. Are you one of the few people who remember the Overlord series with fondness? Then stop reading now and forget this game ever existed, you'll be better off having never played it. 

Darkest Dungeon photo
Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is coming to crush your spirit Jan. 19

Out of the darkness of Early Access
Oct 14
// Nic Rowen
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Darkest Dungeon is still in Early Access. I've been “enjoying” the brutally difficult tactical-roguelike since last February and for months it's felt like a solid package, despit...
Eitr photo

Hands-on with 2D Souls-like Eitr

Eitr? I hardly even know her!
Jun 22
// Steven Hansen
Zack and I finally played Eitr, which I've talked about before, at E3 this year. Then we sat very close together in camping chairs, shared a mic, and talked about it. To quote a YouTube comment, "Is everyone is dtoid just ga...
Bard's Tale trailer photo
Bard's Tale trailer

The Bard's Tale IV makes good use of Unreal Engine 4

First-person exploration!
Jun 04
// Jordan Devore
Oh, good. When inXile launched its Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale IV earlier this week, there wasn't much to go on in terms of actual game footage or assets. Here's an in-engine look at the hopeful dungeon crawler which, at...
Dungeons 2 PS4 photo
Dungeons 2 PS4

Dungeon Keeper-like Dungeons 2 rated for PS4

Out now on PC
Apr 29
// Chris Carter
Realmforge Studios, like many old school PC gamers, misses the legacy of Dungeon Keeper. They've kept that spirit alive with Dungeons 2, which is currently available on the PC, but according to a submission to the ESRB, PS4 f...
Crypt of the NecroDancer photo
Crypt of the NecroDancer

Crypt of the NecroDancer exits Early Access in a week

Full release on April 23
Apr 16
// Darren Nakamura
It has been a while since we were first entranced by the "why hadn't anybody done this yet?" rhythm dungeon crawler Crypt of the NecroDancer, and now it's finally in the home stretch. After a nine-month bout in Early Access,...
StarCrawlers preview photo
StarCrawlers preview

StarCrawlers is sci-fi dungeon crawling done right

Essentially, it's Shadowrun, but set in space. I'm perfectly fine with that
Apr 02
// Rob Morrow
Juggernaut Games’ Kickstarter-funded sci-fi dungeon crawler StarCrawlers went into Early Access on Steam just a couple of weeks ago and seems to be doing quite well for itself based on the positive Steam reviews po...
Legend of Dungeon photo
Legend of Dungeon

Free Legend of Dungeon expansion adds cats

VR mode looks cool too
Mar 26
// Jordan Devore
More cats? More cats. And, hello, the ability to tame wild animals to fight on your behalf? I'm into it. The dungeon brawler with the funny hats and great lighting, Legend of Dungeon, is getting the free Legend Heroes expans...

