Have you ever wanted to play a game where you get to build your own dungeons? Dungeon Maker promises to let you do all the dirty work of building dungeons but also let you explore them and battle any monsters that have wandered in overnight. Let’s see how the game faired in our review of Dungeon Maker.
You take the role of an unemployed 12 year old (who you get to name at the start) who lives in a village called South Arc. While you’re quietly walking through the forest of Krolan you come across a Magic Shovel on the ground, which amongst other clever tricks, can talk. After you’ve picked up your new friend (the Magic Shovel) and head towards the village, you bump into the Town Mayor who happens to be looking for someone to go and search for the lost Shovel. It turns out that the Shovel was created by special magicians. Whoever touches it becomes the Shovel’s partner, and from then on, only they can use it to dig holes. So you guessed it, now it’s your responsibility to rid the world of monsters by using your Magic Shovel to dig and build dungeons. It might not be as easy as a paper round, but being a Dungeon Maker sure pay’s well.
Your first duty as South Arc’s new Dungeon Maker is to practice using the Shovel in the empty caves nearby. Here you’ll start clearing away walls to make pathways and space for rooms in your new dungeon. There are no monsters yet so it’s pretty safe…for now. The Shovel is truly magic – simply facing a wall and pressing A will see it disappear, leaving a nice empty space. If you so happen to want to put the wall back another tap of A will see it appear once again. Your Magic Shovel can only dig so many holes before it runs out of power and needs to be rested overnight, so you’ll have plan a little before digging around too much. After your first hard day’s night worth of digging it’s time to take a little look around the various places in the village – these include; the Mayor’s house, the Town Square, the Furniture Store, the Weapon Shop, the Magic Store and of course, your cosy little home, in which you and your female companion (who’s always happy to cook you dinner) lives. Your home acts as a central hub for many of your activities, such as eating and resting, as well as being a place to store items when you can’t personally carry any more. You can also read up any extra information you may need about monsters, weapons and items etc.
After a night’s rest you’ll wake up refreshed; your magic and health will be at the max, as will the power of your Magic Shovel. You’ll now need to head to the Furniture Shop to buy a room to install into your Dungeon (rooms attract the monsters into your Dungeon so that you can battle them). At first you’ll have access to a Straw Bed and Feed Barrel, which will attract Crow Bats and PigBoars respectively. Once you’re done there it’s time to buy a weapon, the first of which is a basic knife – it’s not that powerful but will be more than enough to deal with Crow Bats (small flying purple monsters that peck at you with their beak). Now it’s time to head into your new Dungeon for the second time, careful though…your Shovel warns you that there may be a monster or two in there now…scary. When you head into a battle the camera switches away from the overhead viewpoint to first person, so you look at the baddies face on. Randomly, either you or the enemy will start the battle by striking first. When it’s your turn, you have the choice to either: hit with your weapon, use your magic powers, or use an item (such as a magic potion). You’ll also have the option to run away from the monsters if you get really frightened, or beaten up too much; but I’m not a scaredy cat so I didn’t choose that one. From then on it’s a turn based battle until you or the enemy collapse/die – hopefully it will be the enemy.
After you defeat a Crow Bat or two, you will be able to scavenge some Crow Leg, which you can use in one of your recipes. What you eat at night will increase your attributes. Boring Spinach from the market girl will increase your hit points by a factor of one, whereas another recipe could increase your magic power and speed points. As time goes on, and you expand the size of your Dungeon and buy bigger and better rooms, the variety of monsters will increase. So will the supply of dropped food, money, weapons and armour. After you fit out your Dungeon with enough rooms and attract enough monsters, you will soon encounter your first floor boss. He is a much tougher enemy; it will take lots of skill, and possibly some Magic Potion to eradicate him. If successful you will be rewarded with lots of cash, and open up another floor (below) in which to expand your Dungeon – this will attract the monsters that prefer lower depths. So the cycle continues: extend your dungeon and build new rooms to attract more monsters – defeat them to earn more money to buy new rooms – eat more food to build up your skill. It’s a simple process which isn’t too rewarding, but things do become more interesting when you make friends with a Slime creature that can copy and morph body parts from defeated enemies to become a super monster addition to your squad. With him in your team you’ll be able to defeat groups of two or three monsters at a time much more easily.
So, does Dungeon Maker sound good to you so far? Well I hope so, because it isn’t too bad…it’s not great, but if you like Dungeon RPG’s with a lot of grinding then it will really make your day. There are many different monsters to defeat, all needing different rooms to attract them into your Dungeon. All of these different monsters drop different items to collect, so in order to fully equip your squad, you will be required to defeat a broad range of enemies many times over. You’ll also have errands from the townspeople to complete (usually in the form of killing a specific type of monster and bringing it to them in food form). This will result in them offering you more services to help your Dungeon building. Dungeon Maker has a nice art style and some very pretty graphics. The monster models and animation are quite acceptable but not groundbreaking. The music and sound effects can get a little repetitive, as can the amount of grinding needed to build up your money and attributes. It is possible to cheat a little by emptying a previous Dungeon floor of rooms (thus lowering the amount of enemies that will appear there next time) so you can concentrate on the next Dungeon floor. One odd thing is a total lack of touchscreen support – everything is controlled with the Dpad and four main function buttons. Now I’m not one to say that every game should use touch technology, even when it’s not required, but I couldn’t help but think that a little bit of tipity tapping on the screen here and there would have been nice, especially during the menu screens.
Whilst there is no online option, you can visit a friend’s Dungeon by using the DS Wifi ability, if they happen to own the game. Not only will you be able to look around your friend’s custom Dungeon (and they can walk through yours), but you’ll be able to battle the enemies there, and keep any money or special items (which you may have not seen in your Dungeon) that you find. To make sure that your friend cannot spoil your Dungeon, their Magic Spade will refuse to dig or build whilst they are your guest, and vice versa.
Dungeon Maker is a nice little game package which will suit younger gamers – ideally those who haven’t had too much experience of other role playing, turn based battle games with constant monster battling and grinding. It will no doubt be good training, and stand them in good stead for the future with its 30+ hours of gameplay. I award Dungeon Maker a solid 6 out of 10 – I hope that if a sequel arrives next year it will fix the few small niggles and over repetitive battles, and maybe add an online or local coop mode, to make a truly fantastic title.
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