I’ve always been a fan of classic, side scrolling brawlers. I have fond memories of playing Golden Axe and Streets of Rage with my siblings while we were growing up. Hearing of a game, successfully backed through KickStarter, that was inspired by one of these very titles piqued my curiosity. So naturally, when Dungeons: Eye of Draconus from SuckerFree games finally arrived, I was excited. A game heavily influenced by one of my favorite games as a child had to be good. At least, that’s what I thought.
From the very beginning, Dungeons: Eye of Draconus lets you know that humor is going to play a major role in the game. You are introduced to your “heroes” in a video that is very clear on how these aren’t your typical honor-bound adventurers. You have Bolax, the half naked barbarian; Rose, the beautiful warrior; and Gleobryn, the effeminate magic user. This introduction of sorts also gives you insight into the writing style used through the rest of the game.
The writing in Dungeons relies heavily on stereotypes to get laughs and is definitely intended for a more mature gamer, although the humor seems targeted at teenagers who still laugh at sexuality. It isn’t all bad, and Dungeons: Eye of Draconus isn’t the only game guilty of relying on the tried and true. One thing I can commend the writers on is that they kept it up throughout the entirety of the game. They chose a road and stuck to it, for better or for worse. I must admit that there were a few moments where I did genuinely laugh, and I can’t fault the developers too much for their particular taste in humor. Tied in with the oddly uninspired voice acting, it all comes together to make me believe that the tone is purposeful. They wanted a game with eye-rolling worthy humor, and they delivered.
The major offender in Dungeons: Eye of Draconus is gameplay. From the very beginning, you can see that the team was truly inspired by Golden Axe, from a character select screen that is almost identical, save for the bondage outfit adorning the skeleton, to melee combat supported by strong special abilities that rely on a special meter. The game even has mounts that boost your damage output and allow you to trample nearly every foe with ease. Even the simple barebones control scheme is reminiscent of the old beat ’em up. One button attacks, one button does your special, and you move with the arrow keys. But these inspirations are skin deep, and the gameplay doesn’t reflect anything that it was hoping to capture in its lightning seeking bottle.
The gameplay is as repetitive as you can possibly get. I know, it’s a brawler; those old school games were always a bit repetitive. I have nothing against repetition, as long as it is engaging. While borrowing heavily from the games that made this category great, Dungeons failed to really carve out something of its own. I was expecting something new, something that took what was amazing all those years ago and built upon that. Dungeons: Eye of Draconus brings nothing new to the table, and instead manages to fumble what already exists.
The combat is dull; there is really no other way to put it. You mash the attack button and keep moving, in the hopes that you can evade enemy attacks. I say “in the hopes”, because at times you will take damage when it seems nothing on the screen hit you. Dungeons has amazingly bad hit detection when it comes to enemy attacks. At times, it seems that as long as the enemy swings somewhere in the vicinity of the screen your character occupies, you take damage. This is especially true of the few boss fights scattered throughout the game. Not only do they damage you without ever having hit you, there are times when they appear to take no damage whatsoever.
Even one of the few enjoyable aspects of the game manages to get in the player’s way. I’m a fan of the background art in Dungeons: Eye of Draconus; it has just the right touch of imagined fantasy. Yet, even that manages to get in the way during gameplay. You will, at times, find your view completely blocked by the game world, which just adds to the annoyance of the combat.
It took me about an hour to complete Dungeons: Eye of Draconus, which was honestly way too long to spend with this title. To top it off, after that hour, you aren’t even greeted with a proper ending, but a cliffhanger instead. In order to find out what happens, you’re going to have to play the next installment in the series. Unfortunately that is something I cannot possibly recommend. It’s heart was in the right place, but Dungeons: Eye of Draconus failed to deliver on the nostalgia it tried so hard to pull from its influences. It’s a shame that a title with such high aspirations came out feeling so uninspired. For this reason, I must give it a 2/5.