Very Quick Tips: Bloodborne

Mar 23 // Chris Carter
General tips: Once again starting classes ("backgrounds" here) do not matter outside of the obvious last handicap option. Pick whatever you want. Health and stamina will help your survivability, and the attack and arcane stats will help your damage and utility. Note there is a downplay on magic in Bloodborne -- there are only a few spells, though most of them are useful. Be cautious: look around for potential ambushes. They’re always the same if you die and repeat a level, with the exception of Insight changes in Bloodborne, which may slightly alter layouts as you progress with the game. Without a shield you'll have to be more vigilant, so always have your finger on the dodge button. Speaking of dodging, Bloodborne is an action-oriented game. Stamina is more plentiful, and there is no "weight" stat -- you'll always dodge at the same speed the entire quest no matter what items you have equipped. Get used to dodging often early, and make use of the slight invincibility frames it bestows. The shield has some uses, but it's mainly a joke item. Try to use a gun in your off-hand, as it essentially replaces riposte. You can fast-climb or descend down ladders by holding the Circle (run) button. Suicide loot runs are still a thing, and are more effective than ever. Since dying doesn't give you a "spirit or Hollow" form that reduces your health in Bloodborne, you can engage in suicide dashes to pick up as much loot as possible more often without reprisal. Likewise, you can often pick up items as you're dying, so if you've had a bad suicide run, mash that button and don't give up after death. The starting shop (the fountain near the spawn point) will sell you pretty much everything you could want, and more items will be stocked as you encounter them in the game world. It will scale with your level and become more expensive over time. "Regain" is a new mechanic that can work in your favor. After taking damage, you can heal a portion back by doing damage within a window of a few seconds. This applies even if you've taken damage from another source, like falling. Keep in mind that most enemies will actually have an "active" corpse even after death, so keep attacking to regain a few more slivers of health if you need it. This last bit is pretty crucial as you can use this tactic every 30 seconds or so. Pick a weapon and stick with it. Try not to upgrade anything above +5 until you find out your favorite loadout -- then get it to +10 as quickly as you can. There are far less weapons in general in Bloodborne so it pays to specialize. Always trigger shortcuts, including elevators, first. Bloodborne has a huge emphasis on shortcuts (more than any game before it), so prioritize opening them up before anything else. 90% of the time elevators go to past areas and are generally safe zones. Wondering what to spend your money on? Try to increase your level as much as possible, and use the rest of your cash on blood vials. In Bloodborne, any items you acquire past your maximum equipment limit (in the case of vials, 20 by default) will go to your storage, and upon death or re-entry to the hub, you'll automatically restock using said storage. It pays to overstock vials as you may be using 10-20 per boss fight -- if you have a ton of them saved up you won't need to farm for more and can keep progressing. Bloodborne tips (gameplay/progression spoilers): Farm enemies early on for vials, and try not to waste too many of them before the first boss fight. Learn a big fight and the mechanics of each attack before burning through your supply. Keep in mind that the Cleric Beast is the second big foe you should fight if you're having trouble with him. It seems like Cleric should be first since you encounter him first, but Priest Gascoigne is actually linked to progression. Lost? Here's what to do, eliminating any non-required bosses. Go to the chapel after defeating Gascoigne and defeat the boss there at the summit. You'll acquire a password that you can use in the main terrace (with all the giant enemies) right outside of the chapel checkpoint, near the large staircase that leads up to the main summit. For easy directions, just head down the large stairs, go through the gate, and turn right.Head down into the Forbidden Woods, defeat the trio boss, then further into the path you'll find the spider boss. From there, you can go back to the chapel checkpoint (inside, where you fought the boss), head down the stairs, go left, and into the door previously blocked by the big enemy. After the spider you'll be teleported there anyway. It's self-explanatory from there, as the last major hub is just ahead. The Forbidden Woods is a great place to farm for mid-to-endgame. Go to the Woods lamp, head across the bridge, down the hill, and kill 10 or more villagers. Repeat. You should earn enough money for a level-up per run depending on your level, or a large stock of vials to use on bosses. Chalices you place will carry over with New Game+, so don't be paranoid about restarting your progress. Also, keep in mind that when it feels like the game should end, saying "yes" to a question in an extra zone in the starting hub will end the game instantly and save a New Game+ clear. You have been warned.
Bloodborne tips photo
Spill the wine, not your blood
Bloodborne can get pretty rough at times. All Souls games can. To help you ease from the frustration to the fun zone, here are a few tips to help you on your way. General non-spoiler tips will be frontloaded at the top, but the progression-spoiler ones will be in the second section. Note that no bosses or story elements are spoiled, just navigational tidbits in case you get lost.

