Dungeon Lords First Play

The action-RPG has been all the rage in the console world but games in this genre for the PC have been very few and far between – which is a bit of an oddity since the PC game Diablo essentially created this genre. Dungeon Lords is an upcoming game that attempts to correct this oversight by bringing action-RPG gaming back to the PC where it all began. While there is plenty of action in the game, it will offer far more RPG than you find in console games and provide a deeper role-playing experience – and it certainly has the pedigree to do so with famed Wizardry designer DH Bradley directing the game’s design. Intrigued? So were we and we were lucky enough to get our hands on an early build of the game, and we offer you an inside look at what you can expect from Dungeon Lords when it is released in April 2005.

The first step in any kind of RPG is always character creation, and Dungeon Lords is no different. However, you will notice something different about this game as you go about building your in-game persona. First of all, unlike typical action-RPGs that provide you with a small number of stock characters, Dungeon Lords gives you plenty of choices in crafting your character. There are seven playable races in the game, from your standard humans, elves, and dwarves to unique races that resemble orcs and cats. Each race brings their own bias to your starting stats, with humans, as always, the most balanced choice. You can play as a male or female character for each race, but this is not simply a choice of which skin will be applied to your character model. There are differences to stats between the sexes so you’ll want to match your character’s sex to the type of character you want to play. The game will also allow you to customize your look by mixing and matching features such as skin tone and hair style.

There are also character classes in Dungeon Lords, but the game takes a bit of a different approach to this RPG staple. Your class does not restrict your talents so much as it provides you with a specialization – a set of skills at which you can increase your proficiency at an accelerated rate. For example, as a mage there is nothing stopping you from acquiring and improving swordsmanship skills, but it will be much easier and faster for a fighter to develop these skills. This is a very flexible system that will let you create just about any kind of hybrid class that you would like to, but that still allows you to follow a traditional class progression if you’d prefer. At the start you’re given a set number of points which you can use to improve your character stats or acquire new skills. Each successive improvement in an area will cost you a growing number of points, so you’ll need to put some thought into how you allocate your points. Do you go for a wide range of basic skills or do you forego a breadth of talents in order to squeeze out another upgrade or two to a key skill?

Once in the game you’ll notice that Dungeon Lords resembles a third-person action game more than an RPG. Instead of a top-down, three-quarters perspective view, you are placed in a 3D world with the camera just behind and above your character. The control scheme is straight out of a first-person shooter – you use the WASD keys to move and the mouse buttons to attack and block. Using different combinations and series of movement key presses and mouse clicks will unleash a variety of attack combos, letting you unleash more powerful attacks and adding more strategy and depth to the fighting system. For you mage types, spells can be mapped to the number keys so that they are always close at hand. Press the desired spell button and your next mouse click fires the spell.

If the build that we played is any indication, the action in Dungeon Lords will be fast and furious. You’ll often be attacked by multiple enemies simultaneously and will need to be smart if you want to survive the fights – it’s more than a matter of trying to click the attack button as fast as you can. If you’re an RPG purist then this might all be too much for you, but most gamers will enjoy playing an RPG that can actually get their adrenaline flowing.

Dungeon Lords looks like it will be a true action-RPG game, melding the best aspects of each genre into a unique and enjoyable gaming experience. Whether you look at it as an RPG on steroids or an action game with brains, Dungeon Lords looks like it will be the first true action-RPG and we can’t wait to see the final game.