You can’t take two swipes of the mouse across Steam without seeing a dungeon crawler. In fact, they’re everywhere! It seems that indie developers are taking the genre by storm. There’s good reason why lonesome developers or small teams take on the concept of dungeon exploration as it can be altered with dynamic features, interesting level designs and mechanics that pushes the gameplay to new levels of awesome. Many succeed such as The Binding of Isaac and Crawl while many others don’t, i.e. Midboss. But where does Underworld Dungeon take its place on the list?
What Underworld Dungeon offers as an experience is a simple yet compelling dungeon crawler that features (of course) perma-death, tons of gear and weapons along with a host of enemies and bosses to do epic battle with. Everything is very retro inspired with (of course) pixel art visuals and a sense the game is truly testing player skill and determination through challenging objectives. What we have here is a great base formula for a dungeon crawler and it’s a great place to build upon with new dynamics and gameplay elements.
Now what does harbor on the experience is one word, “safe”. Underworld Dungeon by its nature and design is very safe in comparison to others on the market. From the get go, you can select your classic genre classes of the hunter, warrior, and thief and set off to explore dungeons, fight monsters and gather keys to progress. This is all fine but to be honest, there’s little to really captivate you into coming back for more. It’s a neat game that’s fun for casual or quick play times but there’s nothing to grasp your attention or keep you invested through multiple playthroughs.
While there is a ton of loot and enemies to battle against across a line-up of different locations, you’ll most likely feel underwhelmed at what you’re playing. The main issue for all of these factors is the lack of personality and feeling overly generic for its own good. The pixel art visual in the right hands can be beautiful and push the level of the atmosphere (i.e. Crawl) and overall the level designs are dull and tedious. Little makes each level different from the last and most end up appearing as colorless corridors with little interactive features. Environmental hazards are oddly vacant and the major threat are the scatterings of enemies that behave similarly to one another.
There’s no twists to the formula, no interesting behaviors from enemies or mechanics that could change the state of play. While another game which has a simple foundation such as the Binding of Isaac is soaked in atmosphere, tons of different threats that really push you to the limit of your skill and a great sound track that immerses into the gross and beautiful game world. There’s little immersing factors here from its plain visuals to the absence of any music. The core objective for Underworld Dungeon is to work your way from level to level, going deeper into the unknown and to confront a boss at the end.
This is simple and possibly effective if done in the right manner, but after a few attempts or progressing enough, Underworld Dungeon just becomes repetitive. Each level of the dungeon you’ll have to find a key to open a teleport to the next dungeon. The map is randomized and the location of the key will change from the last. So players will have to explore and locate the key while staying alive (of course). This element of design keeps things interesting as you’ll never know what to expect to some degree. Much like The Madness of Little Emma, levels change dramatically with alterations in paths, loot, and dangers. While The Madness of Little Emma had one advantage over Underworld Dungeon with its compelling design and visual style. Not to mention more interesting loot and gear to unlock. There are some elements of crafting and trading but these add very little substance or depth to the gameplay.
Underworld Dungeon is to put it lightly, average.
What the experience ends up being is a very simple dungeon crawler but one that lacks a real identity and thus lacks any compelling elements to keep you invested for the long haul. Its fine don’t get me wrong but then again there are many titles on the market that are vastly more interesting with gameplay that’s totally enthralling. While I like its simple nature and ease of immersing players in quickly, there’s nothing to truly grip you for long periods of play.
The classes of hero are dull, monsters are generic and the level designs while changing from each play though, become a tedious and repetitive affair. Underworld Dungeon is an average game and you could tell that from the title alone. I hope the developers keep to the promise of adding more content but at the moment, the game is difficult to recommend, considering the competition.
A PC Review Copy of Underworld Dungeon was provided by InfernoSoul for the Purpose of this Review.