Review: Bloodborne

Mar 23 // Chris Carter
Bloodborne (PS4)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: March 24, 2015MSRP: $59.99 Right from the get-go, Bloodborne feels right on the PlayStation 4. I'm glad that From Software decided to focus on just one lead platform, because not only does it look like a current-gen game, you don't have to worry about a community split for the multiplayer element. Everyone is under one roof. Aesthetic beauty aside, Bloodborne runs great from a practical standpoint as well. There was only one room where I felt a stark drop in terms of the frame rate, and it was only for a few seconds. There's pop-in abound and some very long load times (in a few instances I counted one minute), but this is the most stable Souls game to date. Character creation remains fairly unimpressive in terms of crafting a character model, and the starting class setup ("backgrounds" in Bloodborne) are still just guidelines. Once you get past the surface though you'll quickly learn how different this iteration really is. For starters, the "weight" stat is gone, adding much more freedom in terms of movement. Players are encouraged to constantly dodge and run with a more forgiving stamina bar, a concept epitomized by the fact that the game's only main shield is basically a joke item. The pistol off-hand and weapon main-hand are the new go-to loadout, and the pistol is less of a ranged powerhouse and more of a new way to riposte counter. Hand-to-hand combat is the core focus of Bloodborne -- heck, even magic is downplayed significantly, only offering a scant few (useful) spells. With this tradeoff comes a remarkable increase in melee superiority, with faster attacks and the power to transform weapons into a slower, more deliberate build with a quick tap of the L1 button, which can even be done mid-combo. You'll need these enhancements too, since Bloodborne is roughly as challenging as its predecessors. To mix it up even further, players can gain some lost health back by being aggressive with the new "Regain" system, mirroring a mechanic found in select fighting games. It truly represents the new combat flow, frequently forcing you into the fray with an intriguing risk-reward scenario. There's less equipment in general to keep track of, which will be a divisive issue among fans. While I'm always excited to acquire a massive collection of 50 or more rare weapons, I appreciate the downplay of gear in Bloodborne. It puts more emphasis on raw skill and less on item hunting, allowing players to spend more time specializing in what they like without worrying that their favorite weapon will be outclassed around the next corner. [embed]288934:57746:0[/embed] That's not to say there aren't secrets however, as there are plenty of hidden nooks that contain useful items. You'll need to do lots of searching since blood vials replace the regenerating "flasks" of the past two Dark titles. It's an old-school system that mirrors Demon's Souls' herbs in that you'll have to either farm for vials or purchase them to continue to heal. You'll keep seeing this concept repeatedly throughout the game -- Bloodborne really feels like a mix of everything From has learned thus far. Beyond these changes, it follows the same basic formula of gathering souls (now called Blood Echoes) from defeated enemies to spend on leveling up or items. You still can't pause the game, and bonfires return as lamp checkpoints. In other words, business as usual. There are a few subtle differences beyond the combat overhaul, though. Insight points are gained over the course of the quest and can slightly change environmental layouts and enemy placements, while some enemies can absorb your souls, forcing you to defeat them to reclaim the souls. Nifty tricks like this help cement Bloodborne as its own entity while managing to play it safe, utilizing the core foundation that put Souls on the map. The way the game is laid out is also a Souls hodgepodge of sorts. There is a sprawling interconnected world like Dark Souls, but it also has a separate hub world with teleporters much like Demon's, allowing you to level up, access storage, shop, and a weapon bench to socket stat-infused gems. There's a huge emphasis on shortcuts, as you'll come across one roughly every five minutes. Don't worry, Bloodborne also keeps the cryptic nature of the series intact. The story is vague but provides enough hints and linked tidbits to keep it coherent, hinting at a universe ready to be pieced together by fans. Yharnam is a sufficiently creepy town complete with derelict zones, lush forests, and awe-inspiring towers, though a few areas feel relatively indistinguishable from past games. With all of the unique settings in the past like endless lakes of fire and terrifying poisonous swamps, From Software was bound to start running low on ideas at some point. Still, the studio makes those areas sing, and nails the atmosphere throughout. Subtle effects like smoke pouring out from the ground go hand-in-hand with the glowing eye animations for some enemies, and the landscapes and denizen designs mesh perfectly. While I wouldn't say this cast of NPCs is at the top of my list, you'll meet a few interesting and terrifying faces. I was able to test out multiplayer in a live environment since Sony turned on the servers pre-launch, and I have to say, it's par for the course -- and I mean that as a compliment. Player-presented hints are still intact, as are phantom blood spots to show player deaths, and of course co-op and PVP are in. Multiplayer now inherently costs Insight points (you'll have ample supply as you continue through multiple playthroughs and acquire Insight items along the way), and to even play PVP you'll need an Insight rating of 30, which you likely won't earn until roughly 10 hours in. While co-op is upgraded with the ability to password protect and create private lobbies to play with friends in a non-frustrating manner, PVP feels a bit more limited this time around. It doesn't bother me as I was never particularly fond of the mechanic, but PVP fiends likely won't stick around as long as they have in the past. With less weapons and spells to learn or counter there's less meta on paper, though I'm sure that will continue to shift over time. Bloodborne is a fairly lengthy romp, as it took me about 32 hours to complete on my first playthrough. There's a decent chunk of sidequests and interactions, and of course, the call of New Game+ is inescapable. One thing that did disappoint me though is the general layout of the map after the curtain was closed -- it feels less replayable, less sprawling than past games due to the action-oriented focus. As of the time of this writing I'm working on my second playthrough, but I'm not finding a whole lot of new areas like I did in prior New Game+ runs in other games. There is one caveat regarding the aforementioned lack of replay value. Although there were a few extra paths in older Souls games, the problem is that eventually, you'd memorize the layout anyway, eliminating the element of surprise and awe. But with randomly generated Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne, that all changes. After finding one of four chalices in-game (even the mechanic itself is shrouded in mystery, so I won't spoil it here), you can start running dungeons on your own, separate from the core game. Said areas have their own unique layouts, traps, and even a few new bosses, and you can search for new dungeons online or share your own. With co-op and PVP supported in addition to the persistence of layouts throughout New Game+ runs, Chalice Dungeons may have legs beyond what was possible in past titles. I can see a strong community rising up in the future involving shared creations curated by challenge. Bloodborne is an interesting mix of everything From Software has learned throughout its storied developmental career. Not everything will gel with fans old and new, but for the most part, the shift towards a combat-oriented game is a net positive. From Software is still one of the only developers left that makes you work for your satisfaction, and Bloodborne is damn satisfying. [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Bloodborne review photo
Simply red
Hidetaka Miyazaki created a legacy with Demon's Souls. With three Armored Core games under his belt at From Software, Miyazaki dared to capture the spirit of the King's Field series for a new era, and thus the Souls...

