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Dungeon Village (Switch) artwork

Dungeon Village (Switch) review

"Dungeon Village is an addictive city builder with dungeons on the side that you'll actually want to play."

There's a misconception when it comes to addictive games, which is that if they can keep you playing them, they must be good. But I've spent many hours playing games I didn't technically enjoy. It was a genuine relief to finally be shed of them.

When I reached the fifteen-hour mark in Dungeon Village and it informed me suddenly that my final score would be tallied, I felt a bit irked. There was no warning that I could see anywhere in the game up to that point that a hard deadline was approaching. "Well, I'll never play that one again," I snarled angrily. But then the text informed me that I could keep playing and finding new content. My efforts merely wouldn't count toward my score. If I wanted a better score, I would have to play through again.

Dungeon Village (Switch) image

As a gamer, that's the sort of moment that forces you to stop and ask yourself what you really think of the game you're playing. I decided I was having a pleasant enough time that I might as well keep going. And then I did, for another 15 or so years of in-game time, until I had unlocked essentially every character and class and experienced everything unique the game had to offer. Then I sat down to write this review, but I'll be honest: I would rather be taking another run through Dungeon Village to see how much higher a score I can manage by the time I reach that 15-year mark again. 140,000 point seems totally beatable, now that I know the things I know

Dungeon Village, as the name mostly implies, is a city builder that happens to have a generous helping of dungeons on the side (though you never see their interiors). You are the newly elected mayor of a village you can name. I went with "Honestgameria," like everyone should. Your job is to turn a small assortment of shacks--an inn, a weapon shop and an armor shop--into a thriving mecca for adventurers. They will then move to your village and go out on dungeon raids and monster extermination quests, which generate additional revenue that you can use to build the village into an even more useful environment for the heroes so they can fight tougher monsters. There's an obvious loop there, and it's an addictive one. More importantly, it is a mostly enjoyable one.

If you're familiar with Kairosoft, you likely recognize the name from having played the similarly addictive Game Dev Story or some other similar project. The developer tends to produce ridiculously inviting sim games for mobile devices, and Dungeon Village arrived on the marketplace in 2012 as just such a project. You can currently purchase it for just $4.99 on the Apple Store or Google Play, while this year's Switch port presently costs a less enticing $12.00 on the Nintendo eShop. The newer release lets you play on your television if you like, with a Pro Controller or similar. That's the particular experience I wanted, so the price increase felt justified. Other folks might want to consider the smartphone edition instead.

Dungeon Village (Switch) image

Assuming you do want to play on the television screen, I should caution you to expect a period of adjustment. Holding down the A button cycles through text way too quickly, and even a simple button press seems to skip stuff. So I had to get used to tapping the button very carefully to avoid missing instruction. Additionally, it feels like not quite the whole screen is on display. I played for a few hours and the on-screen commands in the bottom left and right sides of the screen, as well as part of the status bar, seemed to be missing. However, I quickly adapted to such quirks. The L button quick saves any time you like, and R or X pulls up a menu. This interface may feel more intuitive if you're just tapping and swiping the screen, but once I got used to the process, I mostly had a painless controller experience. There's a lot of menu diving, but there's no undue pressure because the action pauses while you dig through your inventory or whatever else.

Probably the thing I like most about Dungeon Village is that it's a relaxing time killer that somehow manages to maintain a sense of forward momentum and urgency. That probably sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true. Even when I didn't realize there was a 15-year deadline (and I really wish that point had been made more obvious, but now I know and have told you), I felt compelled to find more efficient uses for my in-game time and resources. I quickly become invested in my efforts to expertly expand the village, because the monsters steadily grow mightier and players need to engineer a similar evolution for their band of heroes. But the visuals are sugary sweet the whole way through, as is typical of Kairosoft's output, and the music is repetitive but suitable for a lighthearted take on kingdom building. I also really love the art style, with its vibrant color palette and the surprisingly detailed little structures you can erect. They look good to me even on a 68" 4K television set, and allow me to build a world that I would happily inhabit. Even the monsters are polite as new breeds show up and announce their nefarious intentions for your village. It's all very soothing.

Dungeon Village (Switch) image

Most of the player's time is spent building up heroes so they can take on the growing threat that lurks just outside the city walls. It's true that you need to devote a lot of time to carefully placing buildings and to managing events, but those events for the most part just provide stat enhancements for every visiting adventurer who comes to your village. Then you have to assign those heroes to raids and you must outfit them with the best gear they loot from caves and swamps or buy from shops. You also have to decide which classes they master and learn next, and as you can imagine, there's a lot of balancing that goes into every decision. As long as you're making reasonably smart choices, you're going to keep advancing. The challenge comes from the pursuit of true efficiency.

I mentioned at the start of this review that I have spent many hours playing games I didn't actually enjoy. But when I reached their end points or finally just walked away in search of better uses for my time, I was done with those experiences. I was uninterested in returning to them later because it was a relief to finally break free from their hold on me. Dungeon Village is different. I can see myself happily returning to it again down the road, or maybe even this evening or the next. Certainly, the campaign had its moments of downtime and tedium, as seems typical of the genre, but the experience overall was sufficiently positive that I don't hesitate to recommend it to other players who have enjoyed similar fare in the past or who are looking to finally try something a little different. I'm pretty sure they'll enjoy themselves, as I did. The addiction is just something else that happens along the way.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 28, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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