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The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Using modern technology and know-how, Mana Games attempts to reinvent the 3D dungeon crawler with The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians. While not the year's most original role-playing game, this grid-based adventure is fast and full of exciting action. By addressing most of the shortcomings found in old school 3D dungeon crawlers, Mana Games has created an addictive role-playing game worth exploring. Rating: 78%
The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians
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The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians
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As a kid in the 1980s, I was able to overlook a lot of glaring problems in role-playing games. From random battles to awful localizations, old school adventures games could be a real chore at times. But the one cliche I could never warm up to was the 3D dungeon crawler. Games like Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder and Double Dungeon employed a first-person perspective that made navigating narrow passages frustrating and boring. Even the gold standard of the sub-genre, Sega's Shining in the Darkness, left me cold.

Using modern technology and know-how, Mana Games attempts to reinvent the 3D dungeon crawler with The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians. With very little nostalgia for this style of role-playing game, I was dubious they could pull it off. But wouldn't you know it; this first-person adventure is one of the most surprising games I've played all year.


After a full-scale prison break, we take control of a four-person team tasked with rounding up the 15 escaped convicts. These are dangerous killers, so we'll need a balanced group that includes a healer, warrior, black mage and more. Together they will explore the vast dungeons, pick up loot, uncover secret areas and, with some luck, defeat the escaping prisoners.

Despite the use of polygonal graphics, The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians still plays like an old school 3D dungeon crawler. Using grid-based movement, our team walks one square at a time and makes 90 degree turns. The good news is that you look around and really examine the environments, but you're still locked to moving in four directions. This is certainly not Skyrim.

It wouldn't be a role-playing game without copious amounts of fighting, and The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians delivers. The combat is surprisingly fast-paced, allowing all four fighters to attack while the player is left to micromanage spells, items, healing and whatnot. If the action gets too hectic, we're able to pause the game mid-stream and assign specific tactics. It all leads to an exciting back and forth that can quickly spiral of out of control if you aren't paying close attention.

The speed of the combat carries over to the rest of the game. Exploring each floor of the dungeon is fast and effortless, thanks to wide open areas and memorable landmarks. Even though the game has its fair share of narrow corridors, it doesn't feel as claustrophobic as the older games. We're able to strafe and map each floor, two things that sound simple but make an enormous impact on the gameplay.

The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

There are also a lot of cool looking enemies to fight. Sure, there's nothing original about giant rats and skeletons, but they are effectively menacing here. While you'll see a lot of the same designs repeat, the game does a good job of giving each prisoner a unique look and style. You'll also run into a few surprise non-human bosses, each requiring a different approach. I like that you can't just hack and slash your way through every enemy; players will need to adapt their strategies to win.

All this could have gone wrong in a number of different ways, but I found myself getting sucked into The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians for long stretches of time. The quickness to the gameplay makes a big difference, and I couldn't wait to track down the escaped convicts and uncover what is really going on in this dungeon. It doesn't hurt that each floor has a unique look and puzzles that helps break up the exploration.

While the design may change from floor to floor, the grid layout remains the same. This can feel limiting after several hours of exploration. It always feels like you're stuck in an elaborate maze and not a realistic dungeon. There's a flatness to the world that tends to make everything look the same after a while. Even when the game attempts to add beds, tables and other personal touches, I never bought the dungeon as a place people actually inhabit.

As is so common with this style of game, it's easy to get lost in the maze. The repeating textures and similar corridors can make getting around a little tricky. Even with an option to auto fill-in the map, I found myself wandering around in circles trying to figure out where to go next. It's all too common to play through large chunks of the game with the map taking up 80% of the screen.

The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

There are also a few user interface issues that frustrate simple tasks. Picking up loot is one of those things that should come with a button press, but instead players have to pick up and drag the item to their inventory. To make this process even worse, you'll need to be standing just close enough to the item and also looking down, which requires a little more finesse than you might expect. And to top it all off, there's no button to reset back to the standard camera position. Then again, this is a game that doesn't have way to quickly turn 180 degrees. These issues are even more glaring because The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians gets so much right.

I suspect that this style of grid-based role-playing game will always be fraught with problems, no matter how advanced the graphics get. But even with a few lingering issues, I was completely won over by The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians. By addressing most of the shortcomings found in old school 3D dungeon crawlers, Mana Games has created an addictive adventure game worth exploring.
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