I seem to be the new advocate to convince people to play dungeon crawler games. That being said, I went into Uphill Studios’ port of Quest of Dungeons on 3DS with an open mind – and not much else. While not familiar with the game’s previous life on other platforms, I was delighted to see it’s 16-bit design and turn-based battles coupled with cheeky humor and strangely relaxing air. Perhaps it’s time for me to rethink how I approach the genre.
Quest of Dungeons doesn’t have an overarching storyline. Despite my searching I couldn’t find anyone talking about saving princesses from towers or having to make moral choices. From what I could gather the Dark Lord has stolen all the light in the land, and now it’s up to my pixelated hero to enter his lair to vanquish him in 16-bit glory of combat. Once defeated, I’m (guessing?) the land will once again be saved and the light returns. Huzzah!
There’s really nothing overly complicated here or innovative, but that’s actually Quest of Dungeons’ strongpoint. The battle system was straightforward: press a button to attack the monsters. While traversing the dungeons I horded as much gold as possible in order to upgrade my weaponry in better defeat the stronger enemies. I know, basic stuff. While the combat was pretty simple, it wasn’t entirely a cakewalk. More than once I found myself running away from enemies and hurriedly closing off dungeons behind me so I wouldn’t end up dying. Sometimes you gotta be the chicken.
This brings me to the next point, which is the permanent death mechanic. While normally I hate this feature in any game, it actually works very well here. There’s four difficulty levels to choose from so the player can decide if they want a hardcore style session or an easy going adventure. While I did go with an easier difficulty, as I traveled through the dungeons I did find the enemies became steadily stronger when I entered each new level. There were more than a few times I had to actually stop, plan out my next move, and then proceed into the next room to defeat the monsters.
Each dungeon is also procedurally-generated (i.e. random), and as the controversial space exploring No Man’s Sky has proven, this generation of levels doesn’t work out very well. And yet, considering the simplistic nature of Quest of Dungeons, I have to admit it kind of works here. While the actual dungeons have pretty basic layouts, each level still manage to feel fleshed out and unique. I was constantly encountering different enemies, seeing a variety of environments, and I actually stayed in a few areas to do some grinding to upgrade my weaponry.
Normally, I’d assume with such a basic premise Quest of Dungeons would’ve lost my interest within an hour of powering on the 3DS. It really felt like I was cleaving my blocky sword into the blocky flesh of my hapless enemies. Visually, the game’s style was obviously a throwback to the ‘good ole days’ when video games were just becoming a thing, but I liked it. The colors felt vibrant and not washed like I would expect with this type of style. The fast-paced music when battling and impressed by the sounds when I attacked in-game were impressive, and I liked how the music would slow down to match my character whenever I idled. Encouraging a sense of adventure when needed and helping the player to ‘relax’ when there wasn’t an enemy in sight to kill was a nice touch!
Quest of Dungeons definitely proves the old adage less is more. I really enjoyed this dungeon crawler, and considering my general dislike of the genre that’s saying something. While it doesn’t do anything great or innovative, it takes what it has and somehow makes it all work. If you’ve never played the game elsewhere, here’s your chance to take Uphill Studios’ mobile crawler along for the ride. As for this skeptic, while I did fail on my quest, I’m looking forward to trying to bring back the light once again. And possibly again after that. I’ll just need a couple of health potions to do so.