by Sam Riedel1
Mighty Dungeons Review
Half-Baked Board Game
Having played more than my share of Dungeons and Dragons, I was pretty excited to play Mighty Dungeons, the new 2D hack-and-slash dungeon crawler from Laylio Games. It’s the French company’s first game, making them a very excited group of RPG fans—I even got a personal email from their lead programmer thanking me for dropping a buck on it. But though I’m glad their inaugural project is off the ground and getting some love from users in the Play Store, it needs a lot more work to live up to its potential.
Fans of classic fantasy board games like HeroQuest will rejoice as soon as the app starts: you can choose between six pre-generated character classes—warrior, ranger, barbarian, wizard, assassin, or brigand—to get you right into the action. Unfortunately, there’s no way to customize any aspect of your character, though Laylio is currently accepting requests for custom characters at a low, low price of only $50 US. Even more unfortunately, no tutorial is available to explain what any of the icons and numbers that make up your character’s attributes mean. Most are self-explanatory (any gamer worth his or her salt should recognize that the number next to the heart represents hit points), but figuring out how the magic and item degradation systems work without any hints is a little tricky.
What reading material does exist in Mighty Dungeons is—spotty. Since it’s translated from French, a few awkward passages are bound to sneak in here and there, but most of the written content doesn’t even appear to have been proofread. Sentences are cut off in the middle, castles are raided by “gobelins,” and English majors like myself are cringing at maximum warp. It’s surprising that a game that’s so dependent on text would pay such little attention to the end product; no matter how hard you try to ignore it, eventually you’ll have to read something, and it will inevitably take you out of the moment.
What’s more, unlike almost all role-playing games, there’s no way for your character to get stronger. The only leveling to speak of is the accumulation of wealth and items, which of course is half the fun of role-playing, but when you’re not getting stronger, it doesn’t feel like all the time you spend in combat has any point. The only noticeable change after most fights is that your equipment is in slightly worse condition. At least that’s the only thing warriors have to deal with—if wizardry is more your style, get ready to drop all your gold after each dungeon replenishing your spellbook. The equipment store is lackluster at best; despite the interesting blacksmith’s shop, which will repair your weapons on the cheap so you don’t have to go broke replacing them, these peddlers hawk the same mundane, non-class-specific arms and armor as you’ll find in the dungeons, only in greater quantities. After the first few adventures, I started to wonder what the point of picking classes was at all; with access to the same equipment and items across the board, and a complete lack of skill systems of any kind, whichever class has the highest overall attribute scores will always be the best, without exception.
The combat system itself is fairly dull. Spellcasters have some neat options in the form of summoning fairies and sucking the opponent’s life-force with vampiric magic, but beyond that, you’re basically stuck tapping the “Attack” button every few seconds until the picture of Yamarz the Orc is replaced with a pile of guts. Every room is roughly the same, with the exception of its layout and floor color, and upon opening the door, events will always proceed in a similar fashion: Monsters see you, politely line up to take you on one by one, and are killed in single combat after allowing you some time to catch your breath. There’s virtually no room for strategy of any kind, unless you count waiting until the last minute to use a health potion as a tactic.
On the plus side, this game looks gorgeous. I’ve always been a big fan of the French style of comic art, and Mighty Dungeons has plenty of it, with detailed (and genuinely horrifying) monster portraits and well-crafted backgrounds. Even the tiny chair and bookshelf icons look like time and effort was spent making them match their surroundings. The only bad aspect of Mighty Dungeon’s aesthetic is that there’s only one type of environment to go adventuring in, and that’s your typical abandoned castle; on the other hand, the most recent update included shiny new backgrounds for each stage, which look quite decent on a phone and even better on a tablet. Then again, that same update also introduced some bugs that made me ill, like maps that failed to load–preventing me from progressing past the first three rooms–and a glitch in the shop that prevented me from getting gold from the sale of spells that were useless to my warrior.
Mighty Dungeons means well and is nice to look at, but everything about it feels half-finished. It’s as though Laylio was so excited to start selling it that they forgot to follow up on any of their production notes. With some time (and copy editing), we might have a satisfying dungeon crawler on our hands, but as of now, there’s simply nothing compelling about this game whatsoever. That might very well change with future updates, but for the time being, it’s just not worth the effort.
Summary: A classic board game with the serial numbers filed off--along with everything that made it fun. these dungeons try hard, but are far from mighty.