Hands-on: Dungeonland

I am a Mage, Ex-PC Zone writer and current Continue magazine editor Paul Presley is a Warrior, and Paul Dean of Sit Down & Shut Up is another Mage. He should have selected the Rogue: despite Dungeonland‘s cute set-up, a theme-park set, co-operative action RPG, it’s a harsh game that needs the three corners of the set-up to work, but an errant button press launched our ill-formed group before he could rectify it. We stand shoulder to shoulder, a group of brave standy adventurers until a PR lady comes along and organises seating, and then we sit down to face the giant worms, the not so menacing but explosive frogs, and rest of the dungeon master’s menagerie. It doesn’t go well.

Dungeonland is designed to be hard in the way that Left 4 Dead is: you have to play with a talkative team of well-balanced players that stick together, or you’ll be swamped by the randomly spawned AI. It plays like a simplified Magicka in some respects: we have powers that the other players can combine theirs with, so my defensive firewall can be used by the Rouge to boost his ranged weapon, but the attack customisations are done by swapping out powers in the load-out screen, not on the fly. It was the team balance issue that undermined our first playthrough: the Mage is the healer, and we had two and a Warrior.

Our Warrior was rampaging through the arena, a brightly coloured entrance to a theme park, with two Mages healing him. Even as he pushed on ahead of us, it wasn’t enough to keep the rest of the enemies from swarming us. So we died first: our offensive spamming, throwing a weak bolt of magic from our wands means we’re unable to deal a lot of damage. We were killed by tiny wizards and watched the Warrior bravely attempt to revive is us before some sort of purple dinosaur thing killed him

Tiny Wizards. The embarrassment was enough for us to determinedly return to the fight. With the knowledge that the game is balanced for three classes, that the developers consider each of us working together as a whole player, we swapped Paul the Mage over to the Rogue and tried again.

It definitely works better that way. Each class has a special power: the Rogue has a one-hit kill, the Warrior can lay down a protective wall, and the Mage has a ‘Ray of Awesome’ that makes the nearest player invulnerable. With more time to see what’s going on, we crash into the level and notice that the purple worm sticking out the ground is actually spawning enemies: I dropped a firewall down and Rogue Paul tosses his blades through it to score some extra damage on the worm. Warrior Paul barrells through the group of tiny wizards, beating them away and launching into the worm’s body.

This is better. It’s not easy, but the teamwork helps. The levels aren’t static: there are pick-ups, including actual barrels you can grab and toss at the enemies, health can be grabbed from sheep, so whenever we see one there’s a dash to see who can get to it first, but that’s just for show: health pick-ups are shared between the players.

The level is set out like the entrance to a theme park, a brightly coloured road leading us on. Because the spawns are randomly generated, we’re reacting to things like giant chickens blorping towards us. The strongest unit is me healing Warrior Paul with Rogue Paul dancing around close by, picking off anything that the Warrior has missed in his meaty fist swings. Those brief moments of synergy reveal the fun in Dungeonland: it’s not a game about individual acts of heroism, in fact there’s a lot of running away if you get split from the group. Even together, there’s a chance that the spawning will run rampage, dropping a Mind Flayer, a Cthulhu-ish mini-boss that can take control of a player, just as you’re about to trip a checkpoint and forcing you back through the level.

That should be hateful, and that or something similar left us trying to stay alive to resuscitate each other on more than one occasion, but more often than not it was just funny. A sort of gallows humour pervades: you know you’ll die, you know you’ll be a liability, but everyone has it tough and you’ll drop multiple times no matter what. It’s only hateful if someone’s died stupidly walking into a boss without any backup.

Which I now regret doing.

The nature of the game, and the time constraints, meant we only spent a short time marauding through the opening two sections of one level. We never made it to the promised ending on a ride, fighting the rain of frogs. It was all about the journey in that case. It’s a fun game, although it’s a bit throwaway. I don’t think it’ll make the mark that Magicka did, if you have friends looking for a co-operative action game, for four people (we weren’t shown it, but the fourth person can take the role of the dungeon master, playing a tower defense style game), there’s definitely some value in it.


  1. Maldomel says:

    We need more games with strong co-op required. Magicka and even Left4Dead are really hard when played alone, but a treat if other players are involved.