StarCrwalers Early Access photo
StarCrwalers Early Access

Spacepunk dungeon crawler StarCrawlers enters Early Access

They see me crawlin'... They hatin'...
Mar 17
// Rob Morrow
Just over one year ago today, Juggernaut Games took its promising cyberpunk-in-space, first-person dungeon crawler StarCrawler to Kickstarter. Easily surpassing the $65,000 minimum goal necessary to fund the game, it ev...
EGX Rezzed photo
EGX Rezzed

LED dungeon crawler Line Wobbler sold me on 1D games

1D Dungeon Crawler played on LEDs with a spring
Mar 16
// Laura Kate Dale
Of all the games I saw at this year's EGX Rezzed convention, Line Wobbler is the one I kept finding myself recommending that people go and check out. It wasn't the most in depth or complex, but a 1D dungeon crawler played wi...

Severed is full of one-handed vengeance

Mar 10 // Caitlin Cooke
The colorful art style of Guacamelee! makes its return in a beautiful, dark package. In Severed you play a young heroine set out on a course of vengeance after losing her home and her arm in a brutal attack. Her dark story coupled with the deserted surroundings made for a chilling atmosphere, and etched within the demo were moments that tugged at my heart ever so slightly.   The movement style is a refreshing version of old-school first-person dungeon crawlers, allowing you to choose directional paths in a four-pointed compass-like system. Enemies spawn immediately when arriving to a location, and players swipe to attack while moving directionally to combat multiple monsters in a room. Each enemy has its own rhythm in terms of attacking, blocking, and parrying, and when various monsters start to compound together in a room it becomes advantageous to memorize their patterns.  Once enough successful attacks have been built up, players can enter a mode that slows down the monster’s movements and allows them to sever appendages to go in for the final kill. Once slayed, enemies drop various objects which can then be used to upgrade health, defense, and severed power. Health is only given from a mysterious orange fruit which hangs in solitude on a magical tree.  The final boss in the demo took me a while to master, but once I did I felt like I was on top of the world. He dropped a piece of neat-looking armor, which supposedly imbued my character with a special power for the rest of the game. I learned later that all bosses drop a piece of armor with a unique power, and that both the power and the armor can be upgraded throughout the game. At first it took me a while to adjust to the movement and touch screen-style exploration, especially when I needed to move and attack at the same time. I have such tiny hands, so having to hold the Vita while swiping and hitting the directional pad proved to be difficult at times. However, I quickly came to appreciate the interactivity of the world, especially when it came to fighting monsters.  Although the demo was pretty fleshed out, the team mentioned that it plans to make a lot of improvements before launch. Vertical elements will be added to levels, like staircases in rooms that will expand the dungeons vs. one flat area. A daytime/nighttime feature will also be included, which will enable environmental puzzles in the world. The team also plans to feature NPCs, who will introduce more dialogue to the story. Personally, I loved the quiet nature of the character and general silent plot progression, so my hope is that the team keeps it as simple as possible. Severed comes out this summer for the PS Vita, and Drinkbox also anticipates releasing it for other touch screen-friendly devices as well. I can tell that there are big things to come from this game, and can't wait to get my hands on the full release.
Severed photo
But hopefully, you'll have two to play with
There’s something serene about exploring a desolate place for the first time. Too often in games I find myself dropped into an environment, expected to pick up the pieces quickly to achieve a goal and left with little t...

Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a quirky spinoff in line with series legacy

Feb 26 // Alessandro Fillari
Etrian Mystery Dungeon (3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: AtlusRelease date: April 7, 2015MSRP: $39.99 For those unaware, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a spinoff of its mainline series Etrian Odyssey. Playing as adventurers seeking fame, fortune, and glory, you must explore dangerous monster-filled dungeons while helping out local townsfolk in need. In and around the village of Azlarga, you build your reputation amongst the locals who come to rely on you for help. Over the course of your adventures, you'll acquire new weaponry, abilities, and and party members that wish to join in on your successes, and hope to conquer the more nefarious and deadly dungeons that remain untouched by explorers' hands. In similar vein to last year's Persona Q, EMD takes several of the series' concepts and gameplay ideas, and injects them into a brand new setting. In Mystery Dungeon, the action is moved to the tried-and-true roguelike dungeon crawler school of thought. With an overhead third-person angle, you have to keep watch of your party members and their surroundings as they venture through the environment. Utilizing grid-based movement, positioning is everything. Certain party members use either ranged or close-range abilities, and must be placed accordingly. With only four characters to bring with you into the field, you'll have to choose wisely from the several classes that EMD has to offer. While exploring, you'll want to monitor the status of your party members. As some traps poison people, or debilitate movement, you have stay stocked up on recovery items. For every step you take, you also drain FP (food points), which affects stamina and combat prowess. Once that's completely drained, your party leader will sustain damage for every move you make. In order to stay ahead of this, you'll have to keep them well-fed, or have another member of the group take point. This puts an interesting spin on exploration, as often times you'll have your tank lead. But if he's too tired to take charge, then you might be forced to escape or have one of your more vulnerable members lead. [embed]288216:57511:0[/embed] Fortunately, there are many different ways to stay on top in dungeons. Certain classes can scout ahead and spot traps and monsters, while others can keep the party buffed and in good health. Also, there are several areas within the labyrinths that are fairly safe, which can be fortified by your group. In these forts, you'll remain safe, and they can be used for quick travel back to the outside. Forts are run by members of the guilds you can join back in Azlarga, and they help monitor your resources. Loot, minerals, and other special resources found in the dungeon can be taken back to the forts, though, keep in mind, they can be still be attacked and destroyed by monsters in the dungeon. So it's important to make sure if you want to invest the time and money to build one, especially in a dangerous location. The Etrian Odyssey series is known for its tough challenges, and EMD definitely retains that for dungeon exploration. Every dungeon you travel to is randomly generated, which not only keeps things interesting, but has you on your toes. In some cases, the first few floors of the dungeon might be a cake walk, but traveling to a fresh location might have you walk right into several traps and powerful foes. Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities to save yourself and your crew. If you for instance wipe, you can send in rescue units for your team for evac back to town. Unfortunately, you'll lose out on items and currency found at that location. So it's always best to keep a fresh save at all times. I'm usually not that partial to dungeon crawlers, but I found Etrian Mysery Dungeon to be charming, despite its difficulty. The visuals and art style are vibrant and colorful, which is a welcome departure from the common brown and grey aesthetic of roguelike dungeon crawler RPG titles. I found the presentation to be fun, and the world is one I would love to explore again. I expect players to be quite taken with Mystery Dungeon. With its release in April, it should also scratch an itch for fans eager to play Etrian Odyssey V, which is still a ways off. Granted, this is a bit different than previous EO titles, but that's actually kind of a good thing. It's another approach to dungeon crawling, sure, but at its heart it's a similar experience fans will love.
Etrian Mystery Dungeon photo
Hardcore dungeon crawling with a new perspective
Over the years, Atlus has become one of the more endearing presences in gaming. One thing fans appreciate is its tendency to switch things up. The publisher has a handle on the niche gaming scene, and it's reassuring to know ...

Vaporum teaser photo
Vaporum teaser

Get your grid-based steampunkery on in Vaporum

Even in pre-alpha, FatBot's debut indie RPG is looking incredibly polished
Feb 24
// Rob Morrow
If you think that “steampunk dungeon crawler” sounds like Occam’s panty/brief-dropping sludge rock jug band, you would of course be correct. It also happens to be the genre type of FatBot Studio’s pro...
Ultima Underworld sequel photo
Ultima Underworld sequel

Original designer of Ultima Underworld launches Kickstarter for a sequel

I hope this Avatar isn't blue
Feb 04
// Jason Faulkner
Looking Glass Studios released some of the industry's perennial favorites. The System Shock series, Thief: The Dark Project, Thief II: The Metal Age, and the two Ultima Underworld games are all part of the company'...
Dungeon crawling photo
Dungeon crawling

