Ah, the top-down RPG. There was nothing quite like playing an original Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda for the first time and realizing that the world was so much bigger than anything you’d ever played before. Of course, this experience was had many years ago, and we’re now used to games on a different scale. In spite of that, some games using the old top-down formula do manage to stand their ground. Jigxor’s Dungeon Dashers brings back the top-down RPG on Steam with relative success.
Dungeon Dashers is based on the story of four adventurers all seeking to find meaning behind a mysterious symbol. They all meet in the same cave as they start their quest and quickly put aside their differences in order to work as a team. These four characters make up your party for the rest of the game, and they include: Sir Jacob – the Knight, Ryder – the Rogue, Ardon – the Mage, and January – the Archer. Each character has their own unique skill set and personality to contribute to the party. Although a lot of their dialogue and skills may seem a bit cliché, it doesn’t necessarily take away from the game itself. In fact, you might find yourself chuckling a bit when the Ardon starts talking down to people but Ryder couldn’t really care less. Each character continually grows as the game progresses, and they unlock different skills that the player can arrange how they see fit. Though there isn’t much in the way of actual customization, the increases in strength when new skills are added are definitely felt.
The gameplay is fairly simple to get used to, though a little difficult when you’re starting out. The game is definitely in need of some kind of tutorial in order to walk the player through the combat system because it can be a bit confusing at first. The levels all play out like a dungeon with a clear objective at the end. There are different rooms throughout with enemy encounters that vary in size depending on the room. Though all of the levels are based on the same kind of system, the layout and actual environment is always different. Some levels are based in a forest, others in temples, and all depending on where the adventurers are in their quest. What all the levels have in common, however, are boxes. Lots and lots of boxes for you to break (very much like the pots in the Legend of Zelda series). They’ve also got different puzzles based on each character’s abilities. For example, Ryder can blink over obstacles while January can shoot arrows at bells. This makes it important for the player to understand how the characters should work together in order to reach different objectives. None of the puzzles are particularly difficult in nature, but they do require some level of thought.
Where this game shines is the turn-based combat system. Unlike most turn-based systems, you’re free to move the characters around the room that the encounter is in. This allows for a different element of strategy that isn’t always available in this sort of game. The combat also flows very well and it never feels dull at any point. My only qualm with the turn-based system is how it translates into the rest of the game. Even when you’re not in combat, you have to cycle between “turns” in order to move the characters around. Though Jigxor did remedy this somewhat by spreading teleport sites throughout the dungeons, some of them are single-use so it can be a little frustrating at times. Luckily, there’s always a teleport site in the room with the final dungeon objective, so it’s not always a pain to work around.
When you play a classically styled RPG, graphics shouldn’t exactly be the main focus – especially when you compare them to more modern games. That being said, Dungeon Dashers is a nice looking game. It does exactly what it needs to do in order to make you feel like you’re playing an older game. The graphics exist more for nostalgia than for any kind of impressiveness. The music also does a lot to immerse you in the world and provide those nostalgic feels. I particularly enjoyed the music in the cutscenes, as it did sound different from what I’d heard in other classic-style games.
All in all, Dungeon Dashers is a good game. Though it’s not particularly exciting throughout, it does have a few elements that make it stand out among the whole modern classic RPG crowd. Since it’s still on Steam Early Access, there’s no telling how it might change between now and when it exits development. If you’re interested in checking out Dungeon Dashers, you can pick it up here on Steam Early Access for $9.99.