    • Aphex242 says:

      Couldn’t disagree more. While more games that really support co-op well would be nice, we don’t “need” games that essentially prod people into playing co-op because the difficulty on SP is batshit insane.

      • markventurelli says:

        Hi Aphex,

        We’re not trying to “prod” people into anything. We believe that, especially now with smaller games and digital distribution, there is no need for every game to do everything.

        We are building Dungeonland as a co-op game, so that’s what we are spending our limited resources in (with the added “competitive/trolling” aspect of Dungeon Master Mode). There are many rich single-player experiences that can be found in other games.

        • Chufty says:

          I agree, you can never have enough co-op games. We have regular LAN parties and there’s nothing more fun than a good session of Sven Coop, L4D, Serious Sam or Dungeon Defenders. This one looks to have the potential to be added to the list.

          However, what’s annoying is this seemingly arbitrary 4-player limit which now seems to apply to every single co-op game out there.

          I have more than 3 friends thankyou, and it would be nice to be able to play some of these games at a 6-man LAN party and get everyone involved.

        • Martel says:

          Bless you markventurelli. I love single player games, I love competitive games, and I love coop games. They don’t have to all be one and the same. Hopefully you’ll be offering a 4-pack for this, as it looks right up my alley and I’d love to get some friends into the action when it’s released.

        • cassus says:

          I agree. The surprise hit of last year, for me, was Dungeon Defenders. That game was absolutely fantastic and made me remember why I loved playing the NES with buddies back in the day, and how much I’d missed it.
          Will definitely be checking this game out.

    • Wreckdum says:

      Shitballs. When I saw the screenshot it reminded me of Fat Princess. I didn’t think it was going to be a co-op game. Sad face. =( I want a PC version of Fat Princess. NAOWWWW.

  2. Cameron says:

    A Rouge with a ranged weapon? That sounds way too powderfull.

  3. frightlever says:

    Yeah. I want to be the L4D team guy who has to explain to one of his mates that sorry there’s no room for you. Not even as a shoddy healer.

  4. Kyoss says:

    the graphics kinda remind me of farmville

    • Cameron says:

      Mage farm – coming to a Facespace near you soon.

      On a more serious note, got to say that I like the graphics of this game. Any graphics that include pointy hats are ok in my book.

  5. markventurelli says:

    Hello everyone! I’m one of the developers of Dungeonland. Thanks for playing, Craig, I hope the game wasn’t too cruel to you guys :-)

    I just wanted to clarify that the roles are not necessarily that strict. Mage does not need to be a healer and Rogue does not need to be a damage dealer. By swapping the Weapons and Potion skills you can play with two Mages and a Warrior and it is efficient.

    If anyone has any questions about the game I’ll be more than happy to answer them!

    • Fabulous says:

      You guys are abslutly awesome! Its good to see a brazillian team making such a quality game. Beign brazillian too i feel its my obligation to buy this game day 1 :D

      • Tei says:

        I have no questions, just to thank you guys for making games of this type. Hope at release have a good netcode, its critical in a coop game, specially if it become a hit, and probably will become a hit.

        • markventurelli says:

          Why, thank you guys =) I’m a little “Rouge” myself now!

  6. wuwul says:

    Did someone recently open the cages in which the action RPG developers were confined previously?

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Perhaps they’re all following the news of Diablo III and saying, “Heh, we can make a better game than THAT.”

  7. TotalBiscuit says:

    Game’s great fun, it’s got that brawler kind of feel with a great aesthetic and excellent sense of humor. It’s ROCK HARD as well which is in itself a plus. I’m interested to see what they can do with the dungeonmaster role, there’s a lot of possibilities for tomfuckery with it and some hilarious scenarios.

    • markventurelli says:

      Thanks, TB, glad you liked it :-)

      We’re eager to show everyone the DM mode! We’re having a lot of silly fun with it around here.

    • jrodman says:

      Rock hard, or coordination required? I’m fine with the latter, but the former can go get stuffed.

      At least I can hope for “fluffy pillow” difficulty level setting.

  8. MythArcana says:

    One can certainly see where Paradox has their focus lately…