Smack a naked mole rat in the face in Slasher's Keep

Cel-shaded dungeon crawling
Jan 22
// Jordan Devore
This isn't what I would have expected to see from the developer of Double Hitler, but consider me pleasantly surprised. Slasher's Keep is a first-person dungeon-crawler up on Steam Greenlight for user feedback and voting. I'm...
Crawl photo

Control a three-headed hydra with your friends in Crawl

Update adds many new monsters to embody
Jan 15
// Ben Davis
Crawl, the multiplayer dungeon crawler from Powerhoof where you control the monsters and try to kill you friends, just released a new update on Steam today. In addition to a big list of bug fixes and stat balancing, the Plague Mushroom update introduces a ton of new content.

Review: Legend of Grimrock 2

Jan 15 // Patrick Hancock
Legend of Grimrock 2 (PC)Developer: Almost Human GamesPublisher: Almost Human GamesReleased: October 15, 2014MSRP: $23.99 Legend of Grimrock 2 takes the players to an outside location for much of the game. The player's characters get shipwrecked on an island and soon begin to find mysterious notes from someone who has clearly been preparing for his moment. There are still plenty of dungeon moments, as many times players will travel underground for hours at a time. These segments are reminiscent of the first Grimrock, and also have the side effect of making the player really appreciate the outdoor areas even more when they're juxtaposed back to back. There is something special about leaving an underground dungeon and taking in the sights. Speaking of sights, Grimrock 2 looks great. The underground environment does give a lot of déjà vu, with the walls and floors being a little too familiar. Certain enemy types also return, but there are enough new ones, even early on, to prevent the game from feeling exactly like the previous one. Other areas are perhaps too big, because the frame rate takes a noticeable dip at times. The music is likewise amazing, and one of the hardest parts of the game is loading up a save, because it means that the main menu music ends. Part of the beauty of Grimrock 2 is that it is focused entirely on the core gameplay, which is as strong as ever. Battles play out largely in the same way as in the first game; the party has two members up front who can melee attack and two in the back who have to rely on ranged attacks. Incoming damage will hurt any member facing that direction, so getting hit in the back will hurt the player's back two party members, for example. Melee attacks can now be held in order to perform a special move, and plenty of new spells have been added. The player will create their ship-wrecked party of four, now with more options for character classes and race. The only meaningful addition is the Farmer class, who levels up by eating food and not from fighting enemies. Seriously, that's how the class works. My advice? Create a Farmer. All throughout, my Farmer was easily my highest-level character, and was pretty much unfair at times. Chomp chomp! [embed]286024:56915:0[/embed] The enemies as a whole are smarter -- to a point. The strategy of "circle-strafing" remains necessary, but now enemies catch on and are better are dealing with the tactic. Don't misunderstand though, circle-strafing is still imperative to surviving many of the game's encounters. Standing in front of an enemy and trying to win through brute force will often end in defeat, even if three more enemies don't surprise you and come at your sides and AUGH WHERE DID THOSE ARCHERS COME FROM?! Boss fights are varied, but can also vary in quality. Something truly impressive is the in-game presence of certain characters. There will be times when the player turns a corner only to see...something at the end of it. And then, it moves! And disappears! The fact that the game doesn't have to remove the player's control for a cutscene to present these moments is key. Combat often gets into a beautiful rhythm of clicks and swiping gestures that truly feels fluid and dynamic. Stab, swing, fire, stab, shoot, swing, ice, shoot stab, swing! All while at the same time moving around the party with the other hand to weave in and out of attacks. It's like conducting a beautiful symphony. Until the aforementioned three more enemies show up and it turns into a hysteria of blind panic. But those moments are enjoyable in their own right. The other huge aspect of Grimrock 2 is the puzzles. Developer Almost Human nails the difficulty of puzzle design flawlessly. This is the kind of game you can play away from the PC; I've solved certain puzzles while commuting to work, because they do nothing but occupy my mind constantly. Certain puzzles are almost impossibly difficult, however most of them are optional with incredible rewards for all the hard work. Some will have small text "hints" on nearby signs, but many times they are in riddles or a straight-up decipherable code. Players also acquire a shovel early on in the game to dig for goodies in the dirt. However I completely forgot this existed for most of the game outside of the first area, unless a sign reminded me in some way. Chances are, I missed out on a lot of hidden treasure chests! Steam Workshop support is also included, allowing players to make and share their own adventures and dungeons with others. The first game had a wonderful community, and so far the second installment seems to have taken up that torch just fine. As if the game wasn't already packed with brilliant content, having Workshop support ensures that, given the right ideas, people will continue to play and love Grimrock 2 for a very long time. Legend of Grimrock 2 will consume your mind in many ways. The puzzles will slowly tear away at your brain until they are solved, and the amount of focus needed for just about every combat encounter is through the roof. Grimrock 2 can forever be referenced as a "perfect sequel." It doesn't go nuts adding idea after idea to make things more convoluted, but instead refines what already made the experience amazing while expanding those ideas noticeably enough.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Grimrock 2 Review! photo
The perfect sequel
The first Legend of Grimrock was damn near perfect. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, it put a fresh new face on the dungeon-crawling genre. It was a game that didn't forget its roots yet also didn't forget that we live in a different time. It's no surprise, then, that the sequel is absolutely stunning.

