Typical RPG’s have never really been my cup of tea. All that grinding and talking to NPC’s for hours at a time really gets on my wick. An exception to the rule is Nintendo’s Zelda series; I just love its greater focus on puzzle solving and overall straightforwardness.
Dungeon Explorer for PSP is the first game that I have played on my shiny new PSPgo. Let’s find out if it can get me loving more traditional Role Playing Games a little bit more in a review of Dungeon Explorer for PSP. Dungeon Explorer was originally released for the Sony PSP back in 2008 on UMD, more recently Hudson have made it available for digital download via the PSN store at a bargain price.
So what’s it all about? Would you be offended if I told you that I didn’t pay too much attention to the story? Basically you take on the role of a loyal warrior who is forced to start his career again after diplomatic issues between the King and his Government. This of course is just a clever excuse to throw you in at the shallow end rather than chuck you headfirst into a nightmare difficulty scenario but at least it makes sense. Outside the city is a forest and deep within is effectively a gateway to hell. Now you’d expect that such a gateway would have been sealed to prevent hideous monsters from breaking out. It just so happens that the seal has been broken and those hideous monsters are leaking out into the forest, too close for comfort it seems. So your job is to create a hero from an extensive character builder get kicking some monster ass.
If you’re the type to really enjoy creating a character then Dungeon Explorer lets you let rip. Race, Gender, Class and appearance are all very customisable; the only improvement here would be a way to import your own face into the game. I just know that if I could have imported my own face into Dungeon Explorer I’d have managed to scare a lot of those monsters away just by looking at them; sadly without that feature I had to rely on using weapons and spells instead.
To start with you are put on a tutorial which lasts about four to five hours. Here you learn all the basics; everything from fighting solo to working in a team to perform powerful weapon arts (spells). It has to be said that the tutorial is a bit of a slog. This is because you’ll slay the exact same monsters in the exact same part of the forest and dungeon for what feels like forever. When you finally are able to take on real quests from the Guild Master, things do become much more interesting with dungeons of greater size and complexity. Even some special quests will appear from time to time and these can take around an hour to complete.
Every quest costs you some gold coins to enter and feature both goals and conditions. The goal is usually quite simple and never really varies from clearing all of the enemies out of the Dungeon in one way or another. The conditions are also simple but do give things that more rigid feel when you’re not allowed to let any of your team members die or if you’re forced to protect an unarmed NPC from any harm. If you do fail a quest then you have no choice but to repeat it from scratch as there is no way to save your progress mid dungeon, one thing to take note of is that you’ll need to pay the Guild Master the fee each time you replay the quest. If after multiple attempts at the same dungeon you fail to complete it then you’re forced to either sell items at the shop or grind in the outer forest and the first level of the Dungeons. I hate grinding.
The battle system in Dungeon Explorer is simple but does provide a varied scope. You can attack with standard weapons such as Crossbows, Sticks and Swords or use Magic (Weapon Art). The weapon arts themselves can be used to perform a greater strike with your traditional weapon which will inflict more (but not significantly more) damage to an enemy, or cast a more devastating ground spell which inflicts major damage but leaves you wide open to attack from the beasties. It’s also possible to perform weapon arts as a group, with two or more members in your party you can deal even greater damage to enemies or enemy generators by aligning your weapon art crosshairs together and performing the spell all at once. Now it wouldn’t be fair if you could just use your magic abilities all of the time so just as you have a health meter you also have a magic meter. If either of your meters gets a little low then you can replenish them with a potion at any time, if however you run out of potion then you could be in trouble.
This wouldn’t be even a half decent RPG if you couldn’t level up or buy lots of great stuff for your character and party. Thankfully every enemy you kill slowly works towards you gaining greater skills and earn you points to spend on boosting all those lovely attributes, you know the sort of thing; health, strength, hit ratio, magic strength and all that jazz. Now being a Zelda fan all those attributes mean nothing to me because I’m used to getting most of my rewards in a shop. Dungeon Explorer also has a wealth of weapons, spells, armour and other goodies to buy if you happen to have enough gold to spend. Even though you’ll earn stacks of gold when completing quests, if you want to buy the best stuff you’ll once again need to grind away and open up plenty of chests in the dungeon, thankfully it’s not compulsory and even without grinding you’re usually strong enough to defeat any old creature getting in your way.
That brings me neatly along to the monsters themselves. Sadly here is where things get a little boring along with that grinding. There really isn’t a huge variety of monsters to encounter and they’re all dead boring. I can’t go into them all here but if you like hacking and slashing giant overgrown snails and lizardy skeletons then Dungeon Explorer is a dream come true for you.
Dungeon Explorer for PSP is a standard hack and slash RPG with a clichéd plot. Nothing really stands out as being revolutionary and nor is the game so bland that you’ll want to switch it off after just a few seconds, it’s just ordinary in every respect. If you feel starved waiting for Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable then Dungeon Explorer could fill the gap. With average gameplay, graphics, music and sound I can really only recommend Dungeon Explorer for die hard RPG fans with time on their hands. 6 out of 10.