Every so often a game drops over the desk of our Editors that really sparks excitement in a few of us and as soon as I heard The Living Dungeon was up for review I leapt at the chance. Having been a big player of desktop strategy games, D&D, Warhammer etc in my younger years so I was keen to see how the Living Dungeon has made its transition from board game to the console. So what’s it all about, are you sitting comfortably, then I will begin.
Many years ago, an ancient and mysterious structure was unearthed in the desert. Curious to what fortunes lie within, an expedition entered into the ancient artefact to discover its truth. At the structures very centre stood a crystal, the expedition activated this crystal unleashing a dark and sinister presence and only few made it out alive. Now the structure acts as a living tomb to a half-dead god that screams out wanting suffering for all, changing its shape constantly to try to trap and consume its inhabitants. Many travelled to see it, many stayed, a city soon formed around it and now the inhabitants use it to punish some, entertain others, whilst some have their own agenda.
Ok so now I have your attention lets start, Developed by UK based Radiationburn The Living Dungeon is a strategy provoking, table top dungeon adventure that takes its roots from a board game and brings it elegantly to the console. From the word go the whirling cogs on the title screen really set the scene and the option screen allows you to jump into Multiplayer, Story Mode or view the characters of the game. I decided to head straight to the characters to see what Rogue and warrior types I might find and I wasn’t disappointed. The first character you come across is Chantelle, one of the famous arena Gladiatrix of the city, she manages to annoy her captor Lord Serflower and he sentences her to death. In a bid to escape she jumps into the dungeon, not exactly a win win if you ask me.
The images of the characters are well detailed and colourful and really keep in with the simple idea that these are game pieces, animated during your turn in gameplay or when you die, they bring the game to life without loosing its board game feeling. The more you play the more characters you unlock and each one brings its own style and abilities to the game. Having investigated the possible characters and confident that I could take on what evil lies within I enter the single player mode.
The introduction to the single player mode is via Sajitor, a raptor looking creature that you actually get to play later in the game. He explains the background to the dungeon and introduces you to Chantelle. It is here that you learn how to play the game. The game board’s created on 9 dungeon tiles, made up of 3X3 tiles, in a 3X3 grid. Each of the tiles can be manipulated, rotated, flipped and even replaced and you soon become aware this is key to the game and victory.
When it’s your turn you roll a set of coloured dice. Red are combat dice, allowing you to fight monsters, blue is movement and agility allowing you to move around the dungeon and jump gaps and brown are mechanicals. The mechanicals allow you to manipulate the dungeon, rotate the tiles and even replace entire 3X3 squares. This has huge consequences in the game as you can trap monsters and remove the dungeon from beneath your enemies feet so they fall to their doom. On top of these core dice are orange and yellow, these give more chances to roll the values of the original 3 dice but can also reward you with booster cards and gems to be used in-game.
As you progress through the single player, completing specific goals and fighting for survival you meet new characters and even though it’s quite choppy in terms of a story line, the simple yet stunning drawn cut scenes and the challenges that you face soon make you forget about the odd discrepancy. Whilst playing through the dungeon you also discover ‘The Darkness’. The Darkness controls the dungeon and is probably known better as the Dungeon Master of the game and will do everything in its power to stop you from reaching your goal.
Having really got a taste for the game I was keen to try multiplayer and this is where the game really stands out. At present there is no online multiplayer but before you shout and start to moan the development team at RadiationBurn are working on this and hope to have this for a future release. In the meantime you can play local play with up to 9 of your friends and trust me there is nothing better than sending your best friends plummeting to their doom.
The standard features you would expect from local play are there with a nice mix of game modes from HeadHunter and Assasination which are your normal Team Deathmatch style to Escape, where as you expect you need to escape the dungeon before it gets you. There is also the option to have the AI play against you just incase you find yourself all alone and twiddling your thumbs one evening. I was also really surprised about the amount of options you are given in terms of game customisation. Team Deathmatch modes can be setup any way you want from for 4 v 4 or all against all, and if you are feeling really evil you can take the role of Dungeon Master and control all the monsters and the dungeon with the aim of totally crushing your friends. Now that’s what I call an enjoyable evening, death, death and a little more death.
There is a limited number of desktop based games available on the Xbox One at the moment and the Living Dungeon fits snugly into that gap. The game itself reminds me of board games such as Hero Quest and the simple clean-cut scenes and characters really add to the experience of the game. The single player brings you nicely into the game but it’s the multiplayer that really makes this game stand on its own. With the promise of online play in the future and a price of only £11.99 this game has a bright, or dark future, depending on how you play it.
Thanks to Xbox and RadiationBurn for their support
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