Sunday, August 9, 2015

PREVIEW: Dungeon Travelers 2 (Vita)  


Welcome back to Coffeecola! 

I don't often do straight-up previews of games here at the blog, but every once in a while I make an exception, and I'm doing just that for the upcoming Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal. It's coming to the Vita, and published by the good people of @AtlusUSA. 

I talked about this game in the last post, and I'm happy to say that my initial impressions have only gotten better -- and I really liked it at the time!

While there's no doubt that it's a fairly traditional dungeon crawl game played from the first-person perspective, what stands out to me are the nuances and variations on the standard turn-based combat formula. It's not something that leaps out at you right off the bat, but after putting in quite a bit of time, I've only got appreciation for the ways the devs have changed things up.

The biggest shift is that Dungeon Travelers 2 doesn't boil down to being the usual battle of attrition that games of this kind usually do. In general, when trying to clear a floor in a dungeon, progress is usually a matter of seeing how far you can get before you run out of magic points or healing items. It encourages hyper-tight management of resources during battle, and is a pretty standard rule of design. In this case, the developers have eschewed that in favor of something more generous and flexible, and it doesn't take away from the game at all. 

Basically, many of the characters have skills which automatically replenish their life and magic points during or after battle. Another big difference is that one of the classes, the Maid, has a variety of skills that cost her zero MP. These 'upkeep' skills can heal other characters, refill magic points, and have a variety of other effects. As long as a Maid is in the party, many of the usual things that chip away at the player's ability to keep playing are negated, or at least strongly mitigated.

I'm also a fan of the way that Dungeon Travelers 2 handles magic spells. Rather than happening immediately after being selected from a menu, any character casting a spell (friendly or enemy) has to chant for certain amount of time. If they take enough damage while chanting, the spell is canceled. Other games have done this in the past, but what makes this feel so different is that enemy magic is incredibly strong, and if foes happen to get a spell off, it's usually an express ticket to a party wipe. As such, whenever I see an enemy start to chant, it becomes a mad rush to knock them out of their spellcasting, regardless of whatever else I'm doing at the time. It lends a lot of urgency to each encounter, and changes the flow of battle.

The varied character classes (each with several advanced upgrade forms available on a branching path) are as smart as the other changes, and the moment-to moment strategies are deep. The way a Berserker functions on the front line is absolutely different from the way a Paladin does, and that in turn has a ripple effect on the rest of the party. I think it's every bit as nuanced and complex as the finely-crafted systems seen in Etrian Odyssey, and just as enjoyable.

While I don't think there's anything here to change the minds of people who don't like this kind of hardcore dungeon crawl, those who are inclined to such experiences should definitely take the time to check it out. It's different, it's interesting, and I've been having a really hard time putting it down.

The game releases in the US on August 18th, and my full @Gamecritics review should be up the day before.


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