The following review was originally posted on GameNTrain and is written by Luke Siuty, who currently doesn’t write for SteamFirst.
Dungeonland uses the traditional RPG conventions as much as it makes fun of them. Choosing either the slanky Rogue, the overweight Mage, or the sturdy Warrior, the trio cooperates in slaying bulky orcs, toon dragons, and tiny wizards. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill Torchlight or Diablo though; it all takes places in big theme parks for adventurers, where heroes’ lives are covered by deductible insurance and popcorn spills more than blood.
Paradox Interactive’s humorous style is quickly apparent; the creators of Magicka throw jokes and references to other games faster than you can keep up. Giant Dungeons & Dragons dice stand in the corner as the diabolical Dungeon Maestro laughs. The DM, who places traps like Beer Towers that shoot sticky, harmful alcohol and monster spawners, can be player-controlled. Essentially, then, Dungeonland can be 3 humans (on one machine, pad support available, or online) vs. an orchestrating, evil mastermind.
Dungeonland primarily uses difficulty as its mode of operation. Unless the trio closely cooperates, they will surely fall. The mage can render an ally invincible with a beam; the knight can stun opponents or shield himself, while the Rogue can sneak behind for instant kills. Diverting attention is the best weapon against bosses. For regular fights, they need to focus on taking out monster spawners. Creatively-named foes, such as Phoenix, Rabbit, or Spider occasionally appear, inducing a bit more care in the play style. For the most part, mashing attack and using stronger abilities like mage’s fire wall or rogue’s knife throw will take care of crowds, but not if you’re careless. If someone dies, a party member can revive him for no penalty, provided that the third player can keep creatures at bay. Then, the party progresses, running into occasional “unique” monster with a single, random trait, a la Diablo, some environmental traps, and finally bosses. If you find it too easy, boost the difficulty and masochistically request up to three challenges, which are random debuffs, such as longer times between dodges or slower resurrection.
The stages quickly become copy-paste environments, with similar-looking pathways. While they hold up their charm, very few elements in the game are destructible, so all you’re going to do is look out for treasure chests and mailboxes that hold stuff. The colorful sheep though, which can be thrown and erupt with various effects, are a cute and characteristic game mechanic. Most of other mechanics don’t live up to the charming, humorous themes the game sets up. With gold, you can purchase perks, different potion effects, equipment, and even classes for the heroes, but the customization still feels shallow.
As for perks and equipment, the clothes and weapons you purchase have no effect at all. It’s perplexing, because all equipment can be earned with in-game gold, so other than for dress up, there’s no reason to buy cooler-looking stuff that could have impacted the gameplay. Only one offensive and defensive perk can be selected, and you may find yourself just sticking to the boring, but effective increased critical hit chance. It’s a shame, really, that Dungeonland has less depth than most RPGs out there, giving it little strength to stand out in the crowd of simply better games that already have co-op imbued. For a PC game, the control scheme is not utilized to its full potential, as the heroes have only two special abilities. One or two more could fit definitely even if a pad is used – but why this game isn’t on console, beats me – it’s user-friendly enough to be.
Friends, sadly enough (as ironic as that is), are a requirement to the game. The AI, for the most part, “auto-pilots” the bots fairly well (which can happen to you too if you AFK) – they attack, stick with you, and use their skills. They forget that they have the team-healing potions, so once you run out of them, you’ll be left screaming at your monitor. With any boss, obstacle, or otherwise unique situations, you are most likely to be wiped out completely, even with multiple lives. That’s no reason to get discouraged, though, as long as you can muster up a party.
The dungeon master, while an entirely fun role to play, is a little simplistic. It’s very disappointing to not be able to create dungeons or tamper with them in some more advanced ways than just summoning waves of monsters and placing traps. Players are notified when traps are posted, which perhaps makes sense for some of them, like spawners and incoming rockets, gleefully shortening the lifespan of the poor heroes – but the false life drop, not so much. It’s easy to outsmart the DM by retreating or entirely avoiding some of his traps, even if only one human is teamed up with two clumsy AIs. While the game can be set to harder difficulties, I wish the DM had more creative power to engineer more diabolical, insidious traps. He can still take manual control over bosses and laugh maniacally whenever he wants too, so he at least has that.
Dungeonland thrives on great humor, friendly visuals and mechanics, but lacks satisfying profundity to keep players coming back. Its strongest points are multiplayer – with friends, if you can get them together – and challenging difficulty. Setting conditions can be a real gold mine for hardcore players, but at the same time, the shallow gameplay can keep them away. Dungeonland needs to spice up its gameplay and add some depth before becoming a real competitor; there are just too many titles that can gratify the hack ‘n slash multiplayer experience.