Game Title: VR Dungeon Knight
Developer: Blackjard Softworks (Review code provided courtesy of them)
Platform: PC VR (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Price: $19.99 (On sale for $17.99 until October 8th)
Video Showcase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML0A2BTgTmY
What is it?
VR Dungeon Knight is a simple dungeon crawler at its core, offering randomized dungeons for players to delve into, searching for hidden treasure and to take down hordes of orcs and skeletons. While as a standard game this doesn’t sound like anything special or new, it being a VR game opens the genre up for so much more potential and interactive fun.
The game starts off in a short tutorial area that will teach you all the basics before you head off into your first dungeon. First up is movement which there are multiple options including teleportation, purely analog-based locomotion, and arm swinging locomotion. Combat is covered next which is designed in a way that discourages player’s from swinging wildly and waggling. This is accomplished by the game not registering hits that lack speed and motion as well as a weapon charging system that encourages the player to wait a second or two before striking again for maximum damage. Lastly, climbing is taught to the player which should feel familiar to those that have played any climbing-based VR games.
After the tutorial the player will find themselves in a castle with many different doors. This includes an options room, the mysterious investigation room, a weapons room, the door to enter randomized dungeons, and a door to fight the Necromancer, the game’s final challenge. The basic gameplay loop involves using one of two different spell books to create either Normal or the more challenging Nightmare dungeons. Normal Dungeons are the basic difficulty and offer a shorter, more simple challenge, Nightmare on the other hand offer a increased challenge and size which scales up with each successful run. While progressing through these the player will earn experience from killing enemies, gold from any gold piles they find, and some weapon chests if they successfully make it through. Extra chests can be earned by completing the dungeon under different circumstances which are going undetected, killing enough enemies while taking minimal damage, and finding and defeating the dungeon’s mini-boss. These chests are opened in the weapons room and if you earn any weapon duplicates in a chest it levels that particular weapon up.
The weapons room is something you’ll want to head into before each new dungeon to equip yourself however you please. It’s possible to slot up for four total items in your physical inventory which is available on your belt for three of the slots and on your back for the final one. This makes your gear easy to access in those sudden combat encounters. Gear has different weight values as well, so if you equip too much then you’ll find yourself moving slower. A handy indicator on your belt will let you know what your currently weight class is.
Beyond the basic weapons there are also the “Marked” weapons which are earned by collecting well-hidden tokens and then exchanging them for special chests at a vendor that can be found randomly in Nightmare Dungeons. Currently there are only one of these weapons, but the developer has more planned.
The ultimate goal is to keep powering up weapons and your character until you feel capable of defeating the game’s final boss, the Necromancer.
What I Liked
- Satisfying combat system that encourages the player to actually use weapons how they would in real life. This means you can’t waggle to win.
- Dungeons are randomized providing a lot of extra replay value.
- Variety of weapons to unlock and level up that cover melee, ranged, stealthy, and magic playstyles.
- Intuitive inventory system that makes use of a a visible belt and your back to store your gear for easy access.
- Multiple locomotion options, including a more realistic arm swinging movement feature for those that want to add even more realism.
- Level design that encourages a lot of interactive movement whether it be crouching through small crevices or climbing up vine-covered walls.
- Multiple paths to take and hidden secrets to find in dungeons.
- Simple leveling system and armor unlocks that allow you to further define your character and playstyle. These can easily be reset and swapped around so you aren’t locked into feeling like you should use a particular type of weapon.
- Local coop feature where a second player can hop on the keyboard and assist the VR player by scouting out the dungeon and finding enemies and treasure.
What I Didn’t Like
- Not enough different dungeon environments, so you’ll be venturing through familiar territory a lot after you’ve spent a few hours with the game. Perhaps I had bad luck though and have yet to see some of them. Keep in mind there is an element of randomization still though so even though the dungeons may look similar, the layouts will feel varied for a while besides a few recurring room types.
- A lot of rooms will just be tiny hallways with nothing in them.
- Only a few types of enemies that I encountered. Orcs, skeletons, and ghosts will be your main foes.
- Enemy animations could use some improvement.
- Online multiplayer is currently quite buggy and laggy from my experience. This can vary from person to person of course though.
- Currently you have to get quite low to stealth and extremely low in some areas to crouch into certain crevices. It’s funny trying to squeeze into these, but its a bit much.
- Had the game crash on me a couple of times when attempting to start it up.
- Lack of in-game volume settings for music, sfx, voice chat.
What I’d Like to See
- As mentioned in the dislikes, it could use more environments and enemy types, something which I definitely see happening in the future considering its still in early access. I liked encountering the outdoor environments when doing dungeons so I hope to see more of those with different biomes. In terms of enemies I’d like to see some non-humanoid based foes to encounter such as spiders, bats, slimes, and maybe even some kind of aquatic monster for the areas that have water. Maybe some of these do exist in the game, but I didn’t encounter them.
- More weapons are a given even though there are a decent amount right now. He is currently in the process of added more special “Marked” weapons to unlock, however there is only one right now. I think it would be neat if this feature was slightly re-worked to perhaps offer enhanced versions of existing weapons as well with randomized affixes. This would give constant surprises from these chests, but would cause a issue with how to store these potentially infinite amount of weapons. One idea would be to provide storage for up to 2 or 3 rare variants for each type and any extras could be sold for extra gold. Affixes on these special variants could be things like increased damage, gold on hit, health drain, reduced weight, faster charge, etc. If the extra inventory was a concern the chests could always just unlock and slap the new affix on the already existing weapon too and then the player could choose what affixes they wanted if they had multiple. A new gear enchanting feature of some kind could achieve this as well though without having to change how those chests work. Basically I am just a fan of things that allow even deeper customization and character progression.
- I’d like to see some more endgame options after the Necromancer has been defeated.
- Workshop support for custom player dungeons.
- Some type of rare loot system either through enemy drops or well-hidden chests in dungeons.
- More physical interaction with objects such as closets, drawers, physics objects. This would make those hidden object rooms a bit more fun to investigate having to open all the doors and lift up small objects to see if something is hidden under them.
Is it Worth the current entry price?
VR Dungeon Knight is on track to be a great VR title currently thanks to its gameplay that encourages a lot of physical interaction with enemies and the environment. There is also the lone developer, Thomas of Blackjard Softworks, who is appears to be very passionate about his project, actively responding to and helping out players on the forums as well as finding the time to prepare meaty patches for the game at a steady rate. These two factors alone should give an interested potential buyer good reason to hit that purchase button, however the final decision will come down to how you want to play the game. If you are set on playing this game solely in online co-op with a friend, keep in mind that this feature is still in a testing phase so can be quite buggy and laggy with crashes and other odd issues at times. Playing solo is another story however as it was a very smooth running and fun experience for me in that department.
With the sale going on right now that will be ending very soon on October 8th I’d say its probably worth a buy for anyone looking for this type of VR gaming experience as it is one of the best of its kind right now. There is also still a lot of room to grow over time to add more content variety and of course patch up some of those nasty issues plaguing multiplayer.
We’ll be back again with a full review once the game has left early access and will continue to offer news updates when major content patches arrive.