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Dungeon Lords Preview

GAME INFO
publisher: DreamCatcher
developer: Heuristic Park
genre: RPG

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PIII 1000, 64MB RAM, 400MB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.dungeonlordsgame.com

release date: Apr 20, 05
» All About Dungeon Lords on ActionTrip


February 08, 2005
Branka "Nikerym" Todorovic

As long as I remember, I always wanted to be a hero. However, as I wasn't provided with the detailed list of hero type things I was supposed to do as one, I was forced to improvise. And improvise I did.

First it was my granddad's walking cane and my grandma's African violets. I was absolutely sure that, as a hero, I was supposed to slay certain... things, so I let the violets and other houseplants feel my wrath because they were, erm... evil. I was punished and told I was an idiot (Been there -Ed). It was then I decided I was an outcast hero, a grim character whose fate was worse than death (Like Walker: Texas Ranger. He's a badass.). However, I needed a proper weapon so I persuaded my granddad to buy me a sword. In order to make certain I wouldn't take it out on the violets, he bought me two. The other sword was supposed to be his - he would make me a sparring partner, which was an easy work. After all, I was only a kid, right?

After slicing several granddad's shirts to shreds I was allowed to use my fake plastic sword only in a sheath. That is to say, never.

I grew up to be an angry child with an intense need to have my grandma's flowers feel the unforgiving, cold touch of my blade. And look at me now. No, do not be fooled by my innocent, sweet looks: I am not any better, I tell you. I still feel a need to do some flower-slashing from time to time, but apart from discouraging people to bring me flowers I haven't gone far in the hero food chain. I'm still the same bitter me without a real sword, and the need to waste some evil creatures. That's why some two years ago, after seeing 'The Two Towers', I grabbed my husband's hurling pole (Uh, what EXACTLY is his hurling pole again?? -Ed) in an effort to imitate Aragorn slaying the Orcs. I nearly broke the computer monitor and managed to make a rather nasty split on the kitchen table. After some friendly persuasion from my husband, I finally decided (though unwillingly) to stick to RPGs and play a virtual hero.

The only problem was immersive and complex RPGs developed in a satisfactory manner were as scarce as intelligent human beings, with only a handful of them which were quite to my taste. Good news is that, judging from what I've seen of it so far, Dungeon Lords will in all probability be on that list once it hits the shelves.

Several days ago I had the chance to play the latest build of DreamCatcher's fantasy RPG, currently under development by Heuristic Park, the authors of Wizards & Warriors. Its author is the famed David W. Bradley, the designer of several Wizardry titles (namely 5, 6 and 7). I hastily discharged it as 'just another fantasy RPG' with a clich' story and several playable stereotypical races. I was wrong. Although many game's elements still look rough and need some serious polish, it is obvious that Dungeon Lords manages to incorporate the RPG and the action elements in a very satisfying manner, making a pleasant mixture of sword-wielding, spell-casting and character development. After initial skepticism, I plunged into the dark and dangerous world of Dungeon Lords infested with goblins, bats, thieves, orc trolls and headless brutes. (In case you're wondering, the latter is a giant headless ungulate gone bad.)

The first thing I was supposed to do was choose a race. There were several races available - Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Urgoth and Wylvans. Humans and Elves offered a female variant, while the two latter seemed potentially interesting. Both featured rather ugly races with animal features - Urgoth are brutes with yellow teeth and bad breath, while Wylvans are a race of cat people. Still, I decided it was the best (and easiest) to play with the pre-made character of Lord Valor being the human male and thus obviously the most balanced one. To be honest, I did not have the nerve to bother with assigning points to different stats and character abilities typical for this sort of game as I wanted to see some action as soon as possible.

While we're on the subject of races, it is worth mentioning that eight races will be present in the game. These races differ in many things, meaning that some display more brute strength or, while others are more suited for casting spells and dealing with magic.

Another thing you'll need to take into consideration is your character's class. No matter what you choose, every class is capable of improving their stats and upgrading their abilities depending on their disposition to the thing in question. Typically, if the character attempts to perfect himself at a skill not suited for his class, it will take him more time and vice versa. Mages can wield swords and warriors can cast spells, but the difference between the effectiveness of their primary and secondary source of interest is obvious. This multi-class functionality makes the game and its characters more varied and specific, sometimes allowing them to differ significantly.

So, the next thing I knew, I was standing in a dark forest near a certain bearded fellow who demonstrated a strong urge to discuss some important matters with me. He told me I was supposed to find the city of Fargrove and deliver a letter to a person I could find there. I decided the dagger wasn't the best choice of melee weapon for demoralizing potential enemies I would meet in the forest. Instead I took a quick look at my inventory and picked a proper weapon in the shape of a light sword. I was on my way.

The first thing I noticed was how detailed everything looked - from character models to the environment. Textures are detailed and nicely colored, and some spell effects look rather impressive. And while this isn't the most beautiful game I've ever seen, it looks fairly good (the spell effects are truly spectacular), which is obvious even in predominantly dark scenes. Indeed, this game has a rather dark feel to it, and I'm not just talking about the atmosphere. Most of the levels I had the chance to play were presented in very dark settings. I discovered, however, I had no troubles in finding my way around most of the time.

Dungeon Lords features full 3D settings and a third-person view. I am not a fan of the third-person view myself, but thanks to the very precise and comfortable camera, moving and managing my character was done with great ease. It is possible to zoom the camera in and out and rotate it in all directions, which helps you take a good look at your surroundings and always find the angle that suits you best. I also noticed animation needed a lot more polish, as my character sometimes seemed a bit wooden, but I expect this problem to be addressed before the game hits the shelves.

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