"I was given free reign to make my dungeon look any way I wanted. Even when I had to put the game down, I was planning my next floor. “Do I want long corridors towards several rooms," I would find myself asking with every floor "or do I want curved, turning hallways to spiral out from the starting point?”"
Every now and then games introduce new ideas in an attempt to redefine their chosen genre. Most of them, like Night Trap, end up falling flat on their face. Yet sometimes, games succeed at the attempt, break the barrier and create an entertaining experience that is anything but typical.
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground is one of those titles.
It starts off by introducing you to the main character, an architect who has just purchased an empty dungeon on the outskirts of a new town. His hopes are to build a grand enough dungeon to capture and kill The Wandering Demon, Dungeon Maker’s antagonist.
The game goes on to introduce the villagers, like the town builder. He will be helping you with all your architectural needs. Then there's the town beggar who, for one gil at a time, will point you in the right direction if you happen to get stuck.
Most of the dialogue and story takes the bench at that point. Dungeon Maker does little to create plot twists or brewing love interests. Global A Entertainment, however, created something so original, so addictive you probably won’t be bothered by the thin story: Dungeon making.
There are only the most basic items are available to begin with. Straight corridors, L and T shaped corridors and small one-door rooms. Needless to say, your first floor won’t be anything spectacular. It only serves a tutorial, introducing you to the basics of dungeon building.
Floor by floor, piece by piece your dungeon will start to come together. As you progress, better rooms are introduced: Japanese parlors, complete with wooden floors and papers walls; Elegant and mysterious fountaing rooms. Dungeon Maker’s later floors also allow you to use bigger rooms, some of which you can use to create chapels that will ward off the undead, or Altar rooms that will attract them.
This is what pushed me so hard throughout the game. The premise is simple: Create a better dungeon to attract better monsters, who provide you with more gold to allow you to buy more pieces for your dungeon, to make your dungeon better. Yet in this simplicity is where Dungeon Maker becomes insanely addictive.
I was given free reign to make my dungeon look any way I wanted. Even when I had to put the game down, I was planning my next floor. “Do I want long corridors towards several rooms," I would find myself asking with every level, "or do I want curved, turning hallways to spiral out from the starting point?”
Then I would actually build it. I would push through my dungeon, battling monsters in real-time combat with precision controls, tack on pieces, curse when I ran out of them before I finished, return to town to buy more and start all over again the next day.
When I did return, it was exciting to see what kind of monsters had made their way into my dungeon, what kind of items they had left in my treasure chests and what rating my new floor improvements gave me.
When I got tired of seeing the same thing in my dungeon, I could change the corridors with the press of one button. Dirty, dingy hallways became dark stone corridors or beautiful carved marble hallways, all of which looked amazing blazing off my (borrowed) PSP’s screen.
When I got bored with simply “building” I could take on one of the many side-quests provided by the villagers. At times they would ask me to find a certain item that they would later turn into something better to provide me with a stat increase. Other times they would give me a new room in order to trap and kill a specific kind of monster. With a lacking story, these side-quests provide a bit more of a goal-oriented task.
If I got bored of my dungeon entirely, I could take a warp portal to a random dungeon, where I could battle, blindly I might add, through another persons creation. The random dungeons were often the best way to provide me with new items, sometimes those in side-quests, and it’s a nice break not knowing what lies around the corner every time.
So what if Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground doesn’t have a story? It looks amazing, its controls are tight and Dungeon making is the most original, most addictive idea I’ve seen in a very long time. Games rarely get this good, especially games that try to break new ground. This is a must own. Trust me. You won’t be able to put it down long enough to return it if you rented it.
Freelance review by Greg Knoll (August 01, 2007)
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