Super Dungeon Run is a lesson on the power of mobs. You’re granted control over a small group of cudgel-wielding peasants who are greedy to their core and will do anything you tell them to if it involves getting gold from the dungeon. Pikmin will come to mind as you play through its monster-infested underworld, a simpler version of the Nintendo game where you chuck your ever-increasing party toward the perils of the dungeon, collecting coins, other peasants, crafting materials and potions as you go deeper and deeper into the dungeon. I played a tad of its early access version, and here’s what I think.
The gameplay is surprisingly simple, but manages to offer some enjoyment with the progression mechanisms implemented in the game: there’s little micro-managing as you toss your swarm onto enemies and dance around various traps – flamethrowers, floor-spikes, whirring sawblades, arrow-traps, etc. – hoping your weakest peasant won’t get picked off as you look for a potion to heal them or wait for them to level up. This is also to its detriment: with no tactical input from the player, as the most difficult decisions you make are related to when to use a potion, your only other agency boils down to avoiding the traps and trying to focus your hurdle on a single enemy to end them faster.
Once you meet your demise a tally is given of how much experience, gold and materials you unlocked, before introducing you to the game’s town. These resources will then unlock new character classes and different potions (which are of questionable value) that you can then equip so that when you open chests they are included in the pool that is randomly drawn from, and will allow you to expend your XP points on increasing your starting party, improving your heroes, the starting level of the dungeon and the bonuses awarded from missions.
Sadly, the basic tactical premise doesn’t allow much evolving: you’ll soon notice that regardless of how far you’ve gone into the game and how many things you’ve unlocked, you’re still playing as you did when you first started – the rewards that experience and gold unlock are merely the ability to unlock more experience and gold, as your “attributes” increase but the actual gameplay suffers little variation. It’s a tried-and-tested mechanism of “gathering for the sake of gathering”, a loop that feeds into itself and that doesn’t reward skill but rather time played. Here, its inspiration from Diablo becomes clear.
Fortunately, the game comes in a nice wrapping and a cute package, with different dungeons and several types of monsters – from greenheads and skeletons to goat-headed necromancers. There’s plenty of variety in the tilesets and enemies to keep things fresh as you venture deeper into the dungeon, alt
Super Dungeon Run felt too simple, and if I felt like playing more regardless of this basic gameplay it has my apelike brain to thank for: I wanted to continue playing just to put more green tiles on my skill tree and see my mob grow in numbers and variety, which explains why games like Clicker Heroes are so popular, rather than improving alongside my growing arsenal of tools. As it stands, the strictly visual aspect of variety confers a shallow depth that will sooner rather than later wear out – something that could be better avoided on a quick game you could play on a mobile, but becomes a glaring flaw when on the PC. By granting power to the mobs but none to the player, it becomes a game about investing time to collect resources that are then spent on becoming better at collecting resources. Changing how you approach things as you improve will lend some much-welcomed tactical depth to the game, something the developers might take into consideration as the game is still in development. As it is, Super Dungeon Run plays like a mob: you can’t truly control it once it’s formed.
Early Evaluation segments ponder on the state of a game while it’s in Early Access. For this segment, Super Dungeon Run was played on the 5.0 patch.
Super Dungeon Run was played on retail code provided by the publishers.