Friday, August 21, 2015

Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and the Monster Seal (PS Vita) Review

By Tina Hand

Dungeon Travelers 2 is, in many respects, typical for its genre.  Like the old WizardryMight and Magic, and Bard’s Tale games from the 80’s, it is a first-person dungeon crawler.  Unlike those old games (and more like its contemporaries) it has benefited from a more modern perspective.  Instead of the carefully crafted party of eight player-created characters, there is a collection of truly lovely female party members to choose from, each distinctly unique in her own way.  Unfortunately, the player is restricted to five, but they can be arranged in a true formation rather than simply putting them in a line-up and hoping for the best.  A wide range of items, equipment and skills allows the player to customize each character as desired.  While the class system is limited in that there are only four base classes (fighter, mage, scout, and a class called spieler) they branch out into a tree of other available classes, making it possible to have multiple beginner classes become different things.

The game has a number of dungeons to explore, and as is usual for the genre, an incessant amount of grinding for better equipment, more money, and experience.  The first-person battle system harkens back to the nostalgic days of old PC games, but with far better graphics.  Though this game is technically a sequel, playing the first is completely unnecessary for understanding the plot.  There are numerous playable characters, and what is surprising for this type of game is that each one has a plot that is more than just paper-thin.  The characters all have personality and history—sometimes with each other and sometimes not—that make them more realistic.  There is humor present as well, sometimes at the expense of the characters, but always tasteful and in many cases subtle rather than blatant.

There is a lot to like about this game.  Though the main character—the only male in the entire story as far as I can tell—is not actually playable, he acts as a general for the rest of the party, giving at least the pretense of the characters doing what the player commands because they are meant to, and not just because a button got pushed.  Dungeons are artistically appealing without being overly-detailed, and monster graphics have a great deal of uniqueness to them.  After all, it isn’t every day you end up fighting fruit.  Also, there are extra rewards to fighting enemies that otherwise would be better avoided.  Once you have beaten a certain amount, you “seal” a monster inside the main character’s tome, allowing you to create a tome based off that monster later in town.  Those books can be equipped to improve a character’s stats and bonuses.

Menus and the interface are all very simple and easy to understand, with everything laid out logically and easy to access.  Of all the controls, a particular favorite is the right trigger, which displays the level and any status effects on enemies.  This is extremely useful when fighting enemies that cast spells, as you can see them “chanting” and it makes interrupting them easier.  Experience and money are on the low side, which forces a player to grind considerably.  Perhaps the only down side in this is that bosses are typically overpowered compared to the enemies in the dungeon surrounding them.  For example, if the dungeon has level 15-20 enemies, the boss is more likely to be 25-30 than something more reasonable.  Enemies also are unaffected by area issues.  If you are in an anti-magic area, the enemies will still be able to use spells.  Unfortunately, this renders pure magic classes practically useless, something that is actually irksome when your healer is unable to heal.   The ability to save in dungeons and exit quickly means that despite its disadvantages, it is still a fairly easy game to pick up and play.

The game also provides the player with the ability to reset a character’s levels.  This makes it possible to change classes and increase stats for a particular character without harming the entire party.  While it adds to the time spent grinding for experience, it also allows the player to reset a character’s skills, so if you accidentally purchase a skill you find yourself not using, or end up thinking is useless, you can reset their level and start again.

There are also extra dungeons that can be unlocked by performing quests.  The more quests a player completes, the more dungeons and additional options are unlocked, increasing playability as well as improving the player’s experience.  While these side-dungeons are not necessary for the plot, they provide another useful place to grind for money and experience.  On a side note, the addition of not one, not two, but twenty extra characters available via downloadable content—while not absolutely necessary to the completion of the game—gives a player the opportunity to build multiple parties, so it becomes possible to handle nearly any circumstance.  [Editor's note: You do get many party members through the game.]

Overall, the game is clear enough to be easy to play, complex enough to keep a player engaged, and fun enough to be worth the price of admission.  With multiple characters, multiple classes, and a barrage of beautiful enemies there is enough playable content to keep even the shortest of attention spans interested.  This is easily a game that can be played by casual and dedicated players alike, and all without massive DLC additions.  It was enjoyable, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes dungeon crawlers.  Just be aware of all the fan service in this game, as there is a lot.

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