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Dungeon Crawlers HD

Score: 65%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Drowning Monkeys
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Ah, the parody. Thanks to the laws around parodies, you can "borrow" intellectual properties as you like, so long as it's obviously done in jest. Dungeon Crawlers HD, for example, poses what it would be like if the Ghostbusters had been in a fantasy dungeon crawling setting. The Ghostbusters, themselves, are replaced with standard fantasy classes that seem appropriate enough, and with names that are just ever-so-slightly changed from the actual characters names. Egon, the scientist, becomes Aegon, the mage. Peter becomes Paytor, a greedy barbarian fighter. Ray becomes Roy, the cleric, and Winston becomes Failston. Throughout, you'll find tongue-in-cheek references from Ghostbusters, as well as other tropes from popular media. "Who you gonna crawl?"...

The concept of a Ghostbusters-themed dungeon crawler seemed like it had some potential, but the theming fell flat for me with the total lack of voice-overs. Anyone who has seen Ghostbusters or, for that matter, anything by Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd, knows that their timing and delivery really make their performances. Dungeon Crawlers HD, instead, uses animations with on-screen text for the dialogue.

The use of "HD" in the title aside, the graphics are simple and cartoonish. The HD distinction may be because the game has support for the Oculus Rift, but not having one available, I can't comment on what the game is like in that mode.

The sound effects are simplistic, but iconic, and do a good job of letting you know what's going on, working well with the character's animations. When a character goes "ug!" twice and looks like he was knocked back a bit and recovers (staying in the same square), you know that character is suffering damage from status effects (poison, burning or freezing, for example). Also, neither you nor anyone else in the room will wonder what happened when a banshee screams at you to stun you.

One graphical complaint I have, however, is that the animations take too long. I found that holding down the left [CTRL] key makes them play in fast forward, which is nice, but I end up holding down the control key any time I'm between rounds. It would have been better to provide a setting that keeps the animations on double speed.


All theming aside, Dungeon Crawlers HD follows a pretty typical plotline. You enter into a dungeon, descending into the depths, slaying monsters as you go and upgrading your abilities and equipment as you progress - hopefully keeping pace with the increasingly challenging baddies. In fact, even the party size increases in Dungeon Crawlers HD; you don't initially have Failston in your party, but instead, find him on your journey.

Dungeon Crawlers HD is intended to be more of a casual game or "tactics-lite" as Drowning Monkeys puts it. There are a couple of things that the game gets right, in this vein. First, out-of-combat healing is done away with. You survived the fight? Great. Anyone who didn't die is fully healed and ready for combat again. The flip side of this is that you can't cast shield on all of the party members before going into combat, which is something you would totally do if you were playing, say D&D, hoping that your buffed effect will last long enough to help you out in an upcoming battle. Then again, that's not really a "casual" move, so it doesn't really hurt this game too much. If you want to buy yourself a little bit of time to shield up, you can retreat a bit (unless you just entered a room and the door locked behind you), but at least you all start with full health. Other things that work in the favor of the casual player are shared experience and instant-gratification leveling. Not only do your characters gain their additional abilities and stat enhancements as soon as they get enough experience to level up (mid-fight, even), but their health completely refills, as well. You could even move an injured character out of harm's way, if he's near to leveling up, and then, when the other players kill some enemies (and everyone gains experience) and the injured character levels up, you can bring him back into the fight, since he's auto-healed to full health.

In addition to the Story Mode, there are Arena and Challenge Level modes. The Arena is just that, a large open room with enemies to outwit and take out. You enter from the center of the room, rising up from below the floor, Hunger Games-style, and then fight for your life. If you live through that level, you repeat the carnage with the next Arena Level. When you leave and return, you pick up where you left off, as well. Challenge Levels can be selected out of order, and each one puts you in a certain situation and it's up to you to figure out how to beat the level with what you have available. Sadly, both of these modes appear to also reflect the loss of abilities that plagued me in the Story Mode, so I won't be successfully beating these until a patch comes out that restores my missing abilities. By that time, I don't think I'll be coming back to play this anymore. There are other games to play.


