When you put together extraordinary people, does the result have to be such? This is the question to ask when faced with a seemingly small, minimalist game, almost thrown into the pile hoping that the sound generated is greater than other valid indie titles, but disappeared after a short time from the spotlight. Dungeon Encounters is a product born of a desire for Hiroyuki Ito, director of Final Fantasy IX and creator of Active Time Battle, who returns to sublimate his playful invention.
At his side, heavyweights such as Hiroaki Kato, producer of Final Fantasy XII, Ryoma Ito, who took care of the design of the characters and Nobuo Uematsu, legendary composer of the Final Fantasy soundtrack and this game. They are all first level profiles, gathered in the style of old friends, eager to create a JRPG capable of synthesizing old style, mathematics of numbers and exploration at the same time rich and reduced to the bone.
Read on to find out what we think of this new Square Enix JRPG in the Dungeon Encounters review.
Labyrinth to go down
Dungeon Encounters è a title reduced to a minimum, but not for this without the substance that matters: with a very simple synopsis, the game introduces in an almost completely fantasy setting (almost because a couple of characters and enemies are not) in which a maze full of monsters has appeared that goes down. Anyone who has gone has not returned, which is why an academy has been set up to welcome adventurers who will want to try to defeat all the monsters and get through the maze.
The story that introduces character today is beautifully characterized, able to immerse well in the character of each supporting actor. However, there is one element that immediately catches the eye and it is the absolute horizontality of each alter ego: net of the initial basic characteristics, the characters have no uniqueness, they are all equally developable. So if the image shows you a beast warrior or a wizard or a cleric, this does not mean that in the game system the artistic traits correspond to skills or anything else.
We can therefore summarize that, for the purposes of the game, if we remove the equipment, each initial character will be almost the same as the others, therefore it simply becomes a speech of initial impact and pleasantness of the design.
Dungeon Encounters is therefore a huge descending labyrinthine exploration game, with more than 90 levels aesthetically organized in groups of 10. The logic is very simple: each level will consist of boxes, neither more nor less. There will be monster boxes, then clashes, or information boxes, puzzle boxes - logical or visual - and support boxes, where you can recover life, revive your companions, buy items and so on. We could define it as a dungeon crawler with boxes, in which having to "color" each path to gradually unlock other skill points to be used to expand the possibilities of induced support of the chosen group of explorers.
Ito's new creature is a riot of bidirectional numerical clashes, minimal, but capable of giving addiction right from the start: we have a maximum party made up of four characters, five equipable objects including two weapons, two protections and an accessory, some skills according to consumption and many USEFULL.
Il combat system of Dungeon Encounters draws from the Japanese role-playing tradition at the limit of numerical obsession, proposing a very intelligent mechanism. Two types of attacks - physical and magical - and two types of defense - physical and magical - ending with the effective life: the attacks, on both sides, will therefore have the aim of sending one of the two to zero as soon as possible defenses, so that each subsequent attack of the same type will kill the enemy.
This creates a dance of attacks - some fixed, others with a random impact - which often cause damage - or survive in our case - when the defense, instead of going to zero, remains with a very low value but still valid as a defensive shield. With a really simple numerical gimmick in its essence, Ito packs a deeply mathematical system and at the same time playful, since it will be our responsibility to equip the party with fixed, random, ranged, range and so on.
Dangers in the labyrinth
We now come to the gameplay, which in its simplicity hides some absolutely unexpected hardcore twists: the advancement into the depths of the labyrinth is a journey that starts simple, but which is already complicated not a little from floor 20, adding several dangers to the equation, also for the fault of enemies with often devastating attacks or clashes that surprise us by putting us in front of very powerful opponents.
To say, we were disintegrated by an enemy who twice made a move that took all defense off all prime level characters. Made it twice, party destroyed. Initially you think that theself-rescue you take you back somewhere, but no: you will have to start over with new adventurers, reach the point where you lost the first group and slowly bring them back to life. It is a cumbersome process, not aided by gaps between floors present only every 10 levels, which could exhaust and disorient for its brutality.
It had already happened to us and we had already had to make several different plans with a party of basic level characters, avoiding any confrontation, with even a bit of anxiety for the fear of making mistakes and sending even the last remaining characters available to the winds. In short, we are talking about a sufficiently honest product in general, but capable of giving life to those 2-3 random situations capable of destroying the party in an instant, forcing you to jump through hoops. What if you lose the other characters too? Game over, or start from a long time before, throwing away hours of play, or with the last character left alive, or from scratch keeping the experience, but not the objects.
In short, it comes to say that everything is beautiful until you understand how complex it can become to advance in the labyrinth, but maybe someone appreciates just that. sense of oppression that constantly grows. Imagine a Dark Souls where, if you die, you have only one chance to return for the lost souls; if you lose earlier, start over either from scratch or from hours of play back.
Simple, but very pleasant the sound sector curated by Uematsu, able to accompany with discreet relaxation and then get more pushed, in The Black Mages style, when you enter the battle.
CommentTested version Nintendo Switch Digital Delivery Nintendo eShop Price 29,90 € Resources4Gaming.com
Dungeon Encounters will initially give you a lot of addiction and desire to continue, but it must be said that the almost total absence of history and variations weighs down the journey. Dialogues, bossfights, uniqueness of the characters, particular equipment would have been convenient, instead the general horizontality of the values and progression will lead you to have to become stronger and stronger to do more and more damage to the enemies, logically more and more formidable, who will stand in the way front. We could say that Dungeon Encounters represents the perfect backbone of the JRPG, in which, however, all the rest of the structure is deliberately missing, which is what drives us to move forward in an RPG. Fun, but definitely but not for everyone; the other certainty is that the game is cut around Nintendo Switch, it is almost unthinkable to think of playing it on a fixed platform only.
- Fast and mathematical combat system
- Minimal characters but with their own charm
- Flow and exploration work
- So much soul, too punitive
- In the medium, the structure becomes too readable and repetitive