- Developer: Artefacts Studio / Clair de Lune
- Publisher: Dear Villagers
- Release Date: 24/06/2021
- Price: £40.39 / $44.99
- Review code provided by Dear Villagers
Introducing: Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos
Strategy RPGs are a relatively new obsession of mine. But they have quickly become a firm favourite, to the point I finally can (but try not to) admit I own a “Rabbids” game. Getting the chance to review The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos, a Strategy based RPG, combines my love for Dungeons and Dragons with tactics based combat.
The great thing about this game is that it is based on an already existing IP. Originally an audio drama called Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk in 2001, the series has grown to include comic books, novels and now finally, video games.
So, Adventurer! Are you ready to delve into the dungeon? Stocked up on health potions? Vorpal blade unsheathed and Hylian Shield out ready for the threats ahead? Then let us descend into the Dungeon of Naheulbeuk.
You Arrive in a Dungeon…
The premise of Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is relatively simple. You enter a dungeon on the request of a wealthy patron in order to retrieve a statuette. During the course of this adventure your party come across a mischievous goblin and his wheel of misfortune. As you delve deeper and deeper into his addictive game, clearly rigged against you, you end up with the special prize of an amulet. This is when the fun starts…
The amulet, the aforementioned amulet of chaos, causes all sorts of trouble to befall our rag tag group of adventurers. Turns out the party has been cursed by the talisman and as such the band of misfits decide it best to probably remove the curse, whilst also looking for that statuette. Gotta pay that tavern bill somehow.
On the way, you gather allies, members go missing, allies becomes foes and you develop an unhealthy obsession with chickens…
Roll for Initiative
Gameplay is in two broad sections. The majority of the game is best described as a dungeon crawling RPG. With multiple floors to explore, this is certainly no ordinary dungeon. One of the first places you will discover is the tavern, yes a dungeon with it’s own tavern, you don’t find that in Phandelver! As you unlock more and more rooms you uncover more loot and quests for your party to complete. These are either part of the main quest, or one of many side quests to complete. Some are short and sweet, others are in multiple parts and create their own miniature story arc.
The second main mechanic is the combat, which is very typical of a Strategy RPG. The battle area is divided into grids, with each character having a set number of squares they can traverse. Each character has one movement and one action per turn. They can also sprint, thereby giving up their action or, later on, unlock the ability to gain additional actions. The goal is usually to defeat all your opponents whilst reducing your own casualties.
To keep you entertained as you go, your party regularly talks to both each other, and breaking the 4th wall if you leave the game idle long enough. Each character is named simply by their race or class and each has their own stereotypical tropes in which to fill. The ranger is a “loveable rogue” for example. Whereas the thief comes across as a philosophical coward. These are teamed up with a Dwarf, Elf, Ogre, Wizardess and Barbarian.
Engaging in combat is, obviously, a huge part of the game here. Each quest has as part of it, a battle sequence. Before you engage in combat, you are able to, and encouraged, to manoeuver your characters and take the time to prepare before the battle. There is a starting area marked out and characters can be positioned however you like. The top of the screen gives you a turn tracker or each round in order to plan movements. One benefit here is you can postpone a character’s move until the end of the round, when it might be more prudent to attack.
The gameplay of combat is similar to other strategy RPG games and was quite reminiscent to Mario + Rabbids at times. Characters move into position and perform an action. This can be a melee attack or a ranged attack. The character can also prepare itself for an enemy attack or activate its “overwatch” ability. Unfortunately this doesn’t activate the help of a plucky cockney sounding lass, but it allows your character to snipe an enemy that enters its field of vision. Cheer up luv, the Dwarf’s crossbow bolt is ‘ere.
Each character unlocks special abilities in combat, these can be offensive or supportive in nature. The elf for example can blow a kiss to revive members, whereas the wizardess has the ability to spread an attack over a wide area. These can be upgraded as the game progresses by unlocking the skill tree. Each character also has its own collection of weaponry that can be purchased or acquired throughout the game, giving a range of attack powers.
Give me a perception check
The gameplay on the whole is pretty fun. There’s plenty of strategy involved in moving and using your party. There are also plenty of obstacles to make the combat more than just move and slash. You could be hiding behind an explosive crate, or in setting up the perfect attack you could have to sit behind a toxic pool for a turn and risk the AI choosing it as a perfect opportunity for target practice.
The dungeon crawling aspect of the game is adequate. The characters move a little slowly at times, and there are some frustrating areas where traps are deployed. To identify traps, you have to switch between party members, but it’s not made clear when this is a good idea. This gives you the incredibly difficult choice of either running into traps and taking a hit, or always walking with the thief in tow and going slower than a drunken halfling after discovering they come in pints!
