Dungeon Encounters Review – Review

Dungeon Encounters Review - Review

Dungeon Encounters Review – Review

Information about Dungeon Encounters Review – Review


Who needs a story when you have exploration and combat this enjoyable.

The presentation of Dungeon Encounters doesn’t scream modern Square Enix. This dungeon-crawling RPG wears its tabletop inspirations on its sleeve with a relatively straightforward visual design. That is deliberate according to the game’s director, Final Fantasy luminary Hiroyuki Ito, as the intention of this Switch RPG is to focus on exploration and combat. While some aspects might frustrate, Dungeon Encounters thoroughly succeeds at both replicating the look and feel of a tabletop RPG and crafting a mechanics-focused game that feels like it’s two shakes away from the Etrian Odyssey series.

The world is presented in a grid, with your party leader represented by a static play piece. You move them around each spot on the gridded map, exploring every nook and cranny, looking for secrets, and encountering enemies. You have your choice from a handful of characters at the start, but all the differences are mostly in presentation. Just pick the characters you think look the coolest that you want to roleplay as. All you have to go on is a brief story setup for each hero and a portrait. More characters can be found as you explore the 100 dungeon floors, usually requiring puzzling to find and rescue.

Exploring floors can take time, but it’s enthralling to navigate the grids and try to figure out the different riddles that surface. Battles are frequent and are almost nakedly inspired by Final Fantasy, even borrowing the Active Time Battle system by name. Your party of four all have two weapon slots, split across physical and magical attacks. All enemies and heroes have physical and magical defense. You have to whittle away one or the other to get to a foe’s hit points. These battles all fall into numbers games as you strategize ways to efficiently reduce enemy defenses so you can kill them all. Twists arrive frequently, so relying on one strategy for the whole game is not possible. Enemies might petrify you or reflect magic attacks. It’s a learning experience that gets tougher and more tense as you make your way through the floors.

You aren’t truly encouraged to switch up your party, which can sometimes put you into a bind when the more-frequent-than-you’d-like overpowered boss encounters crop up to threaten you with a total party kill. Those moments are deflating, as your party remains trapped on the tile where they were killed. As long as you still have party members alive, you can try to rescue them, but therein lies another troublesome wrinkle. You have four party members, but you need to take at least one character to go rescue them. And then you can’t have more than four party members at a time, so someone has to stay behind or you need to run a convoluted ferrying system to get the gang back to home base. Later abilities make this process less cumbersome, but it’s especially punishing in the early goings.

Furthermore, the game auto-saves after every movement, so you can’t even revert to an earlier save if something awful happens to your party. On one hand, the commitment to living with the consequences of your risks and gambles is endearing, but on the other, it can almost totally ruin a game you’ve put hours and hours into. Clearing all 100 floors is 20-30 hours of gametime at a minimum, so it’s not like restarting after your party gets annihilated on floor 50 is appealing.

The economy in this world is also peculiar, so much so that a fight with the wrong gold-stealing enemy could leave you in debt. As long as you avoid that enemy’s thievery, gold accrual generally outpaces the amount of useful items to spend gold on. Running into shops is infrequent in the dungeon and the shop’s stock is tied to enemy encounters in a way that doesn’t replenish frequently enough with strong enough items to be worthwhile. It turns the experience into being more reliant on treasure and enemy drops, which I actually enjoyed a lot. Sometimes I’d come across an immensely powerful weapon, whether it’s the Cutlery Set that helps you potentially eat enemies or the urn that banishes enemies to another dimension. A reliable strategy is to just give every character a physical attack and a magic attack with different target types and ranges, and have at it, but you can also roll the dice on using some wilder moves to improve your enemy-killing efficiency. All of the structure and rules are straightforward, but the way you can play in this space is incredibly alluring. I started off playing it safe, but the deeper my inventory got, the more I started toying around with unique items and builds.

The presentation, which at first looks a little drab, became something I was unbothered by as I got deeper. The only place where the simplicity stuck out was in the music, which is adequate but not quite as memorable as I’d hoped coming from Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. It’s just a lot of rock guitar riffs on classical songs and it’s just merely okay.

Dungeon Encounters is rough around the edges, but that’s part of the reason why I’m having so much with it. Ito’s past with the Gambit System in Final Fantasy XII and the job system in Final Fantasy V seem to be on full display here because once you learn how to toy with the mechanics and launch some effective attack and ability synergies, you can mow down enemies with flair. I’m addicted to the rewarding feeling of getting my ass kicked by some flying critter, only to line up two shots with gun attacks and take that dumb thing out of the world or, if I bust out that urn, send them to another dimension. If you’re looking for an epic, grand story with a vibrant presentation, you won’t find that here. But if you just want raw and engrossing exploration and turn-based combat, Dungeon Encounters delivers in spades.

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