Dungeon Lords
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-01 PC RPG T (Teen) Dreamcatcher / Heuristic Park

I'm sure Dungeon Lords has had several gamers fuming ever since they purchased the game and before patch 1.3 was released. I read my share of nasty comments about it, but I was still intrigued. It looked like an interesting game with very nice graphics, and I still wanted to play it regardless of all the comments about bugs.

The first thing I was told after receiving my copy of Dungeon Lords was "don't forget to download the latest patch". I didn't forget, but the patch seemed to have done nothing. Changing the resolution made the intro screen pull up to the top left corner of the screen leaving a black area filling the rest of the screen and the menu screens would flicker when I tried loading a game. The Junk inventory which was supposed to hold duplicate items was constantly empty and things were being discarded if I picked them up. Some character customization options weren't clickable, the map didn't work, monsters were disappearing or going through walls, NPC's weren't giving out the quest items or key conversations, and there was this Curio Shop where I could keep reselling my lockpicks for money without losing a single one.

As nosy as I am, I had to snoop around the game folders (this is usually how I break things, trying to fix them) and eventually found the problem. The patch downloaded to a separate folder, instead of replacing the older files like it should have. So after manually moving everything to the right folder, I tested it again and was I ever happy!

Ok, still some character customization options wouldn't show up, I was still unable to open certain chest and some monsters still enjoyed partly hiding in walls, but the rest was fixed. The map made everything so much easier, considering that before having it, my awesome sense of direction got me lost for 25 minutes before finding the town gates. Still, it would be nice to see the map as a whole, instead of just a portion of it.

While playing Dungeon Lords I got a similar feeling to that when I used to play Neverwinter Nights. Except this looked way better. In fact, it's a bit like playing an MMO made especially for you, if that makes sense. That's the best way I can describe it.

The game at first has some very wacky controls, took me a while to get used to even after customizing my own keyboard settings. After a while - and some deaths - I got the hang of the combat and spell system. It's very entertaining to move around slashing things and casting magic missile or freezing goblins in place, especially because the animations for the attacks and spell effects are very well done.

I like that I don't need to wait to level up to upgrade my stats. You do level up when your experience bar is full, but since you are accumulating experience points as you kill things, you can exchange them at any time for a skill or stat increase, assuming you have enough to "purchase" the feature you want.

There is a lot of story to be found and an insane amount of quests to do. Several guilds will offer you tasks so that you can join them, so from each of the 4 starting classes (warrior, priest, thief and mage) there will be 2 sub-classes, with the advantage of unlocking 2 more if you play a female character, by doing the Sisterhood quest. You can advance your character by completing any four of these quests (provided you meet the stat requirements) and gain their respective attributes, and later develop them into a higher version of themselves.

Let's say you are an Adept and joined the Celestial Order. You get the option to become a Celestial, a Paladin or a Monk. If you become a Paladin, you will gain the Heavy Armor, Heavy Shield and Heavy Weapon skills. A Paladin can then advance by becoming a Crusader when the character's stats are high enough for the "promotion".

Certain quests let you pick a Heraldry badge as a reward. Each piece of Heraldry becomes a permanent bonus (for example, completing the House of Dragon gives you the option to pick a 10% fire resistance bonus among others).

Another feature that I find the game lacks is a detailed quest log. There's a little log that shows you the basic goals, but then it either stops showing the next steps or keeps some that you have already done. Upon completion of a certain task, it won't tell you to go back to the person who gave you the quest to claim your reward. In some cases, you know enough to progress but then wander lost for a while looking for clues.

The environments are really beautiful. It's worth stopping to look around and check the detail on the grass, trees, wall and floor textures. It's especially worth stopping at the elven village of Arindale, which is reminiscent of Rivendell.

The monsters are pretty cool. I mean, you have your standard giant bats, giant rats and giant spiders that happen to jump and lunge at you - and make me jump in the process - but it wouldn't be an RPG without them, would it? But then there's an amazing spectre, some huge headless guys with axes, stinky slime blobs, goblins, a sort of treants, talking rock heads, trolls, dragons, nagas and scorpions that have so much detail put into them that it was easy for me to get distracted admiring instead of killing them.

More impressive was the dragon that snuck up on me. How exactly does a dragon sneak up on you, I'm not sure (tip-toeing?) but I turned a corner and there it was, spitting fireballs at me from behind some trees. My most exciting moment was trying to steal a dragon egg from a nest, on a mountain side populated by these fire drakes. Died a ton of times getting stuck in the rocky hills and being turned into BBQ meat, but I got out with the egg!

Dungeon Lords has a lot to keep you entertained for a quite a while, especially when it comes to the multiplayer option. Do you have a couple of friends who play it? Schedule a day and make a LAN party, it doesn't get better than that. Well, actually, yes, it could get better, since there's no way to save the character progress for an online game.

Dungeon Lords had me right from the intro movie and menu screen music. They're both very epic, for lack of better words. And so is the adventure. It's a shame to know that this title came out with several faults, disappointing those who purchased it at launch. But there is still time to turn it into an even better game.

Except for a roaming lady with a man's voice in the town of Fargrove and some minor bugs which should be addressed in future patches, Dungeon Lords is a really good hack-and-slash with a great story, lots of questing, several character advancement options and gorgeous graphics.

Special thanks to Duane Brown and Dreamcatcher for providing the full version of this game.