The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk is style exploration. I’m always nervous when I play new XCOM-likes and it’s hard not to compare these games to Granddaddy XCOM. With the bar being set exceptionally high, the game needs to perform. Thankfully for all concerned, it performs well.
Setting out I’d put emphasis on the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons roleplay side of things, as one of the first things you’ll realise is that the dialogue makes it feel like your roleplaying with a bunch of fifteen-year-olds. Maybe I’m being too harsh, too early. It’s just… I didn’t find the dialogue funny; at times it’s kind of childish. The cutscenes play out like you’re watching an episode of an edgy adult cartoon where it’s funny to drop a few swears and then beep out the use of f*** – it’s like that. I groaned every time it happened and rolled my eyes. Either commit and go full hog or don’t do it at all.
The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk puts you in the shoes of seven typical D&D characters who are on a quest to find a statuette. Before long, they’re cursed by the Amulet of Chaos, bringing the party large doses of misfortune. Oh, and they are also trapped in the dungeon until they complete their mission.
The aforementioned Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk has seven floors for you to explore, with destructible doors, loot-filled boxes to find and traps to dodge as you make your way through hordes of evil minions. Your starting party consists of a ranger, an archer, a thief, a barbarian, an ogre, a wizard, and a dwarf and all have unique skills to utilise during combat.
In between floors, you’ll find an abundance of characters to interact with and vendors to buy new shiny things from. There’s even a tavern inside the dungeon where you can casually go and hang out. Who ever said adventuring was hard? You’ll be making regular trips here in order to rest up, sleep, and buy new stuff so it’s a handy place to be.
The leveling system is fairly simplistic with each character able to choose a path down their respective skill trees, specing how they feel comfortable. You have base skills and then the ability to upgrade those skills one way or another, giving different effects. I like this because it encourages experimentation and unique takes on builds, even if it’s not as fleshed out as other games in this genre.
The Ogre is probably my favourite character, mainly because they make the point that his backpack is so large and he is so strong, that he is carrying all the party’s items. He’s also got some terrifyingly brutal attacks although his accuracy is a touch on the low side, meaning you’ll need some support from your teammates in order to bolster his ability to hit.
Taking your party into combat is definitely the strong point of this game, despite it still feeling a touch simplified next to other games. You start off in the preparation phase, placing your units in tactical starting positions and then when you are comfortable, starting combat. Each unit gets two action points to spend how they see fit. Movement is not free and costs one to two action points depending on distance. More often than not, you’ll want to go behind your opponent to utilise the backstab mechanic, dealing more damage, so it’s not a total waste if you spend a turn just getting people in position.
If you can think a few turns ahead, with careful planning you can set up some pretty good situations for yourself. Placing your teammates next to enemies when you attack provides another bonus to your accuracy, making it easier to hit. Just like real tabletop RPs!
The combat also has the same levels of bad RNG you’d expect from this kind of game, which I’d like to think can be explained away because the party is cursed, bad luck kind of being their thing. My one small complaint with the combat is that difficulty is not seemingly measured by more skilled enemies but instead volume. This makes some engagements a little on the long side which is a worry, and it means some may find combat to get repetitive very quickly.
To top it off, the fights can be punishingly difficult at times, even with no permadeath by default. You can turn on Ironman mode at the start of your runs, however, if you are feeling like a sadist. Even during the tutorial fight, I had three party members down and another two close to death. I got lucky and managed to dispatch the final foes but man, I was sweating.
The UI has an abundance of information to help you keep track of any situation. It’s clear, concise and I never felt overwhelmed trying to make sense of everything. Exploring is made easy with you able to move the camera freely allowing full visibility of the gaming environment. Pressing down on the D-Pad also highlights points of interest which is always welcome in dungeon crawlers. Through exploring and battling, you find plenty of loot to line your character’s pockets with. What’s even better here is that putting on armour pieces actually changes the look of your characters which I really like. Like a true D&D experience, you always want your character to look the part.
The art style is ripped straight from its comic counterpart, with cheesy comical visuals and over-the-top archetypes. A couple of characters are on the nose and slightly dated – I’m looking at you ‘dumb blonde big boobed elf,’ but they are remaining faithful to the source material and it’s not really too offensive to worry about. The story is linear and there’s no dialogue options to alter the direction of the plot which felt a little odd for an RPG, but it’s first and foremost a tactical game so once again, I’m willing to look the other way on this one.