Review: Dungeons 2 (PS4)

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Title: Dungeons 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (2.7 GB)
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Realmforge Studios
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), €39.99 (EU), £35.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Dungeons 2 is also available on PC and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I never played the first Dungeons game on the PC but I knew of its existence. The look of it intrigued me. Now we have the sequel on the PlayStation 4, but how can a game designed for a keyboard and mouse work using the DualShock 4?

Gameplay:
I jumped straight into the single player campaign mode that explains the mechanics of the game by trial and error and with loads of help from the narrator. Error was often the case for my early conquests into the Overworld where the game changes from a management simulation to more of an action RTS.

I think it was more my fault than the game as I recklessly charged into an attack without beefing up my band of attackers and getting the lay of the land. I learned the hard way that patience is key above and below ground in Dungeons 2.

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In the confines of the dungeon, the controls are different. I cannot select multiple units and order them to move or attack, instead I have the hand. This disembodied appendage can still grab units but once I drop them they are free to move about under their own volition.

Each creature type has a role to perform. For example, the Snots are lowly workers who tunnel out the rooms and corridors of your dungeon and make sure the beer keeps flowing. More importantly, they mine the treasure that funds all of the other things in your subterranean dwellings, but they flee at the first sign of danger.

… venture into the sunshine and kill your opponents …
Orcs like to boss everyone around and get into fights. Goblins are sneaky and are a dab hand at tinkering with things, the list goes on. You can upgrade the creatures, rooms, traps, and even the dungeon itself. All manner of enemies will try to attack your dungeon and claim your hard-earned gold.

You cannot spend the entire time skulking around in the darkness and it does some good – or should that be, bad – to venture into the sunshine and kill your opponents and destroy their settlements. Doing so changes the surroundings to a more suitable, evil theme.

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The campaign introduces you to each new facet at a nice gradual pace and allows you to go at your own speed. A quick check of the logbook in the options menu for a descriptive reminder of what needs doing was often needed, mainly because of the narrator’s comments.

Once I got to grips with the surprisingly simple controls and understood the area-sensitive dial menu, the game became quite addictive. I would have liked if it mentioned that I could pick up more than one subject at a time. I only stumbled across the feature by accident after several hours of play.

… I long for some procedural generation …
Sadly, there are some long load times, but once you are in a level it only pauses very rarely to save, and even then you can still move the camera. Even switching between locations is almost instantaneous. You can adjust the amount it auto-saves but I suggest leaving it. You can also manually save, which I tend to do before anything of note.

My main issue is with the ‘guided maps’. My name for them because each one has a set starting location and portals to the Overworld. Annoying but understandable, however the veins of gold running through the rock and readymade corridors make it feel less organic, more like I’m following the path the developer wants me to go in. How I long for some procedural generation.

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I particularly like the upgrade books you can find, usually left behind from fallen enemies. Once given to one of your subjects they are given a new moniker and an associated attribute. Picking up the book tells you of its benefit so you can decide whom it would suit best, or just let an entire group stroll over it and let luck decide.

I also like the way a minion will set about improving the look of the dungeon if they have nothing else to do. It’s cool when a Snot drags a fallen comrade all the way to the hospital, or carries gold to the treasury and drops a trail of coins along the way.

… especially naughty and mischievous …
I particularly dislike the odd way in which most of the horde will ignore a random enemy every so often, or everyone goes on strike because the Snots became obsessed with mining gold and forgot to brew any beer. Yes, that happened once. Strange glitches like that are very rare but can be frustrating.

Visuals:
I have noticed some screen tearing, not always mind you, and not consistently. There would be tons of action going on without a hitch, but then I pan across the map or maybe switch to a different location, and unexpectedly, it tears like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.

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You can swing the camera to the side but it always reverts to the isometric view. While it isn’t a problem of any kind I would have liked a few different camera angles. Zooming in and out is nice and smooth, and handy if you want to get a better look at a new trap or a troll scratching its butt.

There is a lot to like about the graphics. The many creatures under your control look especially naughty and mischievous. The gangly Trolls and podgy Orcs traipse their way through the dimly lit halls. Various contraptions splutter and churn as they make their products. Even the treasure chest trap bounces and sways with a few rockets peaking out of its lid, waiting for the enemy to get close.

… ominous looking trees and swamps …
When you take control of an area in the Overworld, the bright plump trees close up like umbrellas and disappear into the ground along with all the other nice things around them. Unsightly and ominous looking trees and swamps ooze up replacing the once picturesque region. In truth, none of it looks actually scary. I suppose it has more of a Disney animation scare than a Blair Witch feel.

Tiny text is somewhat of an on-going problem with PC to PS4 ports. Hardly any developers think to adjust, or at least, allow you to adjust the size of the text. The distance between the average PC gamer and their monitor is tiny compared with the average PS4 gamer and their TV. Before you suggest changing the PS4 text, it doesn’t work in this game. I had to use the zoom feature on the PS4 to help make out the skirmish map screen.

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Audio:
The main menu music is nice. I say that as it is all but absent in the actual game itself, aside from a forgettable melody. Sound effects are good too, if a little repetitive after a long gaming session. The best part is the excellent narration by Kevan Brighting, and the humorous writing. With witty remarks that break the fourth wall and references to other games, I could not help but smile.

The game was often making jokes about my failures and having to try again, mocking the Free-to-Play games, and even helping because I took too long. The interaction and humour is brilliant and kept me playing through the campaign. You change the amount of things the narrator will say in the options menu if his ramblings begin to bother you.

… one or two issues that hold it back ever so slightly …
Online/Multiplayer:
There is an online skirmish multiplayer mode for up to four players, depending on the map and game type. You can try jumping into a quick game with random players, but I could never find another player, even after the game was released.

Not all is lost as you can create or join a game with your friends. Once a multiplayer game is created, you can assign a five-digit code, to be shared with other players which is a good way to allow people who aren’t on your Friends List to join a session.

Conclusion:
As we see more PC only games make the leap to the PlayStation 4 we are bound to get some amazing or downright awful ports. Well, Dungeons 2 sits squarely in the middle. It does many things right and I did enjoy the game but it also has one or two issues that hold it back ever so slightly.

The guided maps are my biggest grievance, but random screen tearing, the tiny text, and occasional glitches are bothersome too. None of that really detracts from the overall experience though. Aside from those missteps, Dungeons 2 is a fun and enjoyable game with a surprisingly competent control scheme. If you are looking for something a little different and funny, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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