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Hiroyuki Ito returns to the helm for the first time since Final Fantasy 12 in another brilliant examination of RPG fundamentals.
The Japanese role-playing game stripped back to its bare essentials and yet rather than an exercise in nostalgic pandering this is one of the most compelling and sharply designed dungeon crawlers of recent years.
Dungeon Encounters is a hardcore experience, that some will dismiss as overly simple. More fool them.
RPGs have been an ever-evolving genre for years, and while most developers strive to introduce some new details to innovate, Dungeon Encounters follows the path of hardcore minimalism. The result is a game that looks outdated and with rusty game mechanics, sold at a price that is everything but minimal. It offers a couple of interesting details but also wild grinding, very repetitive gameplay, and poor graphics. We should expect more than that from Square Enix.
Review in Italian | Read full review
When your only motivation to continue is to see just how far down a tiled dungeon you can get, I became exhausted. I Love the combat system. The amount of weapons and armor you can equip your party members is great. But by not providing any story or character motivation, I became weary of the game. The repetitive music fit perfectly with the same look and feel on floor one as it did on floor 24. While I enjoyed the mechanics and searching, the somber feel of Dungeon Encounters made me realize why they don't quite make them like they used to.
As a Mechanics-First style of game, Dungeon Encounters offers little to entice players that aren't already fans of Final Fantasy's Active Time Battle from yesteryear. What surrounds that dungeon crawling experience is threadbare but established fans can use what's there and chart their own paths.
Dungeon Encounters is a masterstroke of game design, character and narrative – it's storytelling in the way only games can be. It teaches how scale is felt in a game, and it teaches, through their absence, the roles of rich visuals and verbose storytelling. Next time we play an RPG with baroque graphics and forests of text, we will understand a little more deeply where a game's atmosphere really comes from.
I'm addicted to the rewarding feeling of getting my ass kicked by some flying critter, only to line up two shots with gun attacks and take that dumb thing out of the world or, if I bust out that urn, send them to another dimension. If you're looking for an epic, grand story with a vibrant presentation, you won't find that here. But if you just want raw and engrossing exploration and turn-based combat, Dungeon Encounters delivers in spades.
Dungeon Encounters is deceptive engaging. What seems at first to be a no-frills dungeon crawler, sliced back to its very minimum eventually reveals itself to be quite the clever little project. It provides the very basic foundation needed for a JRPG, and then gets out of the way, letting the player write their own story and fill in the metaphoric (and literal) blanks in their own way. That makes it an oddly cathartic experience.
With some serious talent behind its creation, Dungeon Encounters deserves much more fanfare than it has so far received. This might not be as flashy as a typical RPG from Square Enix, but it’s clever, it’s engaging, and its simple but deceptively deep gameplay loop will keep you coming back for more. Add to that a killer soundtrack overseen by Nobuo Uematsu, and you’ve got something rather special on your hands.