Enter the Gungeon trailer photo
Enter the Gungeon trailer

Enter the Gungeon: Go get a big gun and kill the past

Dungeon crawling gunplay for PS4, PC/Mac/Linux
Dec 06
// Steven Hansen
Devolver Digital has announced it is publishing Enter the Gungeon next year. Something about, "A gun...THAT CAN KILL THE PAST" just won me over. I don't even have to understand what it means. Plus there's table fli...

Dungeons II takes a humorous approach to being the bad guy

Nov 14 // Alessandro Fillari
Dungeons II (PC [Previewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: RealmForgePublisher: Kalypso MediaRelease Date: Q1 2015 Set in a Medieval-fantasy world full of humans and orcs on the brink of war, you play as the Dungeon Lord. Due to a magical spell, you are bound to your throne in a cave, and must rely on your minions to do your bidding. With the humans drawing closer to your realm, you must break the spell by expanding your resources and your army in order to fortify your dungeon, while retaking territory from the humans on the surface. While this may sound as generic as it gets, and it certainly does at first glance, Dungeons II takes great pride in defying expectations and subverting them. During my first hour, I found that Dungeons II felt very much like a parody of generic fantasy/adventure games. Many of the tropes and cliches are mocked and made light of, despite adhering to them in humorous fashion. Moreover, Kevan Brighting, the Narrator from The Stanley Parable, offers his talents here by breaking the fourth-wall to mock player's slow progress, and even going after the video games ratings system. I was always entertained throughout, and a lot of that had to do with the game's comedic tone.[embed]283823:56328:0[/embed]As the sequel to the original Dungeons, you're tasked with expanding the scope and scale of your dungeon, while keeping your minions happy. As you send your lesser underlings to create rooms for resources, and digging for gold, you have to monitor their happiness levels or else they'll revolt. By building breweries, you can keep them drunk and content, while paying for their services as well. As you build your base of operations, you'll eventually be visited by humans from the surface, looking to see what all the commotion is about. From here, you'll have to set traps and send out stronger minions to confront them and protect the Dungeon Lord.But here is where things get a little different. Once you've built the necessary resources and have a sizable force, you can send your minions up to the surface to retake territory. Switching over from Dungeon Keeper gameplay to RTS style mechanics similar to WarCraft or Dawn of War, the pacing changes up considerably. From here, you can battle your foes and sack their villages, turning the whimsical and lush environment, to barren and scorched wastelands.I was very impressed with how seamlessly Dungeons II transitions between the two different styles of gameplay. You can switch between the two on the fly with no loading whatsoever, which makes alternating between battles on the surface and making sure your minions in the dungeon are collecting resources very simple. Though be sure not to divide your forces so readily. If your send all your offensive minions outside, you can potentially leave yourself open to attack, as the lesser minions in the dungeon cannot defend themselves or the Dungeon Lord.Eventually, the Dungeon Lord and his forces will grow in power and come into conflict with other foes of the fantasy world, such as Dwarves and Elves, and they'll utilizes skills and tactics that will put abilities as the lord of evil to the test. During my session, I came into contact with a tribe of goblins hiding out from the Humans. Realizing that their resources would be put to better use elsewhere, the  Lord recruited them and used their tinkering skills to build devices to defend the dungeon.Even though my time with the game wasn't as long as I would've hoped, I came away pretty pleased with what I experienced. Though I'm generally not a fan of RTS titles, I did enjoy my time with Dungeons II. I was very much impressed with the sense of humor on display. It's always great to play a medieval-fantasy game that doesn't take itself seriously, and even makes some light-hearted jabs at the genre.With much more of the game in store, and including four-player online mode, Dungeons II looks to be a very solid and unique take on the classic Dungeon Keeper gameplay. If you're eager for a game where you play as the bad guy, then you'll want to keep this one on your radar.
Dungeons II photo
Make way for the villain
Being the bad guy has its perks. With an entire force of orcs, goblins, and other nasty creatures at your bidding, more gold you can count, and a near infinite supply of dark magic at your disposal -- it seems like you've got...

