Many indie developers released some of most hard to beat games out there on the Internet. Some are sadistically hard like “Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures” (damn Death Blocks) while others emulate the classic difficulty from good games of the 8-bit era. “Dungeon Souls” is a roguelike game that rewards you for your dedication but wants you to earn the difficulty.
At first glance “Dungeon Souls” looks like the standard roguelike, having a selection of heroes to choose from to work around the randomly generated dungeon. You only start with a few heroes to resurrect so you can attempt to escape the dungeon. However, as you progress and meet certain criteria you can unlock new ones to bring back from the dead, such as murdering Merlin and taking his hat (Wizard) and picking up a rocket launcher (Engineer). Each hero has their own ability set (which gets stronger as you level up their tier) that can be switched around for certain predicaments.
All the heroes start off as weak neophytes, but they can get stronger by investing in Passives and Ranking up. The price may inflate as you invest in Passive stats (on the hero select menu), but they can be applied to all the heroes, even on your friend’s hero during co-op. As for Ranking they start from said Neophytes with nothing to show to Transcenders with slight stat bonuses, just by racking up EXP. Sure, that might not be much, but you’ll get more ability points to spend on each level up. You keep all the EXP you’ve accumulated on that heroes Ranking no matter what, so you can die when life gets you down.
To escape the dungeon you need to activate all the marks on the floor to open a portal, but the moment you step on one a horde of monsters will spawn. You can avoid them, but you’ll need to watch out for traps: explosions, spiked floors, structures with an assortment of bullet types, and that damn boulder from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (complete with death achievement). Once you’ve activated the portal you have to make a run for it before The Redeemer awakens. The Redeemer is an immortal being that ensures you don’t leave the dungeon, with an emphasis on “immortal”. You can’t kill him no matter how good you are.
On every third floor, there is a boss fight, which become a Bullet Hell round compared to the ranged enemies you fought before (though projectiles can be destroyed with your primary weapon). Each boss has their own abilities, and some of them can summon monsters (even other bosses) from the dungeon. They are hellbent on making sure you’re dead again, and some have special dialogue depending on your character.
Aside from heroes, there are more difficulty levels to unlock, only giving you two to start off with. Sure you can play Easy instead of Normal, though the game won’t give you any special treatment (decking your experience points by fifty percent). Nightmare (the first difficulty to unlock) may make Normal look like a walk in the park but the game is generous enough to give you 300% so you can get your heroes to Transcenders.
When you die (which will happen a lot) that’s it, your run is over. No check points, restating the level, or keeping the gear you’ve looted. You start over from the beginning with nothing or go back to the main menu. It’s not all bad, however. You keep the experience (for the Rank on the hero you played) and gold as well as the materials and recipes you can collect for the Arcane Forge. Any weapon you made from the forge will also stay equipped even after death. However, to get any of the equipment you’ll have to farm a lot of materials and some of these items can only be obtained by certain enemies on specific floors of the dungeon, like the Secret Library which may or may not be accessible during a run.
The graphics are all pixel art. The dungeon levels have different biomes ranging from the usual Dark Dungeon to the Sewers (not one of the dreaded sewer levels), Frost Caverns, and some hidden levels like the Secret Library. All the levels have dim lighting with monsters coming out of the shadows but what do you expect from a dungeon, bloom effects? There is a good variety of enemies to fight: skeleton warriors, bat skulls, minotaurs, slimes, a few freaky ones, and other kinds of monsters. There are even Soul Stealers (based on hero classes) out there to kill you. The bosses are unique, huge sprites that take up quite a bit of the boss room (save for the final boss), though first boss, The Skeleton King, gets recycled a lot at The End. The heroes’ sprites look the role and look badass when they hit their Transcender classes, though if you hit that rank while in a run you have to restart in order to see it.
There is some voice acting in “Dungeon Souls”, but with the bosses. As previously mentioned some have special lines, such as The Soul Guardian mentioning how the Night Blade sacrificed a necromancer for her resurrection. The chiptune music goes well with this game, with its foreboding tracks playing as you explore the dungeon while getting climatic during the boss fight. Strangely one of the songs, Frost Caverns, sounds like a track from one of the GBA “Golden Sun” games. And for those who like game soundtracks the developer has it for sale on Steam for $2.99.
For controls you can choose either the mouse and keyboard or the gamepad, but for an overhead roguelike where you need to aim, switch abilities, and use hotkeyed items it really boils down to comfort zone. The only problem you’ll encounter with the controls is when you check the material inventory at the Arcane Forge. There doesn’t seem to be a back button once you inspect the materials.
+ Challenging Gameplay.
+ Chiptune music to set a foreboding mood
+ Great pixel art with special sprites to unlock
+ Unique playthroughs with both map generator and story dialogue
– Some navigation issues with the Arcane Forge
– Material farming to the death
Replay value: 4/5
Lamina Studios “Demon’s Souls” may seem unforgiving, but it can be rewarding. As you have plenty of fun while you’re fighting your way through the game. Furthermore, when braving the dungeon alone isn’t enough you can always drag your friend for a good old sadomasochist time.
Title: Dungeon Souls
Developer: Lamina Studios
Genre: Indie Action Adventure RPG
Resolution: 1680 x 1050
Release date: 2016-12-02
Spent time: 12+ hours
Average grade internationally: 69.29% Gamerankings.com
PEGI/ESRB age rating: PEGI 12/Teen+
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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