Early access games have a reputation of being clunky and bug-filled. We accept those as hard truths of the industry especially for the indie scene with studios ranging from less than 20 people to just a mere person who develops games in his spare time. So it comes to us as a surprise when we stumbled upon Mike ReÃÂ±evo's Dungeon Souls and found it quite enjoyable and addictive even at its early access stage of the development.
Taking a page from Nuclear Throne and Spelunky, Dungeon Souls ticks off everything in the rogue-like game checklist of random loot and procedurally generated dungeons but executes it with such simplicity that playing a round of it seems so harmless until you're in your 50th dungeon run thinking where the time went and why your cat is eating your sofa.
You play the role of one of the six fallen heroes who are trying to obtainÃÂ the soul orb to return back to life. The different classes aren't just som re-skin of a generic character with minor changes, each character plays differently and requires time to fully master. New characters are unlocked when certain parameters are met so gameplay doesn't get stale quickly even after you've beaten the last dungeon. Using your keyboard to move and mouse to aim, you fight off hordes and hordes of monsters that never seem to run out, and collect items that give you a variety of different buffs.ÃÂ
Though colorful and cute, the game is deceptively difficult. Even in normal mode, you'll find yourself bashing away on your keyboard just to keep yourself alive from the hordes of challenging monsters. Enemies are randomly thrown at you at any time even in between objectives so there is never a dull moment. There are four different difficulty settings and if you think normal isn't masochistic enough, then go for higher difficulties because it really does makes a difference more than just monsters with higher stats.
Gameplay is fast-paced and fluid. Dungeon Souls is not exactly a game you'll want to play to relax after a hard day's work since it can get pretty hectic, especially the boss fights which are more shoot-em-up games with enemy particle blast filling up the screen while summoning enemy monsters as icing on the cake. What random loot you get makes a big difference in gameplay since aside from the usual stat boost, you also get some fun mechanics like Molotov that blast enemies in a certain radius or unicorn horn that gives you a random chance of hitting the enemy with 999 damage.
And have we mentioned that this game was made by only one person who's still in college? And to top it all off, he isn't even using a fancy shmancy game engine. Just good old game Game Maker Studio, the MS paint to every game developer's Photoshop. Makes you want to question what you've been doing with your life if a college student has done so much more for his game development career in his spare time than you with all the "professional work" you've been doing. But this is getting way too close to home.
All in all, Dungeon Souls is a great entry to the rogue-like genre. Even in its early access stage, it has already achieved so much more than majority of what studio-produced games could ever wish to accomplish. It has engaged the player to a simple core mechanic and slowly builds around it, making the learning curve easy to scale. This is a game that will keep a gamer sleepless if he's not careful. And seeing how much we love the early access, we're expecting a great deal for the full release.
The recent update added a few UI features such as visible experience point meter and storable potions. Prior to the update, potions are only a one time consumable item just like any other loot. Now with the updated storability of the potions, players aren't in the mercy of the randomly generated items. Though it may be a blessing to some who just want to play casually, it would be a serious difficulty reduction to others who enjoys a good challenge, especially since that is what the genre is known for. Storable potions remove that anxiety from players that they might die at any random moment when their health is low. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to the player. I am personally not a fan of the update since it makes the game a little less exciting, but I would still continue to play it and wait for the full release.