Dungeon Souls is a new dungeon crawler roguelike from Lamina Studios/Mike Studios, and published by Black Shell Media. The game released on Steam on December 2, 2016, after a about a year-and-a-half in Steam Early Access. Currently the game has a “Very Positive” rating, with 941 user ratings at the time of this writing.
After a little over two hours into Dungeon Souls, I’m fairly surprised that the game has managed to accrue such a positive score.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say my experience with Dungeon Souls was negative, but it surely was not “very positive.” It was somewhere around average, maybe a little less.
Dungeon Souls delivers a cookie-cutter experience that suffers from overwhelming visuals, weak sound design, vague gameplay mechanics, and repetitive boss encounters.
Players begin by selecting a hero to take into the randomly-generated dungeon. I tried the barbarian, the archer, and the brawler a few times each. I found that ranged combat is far more effective in Dungeon Souls, as so many enemies have ranged attacks, and when they are clustered together it becomes very difficult to get close enough to melee attack without being pelted by ranged attacks. So, from a distance as the archer, I picked off the enemies I encountered in the dungeons and that worked just fine for me.
Dungeon Souls allows players to utilize a controller, but that proved very unwieldy, so I quickly switched back to using the mouse and keyboard, which worked just fine. Once I settled into the control scheme, I noticed that the audio seemed to be crackly, with little static-sounding pops every few seconds. I soon discovered that the popping sounds were coming from my character. For some reason, for every other step the character took, the game played a little pop sound. I guess it’s supposed to simulate a footstep…but then why is it every other step? Do they all have peg-legs? The use of that sound effect made little sense to me, and it further degraded the quality of the game’s audio, which was never impressive to begin with. I completely muted the game after a short time.
With the game muted, I went on my way click-shooting arrows into the opening dungeons’ giant rats, angry snowmen, and a wide assortment of other enemies. To complete each dungeon I had to activate a designated amount of runes that were scattered throughout each dungeon. By stepping on the rune the game triggered a handful of enemies to spawn in directly around the rune, quickly surrounding me. Time and again I found myself taking needless damage simply because I couldn’t tell what was going on in the chaos. Between the glimmering gold pieces that scatter from slain enemies, dropped items bouncing up and down in place, my abilities going off, enemy abilities going off, my passive buffs activating…it was chaos for my eyeballs. Add to that trap runes that are hidden on the floor beneath all of this, and it’s just a mess.
I want a rougelike to punish me because I made a mistake, not because my brain short-circuited trying to take in so much visual feedback at once. On my best run (I was doing SO good!) I died because I stepped on a covered, corner trap-rune and the giant boulder that rolled out of the wall came with very little warning. That warning was a small window of text saying “Watch out!” I had difficulty seeing that text through the overlapping text from the items on the ground that I was looking at. Clearly, so many things in this game could have been done clearer, and it would go far to reduce the visual mess that is often on the screen.
A few other issues I had with the game involved how repetitive the boss fights felt: you just dodge the projectiles they fire at you and then deal damage to them, sometimes they move around a bit; how the game fails to explain what some of the stats are, nor does it explain how the crafting/forge system works; and the fact that I was experiencing weird framerate issues and the game would crash whenever I adjusted V-sync.
I know I’ve spent around 600 words talking about why I disliked this game, and while I did dislike most of Dungeon Souls, I didn’t hate the game. It’s just, an alright game. If you’re really into indie dungeon crawler roguelikes, you’ll probably get more mileage out of Dungeon Souls than just about anyone else will. For everyone else, be advised, there are better dungeon crawlers you could be playing, instead.
The publisher provided Epic Brew with a retail copy of the game for the purpose of this review.