The Living Dungeon Review
The Living Dungeon is a video game version of a table top Dungeons & Dragons type experience unlike any other game I’ve played before. In this game, you roll the dice to reveal your handful of moves, then you attempt to traverse the playing field with said moves whilst trying to stay alive! I would like to start my review by telling you that I have never played this type of game before, nor have I played Dungeons & Dragons in any way, shape or form, so please take this into consideration when you read what I have to say.
The Concept – As someone new to this genre I found this to be quite a novel idea. Although if you boil it down it is essentially a turn based dungeon crawler. You play the game from the perspective of one of a number of very different characters from very different backgrounds who find themselves trapped inside this renowned dungeon. Some find themselves here through an attempted escape from pursuers whilst others are looking for riches and personal gain. As previously mentioned, you roll the dice and get a random selection of 5 move sets. Some are move tokens, some are attack tokens (either close quarters or ranged), whilst others can manipulate the dungeon itself to either rearrange, or remap the playing field. The selection you are given will depend entirely on the character you control at the time, for example a character who cannot attack will only be given move or manipulation move sets etc. Speaking of characters, there is quite a variety of them to play with. During the story you don’t get to decide who you want to play as, its more that you play as whoever is relevant in the story in those levels. One surprising twist that I did like was that the Dungeon itself is a character too! In later levels the Dungeon will try to hinder your progress by manipulating the playable tiles in the game, either by rotating, flipping or even making them deadly to end your turn on!
Meta Challenges – Its not just about getting from start to end on each dungeon level. In The Living Dungeon you will be given challenges to work towards which can add to replayability. They are completely optional but add an extra layer to the game. These can be as simple as killing so many enemies before completing that level…not as easy as you may think on later dungeons.
Graphics – The graphics in The Living Dungeon vary depending on where you are in the game. When viewing the character models from the main menu you can clearly see that care and attention has been put into the design of each character, there are details making each character unique and easily identifiable. However during gameplay these details aren’t as clear. This in no way detracts from the game itself as their designs make them easily recognisable from a distance, I suspect this drop in detail helps with the loading times and overall framerate given that enemy characters can be added throughout the level. Another interesting feature is that when selecting a level to continue from, you are able to choose a graphical style. You can pick the default Dungeon style which I found to be more immersive, or the Tavern style which literally looks like you’re playing this game on a table in…well a Tavern!
Difficulty Spike – I really want to like this game more, but the levels get really hard very quickly. At least the first four dungeon levels are simple yet challenging enough to think that you can easily sink hours into more, but the further you play the more restarts you Will find yourself doing, and whilst the repetitive cut scenes are skippable not actually skipping them will probably still take the same amount of time to get back to trying again.
Limited Multiplayer – The Living Dungeon does have a multiplayer mode and is the kind of game that would be perfect playing with friends over Xbox Live, battling against each other, a race to the end of the dungeon. But alas this is not the case here. You are able to play on your own, filling the rest of the spaces with bots or A.I. or Local, but maybe this could be something that is added in a future update? We can only hope as this would gain a point on this review!
The Living Dungeon is something I really would like to enjoy more, but its sharp difficulty spike so early on makes this very hard to love, especially for anyone new to this genre. I can see this being quite an enjoyable challenge for fans of Dungeons & Dragons, and if this is you feel free to add another point to the score, but it simply was not the game for me.
EDIT: Radiation Burn were working on adding multiplayer all along! As promised I’ve added the extra point to the review score. This should add alot of replayability!
The Living Dungeon was developed and published by Radiation Burn. It was released on Xbox One, January 29th 2016 and is also available on Steam. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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