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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games

Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of the Ancient Arts

Reviewed June 2008 by Edmund Wong

Publisher: Hudson Entertainment
Developer: Hudson Soft
Release Date: February 2008
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Genre: Action RPG
Price: $29.99

Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts is a dungeon game akin to the likes of Diablo and its countless cousins. You are a warrior of some long lost arts and you explore dungeons. That pretty much sums up the entire game. While the title borderlines on being lame and unimaginative, the game itself is rather generic, but it still provides hours of fun.

Plot

A typical straightforward good people vs. bad guys story. Someone with evil intends wants to unleash hell upon the world by reviving a Demon God who has been sealed many ages ago. An adventurer, that is you, has the unfortunately task of dispelling said Demon God.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the story telling, but that is because it is the standard formula. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to ruin the story here.

It has been done a million times before, and it will be done two million times after. But for the most part, it serves its purpose. It provides the backdrop that allows you to kill things. So let's not dwell into it and on with the battles.

Gameplay

Like many other dungeon games, you get a choice of class and job for your hero / heroine. In Dungeon Explorer, you have a choice of three classes (Oros, Taratta and Emporos), each with three jobs (hunter, warrior and mage), for a total of nine different characters. The character you choose will affect the equipments you can carry, character stats, etc.

Your adventure into the dark corners of the world basically follows the route of going into dungeons, kill enemies, gain experience and items, fight the boss and report back to town, where you will be sent to more dungeons and kill more fiends. Leveling up gives you points that you can assign to one of a handful of statistics. Some affects your HP, some affects your attacks, etc.

While this deviates little from the dungeon formula that we all know since the dawn of the genre, Dungeon Explorer does try to differentiate itself from other hack-and-slash games. First, you have a helping hand in the form of a robot. Its effectiveness is debatable, but it can provide some assistance in battle. More and more powerful robots become available later on in the game, and you can equip attack or defense units to suit your style.

Secondly, the implementation of the battle palette, while it's nothing new, is effective. Pressing the L button and the D-pad allows you to assign certain things to the face buttons. Items and magic can be assigned to allow you quick access in the heat of battles, especially when you need quick HP potions.

Not long into your adventure, you will discover Forms. There are 8 types of Forms, each with their unique abilities. Forms are basically special moves that you can do when your attack gauge is full. You must wait for the attack gauge to refill before you can unleash another Form attack. Use up a certain amount of Forms, and you will gain Arts, as in the "Ancient Arts" as stated in the title. Everyone else call it Magic. The more Forms you use, the more Arts you will discover. Killing monsters or collecting Art Fangs give you skill points that you can use to level up your Art. It goes without saying that the higher the level of Arts, the more powerful it is.

Killing fiends involves mostly releasing Form attacks (depending on which Form you receive, which is random), some magic and the occasionally button mashing.

Items, scrolls or money dropped by monsters automatically goes into your inventory. If you inventory is full, it will magically be sent back to Nora in town (unless that is full as well). Unapprised items will need to be apprised first before you can equip them. Equipping armor or weapons largely depends on your stats and your class. Much like the equipment system seen in the likes of Diablo, you can obtain rare equipments (the names appear in yellow or orange fonts). Those you don't need, you can sell them to the blacksmith for West (the in-game currency).

There is nothing wrong with the combat system, but nothing stands out that would make you think highly of it, either. Touch screen support is non-existent. It would make the gameplay better if players can just tap on which item or spell to equip instead of using the L button. In fact, the L button selection only works as long as you are not engaging the enemies because the game does not pause when you are making your choice.

The camera angle also left something to be desired. Walls can get in the way of your vision, thus forcing you to rely solely on the map to detect oncoming dangers. There are also walls that will rebound you into a pool of deadly poison or spikes. To get around them, you need to walk finely between the said wall and other obstacles. Unfortunately, the control is not as precise as you wish, and more often than not, I find myself using the healing potion unnecessarily because I got sent into the pool of deadly poison.

They are minor problems in a battle system that is by and large effective in its execution. It is not perfect, but it captures the essence of dungeon game of this nature.

Graphics

Frankly, the graphics are crude. Things are modeled in 3D, but they are messy. The closer you zoom in (using the select button), the messier it gets. But they work. You can tell the difference between a wolf and a wall. Character models are simple and repetitive. Put on a different color on a normal monster, and viola, a tougher looking monster that requires two more hits to dispatch it.

Dark color palette fills the dungeon. After all, it is a dungeon explorer. Sunlight does not shine in dark corners and dungeons.

Sound

Sound effects are appropriate, you get to hear the sound of swords crossing, magic zapping, things dying, people umm-ing and ah-ing during your conversation, etc.

The BGM is surprisingly pleasant. They are crisp, and somewhat modern for a game that is set in a medieval fantasy world. However, some of them are short and repetitive, especially the theme music of your hometown.

Screen shots:

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Overall

The story is not exactly intriguing, and the gameplay is somewhat generic. The graphics is adequate. Sound is probably the best part of the game, even though some BGMs are short and repetitive. However, they are as well executed as they could be within its parameters.

There is nothing that makes this game stands out among many others on the same platform, but the sum of all its parts is enough to carry it over the line for dungeon fans on the DS.

If you have spent countless hours on Diablo and / or its cousins, you will be familiar with Dungeon Explorer and its gameplay, and can easily get into it (and will probably finish it rather quickly). This game is certainly not the best dungeon game available. If nothing else, it provides a simplistic view of what a dungeon game is like.

Playing Hints and Tips

- Before you set out on your next adventure, make sure to deposit all your money with Nora. You will lose half your money if you die during your dungeon exploring.

- Helena is your free healer. Make sure to visit her (she is just outside the pyramid) every time you are in town.

- Every time you level up, you will regain all your lost HP. You can save on HP potions that way if you are short on them.

- Don't just button mash. Remember that you can unleash your 'forms' when your attack gauge is full.

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

Crude, but it works. Monsters are distinguishable.

Sound

Adequate sound effects. Some BGM might be repetitive, but they are crisp and enjoyable.

Fun Meter

Lots of hack and slash, little puzzle solving. But for what it is, you can never be bored of killing things.

Addictivity

Each dungeon is different, but at the same time, hack and slash takes up most of the gameplay.

Total Score= 3.3 Dragons, 67.5%



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