PAX Australia: Dungeon Dashers Preview

One of the best things about PAX is the indie love.

You couldn’t walk too far in the Expo Hall without seeing an indie game anywhere. Whether it was out in full display or tucked away in a little corner somewhere, you were bound to find a game that was a gem. One of these games was Dungeon Dashers, made by Andrew Sum. His game was one that was getting a lot of love and curious looks at the show and for a good reason, the game is a lot of fun.

What’s Dungeon Dashers though? It’s a Turn Based Dungeon Crawler. I guess the game plays in the same style as the Fire Emblem series, but the thing with this game and why I really loved it was it wasn’t slow. It played quickly and that made it more enjoyable, you weren’t chewing the fat, you got straight into the meat. Andrew has been making the game since the tail end of last year, with a plan to release later on in 2013.

In the demo I played at the show, I was introduced to 4 different characters. My first character was zapped into the dark and cavernous depths of the dungeon, his name was Ryder and he was a Rogue. I started to move him around, going through doors and fighting enemies before I reached an impasse. A gap blocked the path before me and I had no way to cross it. But then before I became disheartened, a prompt came up to tell me I could “blink” across spaces! This allowed me to teleport across gaps, through locked doors and past other blockages. Within a few seconds I was zipping around with ease and solving puzzles. I eventually reached a door I couldn’t blink through, as there were rocks on the other side, stopping me from progressing.

This was where I was introduced to Sir Jacob, the knight. Immediately ready for battle, trying to find a wizard. Confused at his surroudings, he decided to fight his way out instead. His special ability was to charge and cause huge damage, and break rocks. It didn’t take long for me to realise that Sir Jacob and Ryder were to meet. And like I thought, they did. After a quick discussion they teamed up to escape. Using two characters now, outside of battle I could switch easily on the fly to solve puzzles and use their abilities to progress.

Battles take place like normal in a turn based game, with AP (action points) determining what you can and can’t do. Moving, attacking and using magic and abilities deplete your AP, ending your turn and allowing the baddies to attack. I mentioned before the thing I loved was the game didn’t play slowly. From beginning to end of the first level, I was done withing 5 minutes. You can even speed up everything with a single button hold of the Shift key.

With my first level complete, I moved on and was introduced to the last two characters of the game, the Wizard Ardon, who uses magic and the ability to use them at range. The Ranger January rounded out the cast. She uses arrows and, just like the Wizard, can attack at a distance. Once you had all four of your playable characters, you could really hone in on how differently they played and what made them stand out from each other. I really enjoyed using Ryder and his blink skill. Being able to jump through obstacles and attacking a skeleton from behind was an awesome and satisfying feeling.

The game looks great too, using a pixelated style, but having enough character and personality to stand out. The fantasy setting helped set the mood too, making it feel like one of those old school Dungeons and Dragons games which I love. There’s a good sense of humour behind the game as well and talking with Andrew, I mentioned it to him. He told me that this was his first time writing. It certainly didn’t feel like it. There were a few times I was laughing out loud at it, like when being told about how to speed up the action. Being told that pressing Shift was to speed up the game to make action faster and to “skip well written dialogue and interactions” was hilarious. In a setting and genre where people can take themselves way too seriously, it was a refreshing change to see.

Right now, Dungeon Dashers is up for voting on Steam Greenlight, but the game is confirmed to come out on other avenues like GOG and more. You can also buy the game direct from the website and gain access to the Alpha right now! You can also follow Andrew on Twitter and Facebook!

Dungeon Dashers is a game that takes what makes the genre fun, distils it into it’s base elements and concentrates it into a super fun, super tight experience. I’ll be keenly looking forward to seeing it’s full release and you should be too. Now where’s my credit card, I gotta buy that Alpha…

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