Saturday, March 2

Review: Dungeon Stars [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While I love playing grand and elaborate titles that thrill the senses and challenge the mind sometimes I simply don’t have the time or energy to commit. When that happens it can be really nice to somewhat turn off my brain and enjoy something that keeps me engaged but at a low level and that I can enjoy in 10 minute bursts if need be. When I was introduced to Dungeon Stars at last year’s PAX East that was the experience I could see it offered, and while there are some flaws to its execution to be aware of I’ll admit to wasting more time than I would have anticipated enjoying its simple and fairly addictive gameplay loop.


In execution Dungeon Stars works as a sort of auto-runner action RPG. You’ll take control of your character who’ll proceed through the multiple floors of a dungeon, fighting bad guys and picking up loot along the way. Your right buttons control your regular attack, slam attack (which you’ll need for breaking through an enemy who has a shield), and block, which you’ll absolutely need to use if you want to survive as you get further into the game. Your left buttons will control your special attacks, which have a variety of effects depending on your specific character. You’ll only start the game with your initial special, unlocking another when you earn your first promotion, and the third being tied to a pet you can choose as you slowly begin saving them from your dungeon excursions.


While you’ll only start with one character (you’ll get a choice of 3 and happily they have some female characters as well) completing dungeons will slowly allow you to amass quite a few of them. They’ll vary a little in their class, which affects their specials, and in their color between green, red, and blue. This will slowly become more and more vital to keep an eye on as each color is stronger against one and weaker against another so as you look at the upcoming floors and bosses you’ll need to cater your team to best match up against your upcoming challenges. Some specific dungeons will have class or color restrictions as well, which keeps the variety going and won’t let you continue to only use the same people all the time. As simple and even button-mashy as the gameplay can seem the mild strategic element and the need to keep your gear upgrading as well as being sure to block and break shields can be critical to success.


Where the game struggles a bit first and foremost is with performance. Even though everything is somewhat on the simplistic side there are often somewhat inexplicable stutters in performance as new rooms or enemies load up. While this can be mildly annoying, fortunately for the most part it won’t really affect the play itself. The random drops can also be a bit annoying in some regards as specific items you need to promote some characters can take quite some time and leave one of your specific color classes well behind the others. I suppose the degree of customization being increased, allowing you to change up the appearance of your heroes and have a little choice in their abilities, would be nice but simplicity is generally the name of the game here.


Despite the game’s limitations and the performance hiccups I can’t deny that there’s a quality to Dungeon Stars that absolutely got me hooked. There’s nothing quite like its “simple” clicky play, that is great to play only partially engaged but that demands just enough of your attention to keep it from being pointless. Some strategic elements and variation are nice and I won’t deny it’s exciting to find a star that unlocks special dungeons that tend to have a new pet or some great loot. While it may not be a perfect game, Dungeon Stars is a great semi-casual choice that offers up a pretty unique experience even in the crowded Switch eShop.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Relatively basic gameplay that is somehow still satisfying and engaging
  • New heroes, gear, and pets will give you some choices in how to set yourself up
  • At some point a few hours in the game does push back harder and harder, making blocking and smart character management vital

Cons:
  • There’s no doubt that the game has a problem with quite regular visual hiccups as assets or monsters load up during play
  • Getting started initially the game doesn’t explain things very well, you need to figure out the basics pretty much on your own
  • If you’re looking for depth or character customization this won’t offer you that