Eitr trailer photo
Eitr trailer

Eitr looks gorgeous, Soulsian in 2D

Eitr? I hardly even know her!
Nov 03
// Steven Hansen
Eitr. Well, this looks lovely. Dungeons. Long pixel limbs. Flaming swords. Skeletons. Dashes. "Touch?" prompts. My kind of jam. And two people made this?  Also, the second half of the trailer is a bit more exc...

Review: Heavy Bullets

Oct 08 // Caitlin Cooke
Heavy Bullets (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Terri VellmannPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: September 18, 2014MSRP: $9.99 At its core, Heavy Bullets is a clean, yet unforgiving roguelike shooter-dungeon-crawler hybrid. Its pace is fast and its enemies faster, pouncing at a moment’s notice and leaving little time for reaction. A few simple mistakes will land you back at square one with a new, randomly generated dungeon full of new surprises. Each of the game's eight levels is a hunting ground beckoning for strategy. Stepping through this jungle is at first easy, almost calming -- enemies seem fairly tame, the vending machines and hidden items plentiful. The graphics are old-school, crisp, and bright, while the sounds of bleep bloops ring through the levels, reminiscent of a bygone era in gaming. Heavy Bullets' most important feature, however are the titular bullets, which rebound from a successful kill and can be immediately recycled for future use. The game quickly ramps at Level 2 -- pathways become more windy and narrow, and mobs appear where you’d least expect them. Each playthrough is completely random, so it’s virtually impossible to predict exactly what scenarios might arise. Only one thing is certain in Highrise Hunting Grounds: enemies continue to increase in numbers and difficulty while resources grow thin. The one saving grace is the banking system, a useful feature that allows players to store cash or a single item for future runs. Last Wills and Insurance can also be purchased from banks, which upon death carry money and bullets through to the next run. However, only one item can be carried at a time so unless a Last Will is equipped, everything is lost save for what’s been deposited in the bank upon death. Heavy Bullets has a number of useful items to discover and equip. Basic FPS items are present like mines, bombs, a knife, etc. -- but there are also a few interesting items with a variety of applications, including the boom box, high heels, and proximity sensor. The usefulness of the nontraditional items is debatable and I was often confused or unclear on exactly what some of them did, even after equipping them. Medical and ammunition vending machines are also sprinkled throughout the levels. But since everything is randomly generated, it’s often difficult to come across these stations right when you need them. Backtracking through the levels doesn't prove useful either -- the game throws up laser barriers from time to time to prevent players from going back too far. Walking through them is possible, but at the risk of depleting life. Although I enjoyed the idea and aesthetic behind Heavy Bullets, I couldn’t find myself getting excited to start the next run every time I died. Difficulties aside, for a simple game with such little forgiveness, I felt it needed to be a bit tighter. For example, enemies would sometimes go straight through a corner or a wall to attack me, which was obviously not intended. I liked that the levels and enemies were randomly generated, but I found there was still something left to be desired. Perhaps the game could have benefited from more enemies, events, discoveries, or more unique items. The neon charm was always a pleasure to play through, but overall I felt Heavy Bullets wore thin over time. If you’re a huge fan of rogue-like dungeon crawlers it’s worth a shot, but not six bullets.
Heavy Bullets photo
Roguelike FPS wrapped up in neon swag
The security system in Highrise Hunting Grounds has gone rogue, and you’ve been sent to shut down the mainframe. With only six initial bullets, you must fight your way through eight levels of neon jungle rife with lethal spiders, turrets, bush worms, and feisty cat-balls. It’s a good thing your bullets bounce back, because you’ll need them.

Rogue Wizards Kickstarter photo
Rogue Wizards Kickstarter

Rogue Wizards has a bad name but it looks like a cool dungeon crawler/city builder

Zap zap zap
Oct 06
// Darren Nakamura
Many of us have crawled through dungeons hundreds of times, so it takes some special kick to get us to notice. Rogue Wizards has two: a city-building component that seems like it could be addictive and a cool visual effect r...

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