No. I can't approach this normally for this game. The main difficulties found in Dungeon Crawlers HD are centered around trying to play the game despite the controls, moving the camera around so that you can click on what you want to click on and dealing with bugs that will cause you to have to restart a level, lose items, lose levels (due to an issue with saved games, I think - not in any way related to the story) and, with the last "update" I experienced, losing the use of a scrollbar, forcing me to use the scroll wheel to get to inventory items that were offscreen, and finding that the scroll rate was set to a single pixel, instead of a single row, leaving me to scroll, scroll, scroll and scroll some more to get to the item it needed.

The actual difficulty of the gameplay is generally well-paced, with the challenges increasing as your abilities do. That, of course, falls apart when your characters regress for no obvious reason, but it seems to occur mostly based on issues with loading saved games, so you might be okay if you make a marathon of it and don't rely on the saved game feature. That being said, I can't recommend anyone buy the game with that as their goal, since I'm not sure that would keep you safe from level loss.

The Arena Mode does provide some nice gameplay, but the Challenge Levels were impossible, in my estimation. Then again, I tried them after being stripped of most of my abilities, so if that bug gets fixed, it may be a useful part of the game.

Game Mechanics:

Yes, some of the aspects of the game work in its favor. That makes it even more sad that it is so glitchy. And it's not just graphical glitches, where animations do some weird things (although those are in there, too)... or annoying interface issues where you can't easily select what you want or have to restart a saved game several times until the map is centered and you have a U.I. and the ability to control anything (yup, that's an issue, too)... but there are saved-game related issues that will strip you of several levels worth of abilities for no obvious reason, while the baddies are just as powerful as you should still be. That problem doesn't end nicely. And there's no solution for that, as of this writing, other than just not playing anymore. I could start the game over, but I could just as easily find that I lose the abilities again when I get to this point. The developer seems to be very responsive to bugs and releases updates to the game to fix the bugs, but the latest update appears to be the reason my inventory scroll bar went away and might be why I lost all of those abilities. Updates are only comforting sights when they're fixing things.

There were bugs from the beginning, and that gave me a slow start to playing and reviewing the game, but things really picked up and improved by level four. I think that was my favorite level. By that point, my cleric had the ability to conjure a protective shield around players and - toward the end - I even gained Mass Heal, allowing me to heal my whole party if we were huddled close enough. Paytor had gained a Charge attack, Aegon had gained fireball and a cone of cold-esque spell, allowing him to bestow Burning and Freezing status effects on enemies, for the hurt that keeps on giving. Meanwhile, Paytor had a sword that has the Poison effect and had gained the War Stomp attack which can stun enemies, causing them to essentially lose a turn. With all this together, I was able to start battles by spreading around status effects to all of my enemies, letting them Poison/Freeze/Burn slowly throughout the battle, while I was attacking them. That's when it really got fun. Then, level five came around and I had lost all of those abilities I had worked into my tactics. That was it. I was done. The game had achieved a level of mediocrity and then proved to be much worse than itself. I can't play this anymore.

That being said, it's five dollars on Steam, and less, if you catch it on sale. If you're intrigued so much that you want it, despite the bugs, it's at least not overly expensive. I would advise checking the forums first, to see what people are saying about the state of the bugs, though.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 7, Core 2 Duo Processor, 2048 MB RAM, ATI Radeon, nVidia GTX Graphic card, DirectX Version 10, 500 MB available Hard Drive space

Test System:

[Alienware Aurora] Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3, Alienware Mainboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Two Monitors (Samsung S22C300 21.5" / Gateway HD2201 21'' HDMI), 500 GB Solid State Primary Hard Drive, 1000 GB Secondary Hard Drive, Logitech Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, Astro Gaming A30 Headset Black Gaming Headset, Uverse Broadband Internet Access

Related Links:

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