Review by DjSkittles

"Shoulda, coulda, woulda"

I have one important rule when it comes to enjoying games and that rule is that the game actually has to be finished. A bunch of annoying bugs and glitches can turn a good game into an average one or make an average game unplayable. Dungeon Lords, a fast-paced action RPG, could have been something good if it was properly finished. Not great mind you, but a worthy game to play through. Instead, Dungeon Lords, is a heavily flawed game that only manages to be fun occasionally.

Dungeon Lords takes place in your typical fantasy world. There's evil wizards, sneaky goblins, heroic lords and a chosen one who is prophesized to make everything right. I bet you can guess who you play as. Although the plot is nothing special, the writing is top notch and the voice acting also delivers. Because of this the standard plot is elevated to above average. Although the world of Dungeon Lords is a massive place, don't expect it to be the next Morrowind. Although there are plenty of sidequests, this game is mostly linear. This isn't really a bad thing since it makes the plot more focused, but some more freedom would have been welcome.

At least character creation process is handled well. There are a handful of different races to choose from, but unique customization comes in the form of different classes. Each character can have a few different classes at a time, which grant bonuses in skills ranging from medium weapons to arcane magic. In most games you have to wait for a level up in order to increase skills and stats, but Dungeon Lords takes a more effective approach. As soon you gain experience you can spend it as you like, so there is a welcome emphasis towards fast skill-building.

Another area where Dungeon Lords succeeds is in its excellent combat system. It feels more like something out of a beat ‘em up than a typical action RPG. The hacking and slashing is fast-paced, and busting out backflips and combos while heavily outnumbered is a delight. At times there can be a fury of clicking, but if you never use your shield and dodge attacks then you'll find things awfully difficult. Of course hand-to-hand combat isn't the only route to take. There are also a few different classes of magic containing dozens of spells. The only problem is that there aren't any descriptions on the spells, so there's an unnecessary amount of experimentation to find out what some of the spells actually do.

Believe it or not, Dungeon Lords features a heavy amount of dungeons. Shocking, I know. These dungeons are long and can be a bit tiring at times, but they usually contain a nice blend of combat, exploration and puzzles. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. One obnoxious dungeon has you fighting a seemingly endless wave of spawning enemies. It took forever to kill all of them and my shield broke from such heavy usage. Right after I claimed victory, I had to go through the exact same process in the area ahead. A few rooms ahead I had to take on another frustrating group of spawning enemies. It was such a pain, but thankfully there aren't any game over screens. Simply hitting a button when you fall in combat revives your characters at the expense of a few stat points. This quick and easy approach to death makes things less wearisome than they could have been.

At this point Dungeon Lords probably sounds like a decent game. It's not perfect, but not many games are. Unfortunately, it's time to talk about some of the many bugs, glitches and strange quirks.

-There is no in-game map. The instruction manual says there is one, and there is a map button in the options menu, but there is no actual map to be found. This makes navigation an enormous pain if you don't have the paper map enclosed in the game's box. Still, the navigation is more irritating than it should be.

-You can't change your character's appearance. The option is there, but when you click on it nothing happens. This was “fixed” in the 1.1 update by just removing the option altogether.

-Some treasure chests cannot open. An NPC tells you that you can have the treasure, but the chest never happens. Makes me wonder what was actually in them.

-A quest that was completed early in the game remained on the objective list for most of the game.

-The moon randomly appears in broad daylight in front of mountains or buildings. There are also some other similar graphical quirks.

-There is no furniture in any of the buildings. It's usually just your character, a counter, and a shopkeeper. I presume this was done to increase performance at the expense of atmosphere

-The removal of furniture doesn't help much since the performance ranges from playable to dreadful. I don't understand why it runs so poorly, even on machines that meet the recommended settings. Although the environments look decent, they certainly aren't cutting edge. The character models and animations are poor, so the poor frame rate is rather perplexing.

-There is multiplayer support, but at the time of this review the lag was far too heavy to be enjoyable.

If Dungeon Lords was actually finished then it'd be a decent game. If the balance in some of the dungeons was reworked then it could have been even better. As it stands, Dungeon Lords has far too many bugs to be worthy of your consideration. If you're looking for a rich fantasy world then try out Morrowind or Arx Fatalis. If you're looking for some multiplayer fun, then stick with Diablo II. Wait for the inevitable barrage of patches if you absolutely have to.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 05/24/05

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