The RPG and equipment mechanics are just OK also. The skill tree and equipment themselves are fine, with some humerous names thrown in to give you a chuckle, but the mechanics in selecting them is far more complicated than it needs to be. It is not made clear enough which items can be used with which character, yes there is a picture under the description, but you have to select the item, check it’s eligible, then decide whether you want to use it. This is just one example, but making items unselectable would be a better option. It clearly is designed with its original PC format in mind, and needed more working to be console friendly I feel.
OK, now an Investigation check
Unfortunately, the transition from PC to consoles, particularly the Switch, created more problems than simply navigating one menu. Another massive issue on the console is the text size. In handheld mode, depending on your preferences this can either be OK, or can give you greater eye strain than my dad when he’s trying to scrutinise a menu without his glasses! And this is no better on a larger screen. I tested this on a screen over 50″ in size and found this incredibly difficult to read.
Usually in an RPG if one component is lacking slightly then something else can be used to pick up the slack. Normally this is a balance between story and gameplay. However, the story is a fairly generic D&D style main quest with plenty of silly side quests to bulk it up. This makes for a game where the flaws are more obvious because there isn’t enough of a hook to encourage players to forget about the issues.
Finally during combat, there is a lot of time spent during the AI turns. I found myself reaching for my phone if I saw more than one enemy had a turn after me because the AI would take a considerable amount of time choosing a movement. Just the movement mind. The action was almost instant. This dragged out battles a lot longer than needed and, in a bad move for a strategy RPG, made me want to avoid combat at times.
Does it at least have some bardic inspiration?
The game does have some very good voice acting. Some of which is provided by the excellent Felicia Day. Taking on the role of the wizardess, Felicia takes on the role with her trademark nerdy approach which has made her a favourite both on her own platform and on shows such as Supernatural. Fans of this and The Guild will easily be able to transition to her role here.
The humour between characters is great. There is clearly a lot of work done to develop the characters as individuals within their stereotype. The group as a whole also come across as a dysfunctional family dynamic, with infighting and insults being thrown regularly between specific characters. There are also plenty of running jokes that carry through the quests and also a huge wealth of pop culture references. Even lyrics to a song by The Police is used ad infinitum.
There is a lot of choice language thrown around. At times the game feels like its trying to replicate the humour of the South Park. There is the ability to mute some of the characters, namely the Dwarf and Elf if they get too offensive for one reason or another. But on the whole, the acting and writing makes a mediocre story a little more enjoyable. Fans of the audio series or its subsequent media will love it, but I’m not convinced it’s for everyone.
Let’s let the Blacksmith take a look at it
Technically the game struggles on the switch. If you set aside the already mentioned screen and AI issues, the game is slow overall. You can almost see the computations taking place on the switch whenever more than one action is being considered. This wouldn’t happen as often if it wasn’t for the fact you have a pretty large party to navigate through areas that often have environmental and NPC animations taking place too. Again, it’s something that wasn’t really considered when porting. It certainly feels at times like a lot of “ah it’ll be OK, we can patch it later if there are enough complaints,” conversations were had.
The audio and music is fine, but again there are some issues with sound cutting out. Background music is nothing to shout about, as with similar games, it is fitting of the setting. I didn’t notice it at times which is sometimes as good a sign as any.
Graphically, the biggest issue is the small sprite work lets it down at times. There are some great scenes where larger art assets are used and to be fair if the game used more of this then it would certainly be great. But the majority plays out like Diablo III, small sprites, tiny details that can easily go unnoticed. These are worked around by using the right stick to zoom in, but both this and the camera angles in general are buggy and awkward at times.
On PC, I feel this would garner a greater score, but I can’t rate it on the Switch. The technical issues with the text, frame rate and overall sluggishness made it hard for me to keep going. This would be a minor issue in a smaller title, but this brings me to a deeper problem. At almost the same price of a triple A title and certainly more expensive than most indies, this game struggles to compete with the competition.
Now in defense of that is that the game is an “extended” edition, with the paid DLC “Ruins of Limis” bundled in with it. However, this is simply more of the same and therefore more of the same issues. New players to the genre will find this sluggish and possibly overwhelming at times. Combine that with cheaper titles that have been around longer and have stronger fan bases. This game needs to do a lot to justify its price tag. Sadly, I don’t think it gets there.
- Fun and challenging battles
- A lot of content
- A fun, tongue in cheek approach to the fantasy roleplay
- Some of the humour can be a bit grating at times
- A lot of performance issues with porting the game to the Switch
- Hard to navigate and interact with at times