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Dungeon Lords PC CD-ROM

Published by DreamCatcher Europe
Developed by Heuristic Park
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £19.99

Dungeon Lords, an introduction.

With the phenomenal success of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion it's going to be difficult to capture the interest of RPG gamers. One such game attempting to do so is Dungeon Lords. Where as Oblivion is a huge sprawling RPG with much more to the game than just combat, Dungeon Lords is pretty much the opposite and the main focus of the game is the action.

What's the game about?

Dungeon Lords is very much an old fashioned dungeon crawler of an RPG with a heavy emphasis on combat. The game's story is a rather tired effort involving an evil wizard who's attempting to ruin everything and he's only prepared to call off his evil minions if Lord Davenmor hands over his beautiful daughter. Of course Lord Davenmor's daughter, Ellowyn, is already in love with someone else and on finding this out Lord Davenmor has his daughter's love imprisoned. Needless to say it's one heck of a mess and something needs to be done. After you've created your character you'll begin outside the town of Fargrove. You'll soon meet a messenger who gives you a letter from the Temple of Circene which is in Fargrove. Your first objective then is to enter Fargrove but with Ellowyn missing (she's sworn that if she can't have her man than no one can have her and took off in the process) the town has been closed off. Naturally this means you have to find an alternative route and a spot of dungeon crawling is called for.

What's good about the game?

We first saw Dungeon Lords last year. In fact we were set to review the game when we were informed that the game was being improved for its European release. As it turned out the initial release in the US was pretty bad with missing features and bugs galore. Thankfully the version you get out of the box in Europe is 1.3 which is what many agree is the first version to actually be playable. Essential features that were missing from the US version such as the mini-map are included and this helps to orientate yourself far easier.

As we've already stated the game is combat heavy which means your left mouse button is in for quite a bashing during the course of the game. To a certain degree the combat is repetitive but thankfully you'll have to keep your character on their toes to avoid poisonous gas attacks, arrows and other ranged weapon assaults. Performing blocks is also very important, more so than in other games of this nature, if you want to survive being attacked in number, which happens quite a lot in Dungeon Lords.

On the multiplayer side of things the game supports up to eight players for both Internet and LAN play. The multiplayer game is the same as the single-player game and you and up to seven others will be able to play co-operatively. This is actually a good inclusion although you'll need a decent Internet connection to avoid (or lessen) the lag issues that may occur. What this co-operative mode does do though is to increase the replay value and providing you can find gamers to play with, you should get many more hours than the already lengthy single-player story can offer.

What's not so good about the game?

Those RPG gamers that like a rich story, in-depth character creation and all the other sophisticated touches we've come to expect from the modern RPG will be disappointed with Dungeon Lords. The game is primarily an old style hack 'n' slash RPG and it can't really claim to have an intricate story. The game is still missing several features too. The manual mentions character customisation, in regards to appearance, but this isn't enabled. However, you can download a 100MB patch which does enable this but considering that it's rather a basic feature of the character creation process, it does seem strange that it was initially absent. Prior to installing this rather large patch you'll also notice enemies get stuck in the walls, guards getting stuck on gates and enemies spawning where they should not. Of course if you have a quick Internet connection obtaining this patch won't be a problem but considering how much the game has been delayed for its European release these problems should have been sorted out beforehand. The quests in the game could have been more interesting too, as those on offer feel rather mundane.

How does it look?

Dungeon Lords isn't the greatest looking RPG we've seen to date but it looks fairly good.  There are several problems though. Collision detection is pretty awful in places. In a dungeon, early in the game I found my character could walk seemingly in mid-air when she was a virtual two feet away from a suspended metal beam (and this is with the 1.4 patch). In other places you'll find you can't pass through gaps that are more than twice what they should be for you to do so. Frame rate dips are frequent too. Whenever several enemies are approaching expect a sharp dip in the frame rate. The game is played from the third person perspective so you get to see the back of your character quite a lot during the game and you'll notice certain animations are not what they should be, although to be fair the animations aren't that bad. The dungeons, for the most part, don't look too bad.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The movie clips in the game aren't subtitled but in every other respect the game is fine. That said however, there are no captions or visual clues for approaching enemies. Thankfully a sharp dip in the frame rate usually indicates when a decent number of enemies are about to come into vision so this inadvertently acts as a notification. The dialogue in the game (outside of the cutscenes) is shown in text. Items you can pick up or that you can interact with have text labels. When attempting to open a treasure chest all the information you need is shown in text. Tutorial messages are displayed in text and can be recalled at any time. The game manual is quite helpful although if you've played games of this nature before it's unlikely you'll need it much.

Final thoughts.

After playing the RPG behemoth that is Oblivion, it does kind of feel like going back to basics with Dungeon Lords. In some ways this is a good thing and in other ways it's not so good. The lack of a quality story in the game essentially means the focus is squarely placed on the hack 'n' slash action and whether you'll enjoy the game really depends on whether you can get by on simply ploughing through the highly repetitive combat without a quality plot to act as an incentive. With the 1.4 patch installed the game is finally what it should have been from the very start but without a quality story the game may be a little too dull and repetitive for some, although if you can overlook the game's faults you'll find a hack 'n' slash RPG that is actually quite addictive.

Overall Game Rating: 7.0/10

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If you're looking for a hack 'n' slash heavy RPG Dungeon Lords could very well be the game for you and at just £19.99 it represents good value, especially when you take the multiplayer co-op mode into account. Despite the much delayed European release Dungeon Lords still needs the 1.4 patch to be fully functional which is disappointing.