Dungeonland is a co-op action hack and slash game developed by Critical Studio and published by Paradox Interactive for PC. While the game is inherently a co-op experience you can play with AI controlled bot partners.
The game revolves around the idea of an Adventure Theme Park; a place where heroes can be attacked by all manner of creatures. Adventurers will fight through 3-staged, environments in order to test their mettle and rake in vast amounts of gold. Each level has two stages of you cutting down enemies and partaking in some of the themed “rides” before reaching the areas boss.
The base difficulty for the co-op mode is hard, followed by very hard and impossible. It’s very open about the fact that the game doesn’t let you make too many mistakes. That’s not to say it’s unforgiving though; as it gives you ample opportunity to correct mistakes in various ways. Your first game will likely see you end your first “run” before you reach the end of the stage.
Team work is the central theme in the game and the choice of class amounts to more than just personal preference as they all have very distinct roles due to their special ability. Each class has three sub classes which offer different playstyles or tactics but still revolve around a theme.
First up is the Warrior; strong, melee and capable of blocking to mitigate damage. The warrior is then split into: Vanguard, Lancer and Defender. The Vanguard caries a wide sweeping club that can stun enemies and do moderate damage in a small arc. Lancers are a pole wielding variant that deals good one-on-one damage in a line (though it can pierce multiple enemies) and can charge at enemies; also bringing along allies (increasing damage) and making every ally caught invulnerable for a brief moment. Finally the Defender is the shield bearing defensive type, offering better defences for a lack of attack power but allowing him to knockback and stun swathes of enemies with a shield push.
Next up is the Mage; a more support oriented role who can make an ally invulnerable anywhere on the map. Split into Fire, Ice and Electric, they all have specific roles to play. Fire deals damage over time in an area with basic attacks and can summon a fire wall capable of mixing with allies’ attacks and burns enemies that touch it. Ice has slowing attacks that can also turn enemies to ice when you critically hit them; he can also throw an ice wall down to freeze enemies in place. Electric mages basic attacks bounce between enemies, stunning those it critically hits and can send out an exploding orb to damage and stun enemies in a large radius.
Lastly the rouge is the ranged damage dealer who can instantly kill enemies from behind by backstabbing them. The Assassin has a high critical hit chance with his throwing daggers and he can hit multiple enemies in a row with his power throw. The Gunner has slow but high single target damage over one of the longest ranges and can also fire an exploding shot that detonates after a short time. Finally the Archer has an attack that you can charge to automatically crit, which also pierces through enemies, he can also dodge backwards and drop caltrops that slow and damage over time.
Each character can equip a potion, an offensive and a defensive perk. While potions are class specific the majority of perks are classless; though some do exist. Potions are carried by heroes and only three can be carried at a time unless replenished. They give short one per potion abilities that have a wide range of benefits; from healing, reviving, damage, invulnerability and much more. Perks on the other hand are mostly small bonuses that increase damage, protection, heal on crits etc.
The combinations available between the mix of classes, perks and potions will mean that there is a huge assortment of team compositions that can be used. Some team compositions will be better than others but playing through a few different builds and finding your own particular favourite will take a little time as you have to buy everything with gold.
To begin with you will only have access to the first sub class of each character but you can purchase the others with gold along with all the potions, perks and customisable outfits. As previously explained the potions and perks have their own unique effects but the outfits are purely cosmetic and are also the most expensive things to buy for that reason. Currently there are only four (five including default) costume sets for each class and while the hats and armour sets can be mixed and matched won’t offer something for everyone. Luckily you can customise the colours easily and there is a fair amount of variation to be had with the colour sets given.
Adventure mode is the meat of the game and as I previously mentioned has three-part stages each with their own boss. The “rides” are similar set pieces that range in how good they are but are mostly likable. There is a Dungeon Master AI that will direct the game and be the one that decides when swarms of enemies or large special creatures appear. It does make each playthrough different; even it does contain similar enemies.
The special creatures that are summoned do bring their own little swarms with them but they also have auras that have very different but powerful effects. A troll that has a slowing aura around it means that it can keep you at arm’s length very easily. Heal and lightening auras are also quite deadly in their own ways and invisible creatures only appear briefly after each attack.
Challenges are the next step in difficulty if you don’t want to move to more difficult monsters. Up to three random challenges can be assigned to a game but you won’t get any notification of what they are so it can be a little more awkward than challenging at times. Losing lives for killing sheep is one that can be particularly frustrating; especially with aoe abilities. The full (presumably) list can be found on the steam guides section for the game so you can reference them when needed.
Dungeon Maestro mode is the competitive 3v1 mode where one player takes the role of Dungeon Maestro (DM) in an attempt to wipe out the heroes in any form they see fit; while the other three play through the level as usual. Pre-game the Maestro will put together a deck of cards, encompassing, traps, spells, monsters bosses and more. To begin with you have a predefined set of cards to use but you can unlock more card by purchasing them with gold; though you can only buy them in this menu as it is very separate from the item shop that contains heroes equipment. It also has added easier difficulty levels that allow the heroes to take much less damage which may be better for highly skilled DMs to play against less skilled heroes.
After selecting a deck you can begin to play against to heroes. You have a mana bar consisting of several points of regenerating mana and a hand of cards with varying mana costs. As you use both cards and mana they will eventually replenish and each time the heroes pass a checkpoint your hand will refresh and you will be put to full mana again. So it is wise to use everything you’ve got before they pass onto another area.
As the Maestro you can also possess creatures that you summon, without restriction. Everyone will be able to see which you are controlling as denoted by the Maestros hat sitting atop the head of the creature in question. Whilst possessed you will have full control over the movement and abilities in that monsters arsenal as well as gaining health and damage boosts. You also have access to one of two possession spells that either heal or teleport you around. Both are equally viable but are very preference based. The mode while in its own single (currently) Maestro only level does follow the same breakdown as the Adventure levels; two stages then a boss battle.
Playing solo with bots is a little bit of a chore. Quite unintelligent and lacking in the ability to use some skills as well as potions, the only character of much use in AI hands is the Warrior. The Warrior AI which is specifically the Defender in all instances will use its block while the Assassin and Fire Mage will not Backstab or cast invulnerability. The lack of strong AI means that you will have to find other players online to play with or people for local play on your system.
The online side of things is a little shaky still but vastly better than the first few days. There has been some trouble with closed ports but it is getting easier to connect to games and hopefully it will only get better from there. Servers are now showing ping and are better at showing current spaces left.
Presentation and Audio
The game oozes charm and has the light-hearted, cartoon evil approach to it. The design of the monsters ranges as does the various articles of clothing for each character archetype. The sound however is spot on consistently; even the Dungeon Maestro’s evil laugh, while repetitive when spammed doesn’t grate and become an annoyance.
Hard but mostly fair; the game succeeds in the core gameplay and it offers much replayability. The game forces good teamwork and the varying playstyles it offers means customisation is heavily linked with team play. Dungeon Maestro mode gives a nice bit of competitive play as well as another varied alternative to the slightly less predictable co-op experience.
While the game may still have some of the initial teething problems it is still very enjoyable and offers replayability in a very open capacity. It may be too hard for some players and they will struggle at first but you will find that you’re always learning and should eventually be able to overcome most challenges.
A toughly enjoyable game and with friends becomes much more entertaining. Playing on Voip services is almost a must as some of the tactics you need to make on the fly. It’s also fun to hear the discourse between the heroes as the DM laughs through both the mic and the game. It may make you more enemies than friends though if you are a relentlessly harsh DM.
Thanks to Corinne Clark and “Radiator Full Pig” for helping me with playing in co-op.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.