Dungeon Crawlers is something of a missed opportunity. A genuinely witty and well-meant satire on tabletop games such as Games Workshop’s classic ‘Hero Quest’ or ‘Warhammer Quest’ that manages to present itself with a great deal of visual polish but falls apart due to one too many game-breaking glitches.
To save people the long-haul I’ll cut to the chase early. In its current state Dungeon Crawlers is unwinnable simply because of a glitch that ensures that every time your Priest uses his healing prayer (the games key form of regaining HP mid-dungeon) there is a one in three chance of the game immediately crashing. As this title auto-saves as you take actions you’ll resume at the same point and if you try to do so again will be guaranteed a crash, looping forever unless you choose not to heal and take other actions. This can lead to battles that are just unwinnable because you need that heal and the game won’t let it happen. I have every faith that the game will see a patch to fix this (hence this game doesn’t score a 0) but feel that for a premium mobile title a bug like this shows a serious lack of play testing on the part of the development team.
The shame is that graphically this title is quite excellent. It uses 3D environments and character models to good effect, presenting a western cell-shaded style that is reminiscent of ‘Asterix’ and webcomics such as ‘Looking for Group’ to present a world that has a depth of character and comedy style. Environments can be rotated at 90 degree increments to better see what’s going on around the party at any time (though freeing the camera would allow a better angle at times) and it’s always clear to see which character is capable of doing what action at any time. The interface is simple to use and tightly designed to not take up more space than necessary and any/all text is clearly legible. The games four lead characters are generic, but intentionally so and carry with them an inherit edge of satire just by standing idle.
Music is nicely recorded and clear through the speakers of a phone, with touches of whimsy that give the game a lighter tone than its visuals would imply. This feeds into a Saturday morning cartoon styled environment that brings a great deal of charm to the title. It’s implemented subtly and with great skill at times, making the sound design feel polished. Sound effects are recorded to a similarly high standard though they see a lot of re-use, especially in the early game when characters only have one or two actions each and the same enemy types are in abundance. as the game progresses however this does open out to become a more rounded selection.
Narrative is an open satire on tabletop gaming and dungeon crawls alike. The party have entered this dungeon because they have been told there’s treasure there, plain and simple, and fall easily into the standard classes of Barbarian, Wizard, Priest and later a slightly more flexible Dwarven Rogue-type. They openly bicker, draw attention to the issues in their own flimsy lives and motivations and over the course of the games opening sections begin to feel like there’s more going on in the dungeon than they had been led to believe – though they will often brush off this fact in the face of something to kill or a room to loot. In this manner the player takes on the role of a proxy GM in a pen and paper campaign, dealing with uncooperative players who are ignoring his cleverly set up and epic campaign in order to run around the opening area leveling up instead. Interactions between characters are well written and can illicit a chuckle, though the game isn’t laugh aloud funny, preferring to have an air of smug wit about it instead of punching for comedy gold.
Gameplay is extremely simple to the point that anyone can access this game, but that it can become frustratingly dull over longer playing sessions, lending itself to quick battles rather than deep dungeon crawling romps. When not in combat the party merge (JRPG style) into the Barbarian who walks around at the tap of a finger, opening doors to new rooms with a double-tap and picking up any loot found in chests. When in combat (which tends to be around and corner or through any door) the party reappears and take turns to move and act (1 move, 1 action) which can be done in any order of your choosing before pressing the end-turn button and allowing the games AI to move the enemy units in the same way. Movement ratios and attack ranges are clearly shown and tapping confirms decisions which can be cancelled easily. At first you’ll only have a single action, but the party shares all HP and this means that they will level up quickly in the early game, unlocking additional skills that can be selected instead of the standard attack that turn by peeling through a menu to the bottom right of the screen. These add new options but are largely what you’d expect to see, with some ranged or group effects added to existing attack types. Loot can include new weapons and armour, which you equip outside of combat to increase individual character stats. Monsters see an interesting variety, but there is very little to telegraph which character’s attacks are going to deal proper damage and whose will be reduced dramatically to next to nothing. Worse, monsters of the same type can be wildly different in this regard with the Barbarian smashing through spear-wielding Goblins just to stop dead dealing 1 damage to the same enemy armed with a bow. It’s frustrating and undermines the games tactical battle system. Dungeons themselves are mission to mission based rather than one extended location, which can also lead to them feeling small despite the games lengthy campaign.
Obviously there’s a good game buried beneath these problems, but overall it’s a somewhat dull title that sells for a mid-point price for a mobile title that’s equal to that of better games that don’t enjoy game-ending bugs. Witty presentation and good writing/sound design don’t make up for a boring romp that’s likely to crash on you any time you heal (or in a variety of other cases). As stated before, if you wait for a patch this title may liven up somewhat and become more enjoyable, but its systems are still too simple to really feel as deep or interesting as the tabletop games it seeks to satire.