ancient Dungeon VR comes out of Early Access and amazes with an excellent roguelite experience from many points of view.
review: A fascinating roguelite dungeon crawler in VR">
After a successful Kickstarter campaign and two years of Early Access between Sidequest, App Lab and Steam, Eric Thullen launches one of the most anticipated projects by fans of the virtual reality world: Ancient Dungeon. After offering you the review of Compound, which in our opinion is a VR shooter of absolute depth, we therefore catapulted into a more fantasy dimension (also conceived in this case by a single mind), to test the goodness of the dungeon crawler recipe. roguelite at the base of the experience.
Little history, many fights
Ancient Dungeon has a very simple narrative premise: the player is put into the shoes of an adventurer who wakes up near a camp with an Acolyte, a Blacksmith, and a restless-looking individual. The cleric will be our guide in the cyclical exploration of the dungeon – where other intrepid heroes have gone to discover the many mysteries hidden in it – and will provide us with every possible help to reconstruct the history of the place and of our predecessors, which is the real goal of our trip. Compared to Compound’s critique of capitalism, Ancient Dungeon inserts concrete elements of lore in the form of unlockable manuscripts by reaching the various settings.
That said, do not expect a dazzling narrative sector, with the focus of the package remaining that of the aforementioned cyberpunk roguelite: immerse yourself in the dungeons, face hordes of monsters and discover the secrets of the dungeon. In other words, the core of the experience is to be found in the fighting. Initially with us we will only have a sword and a throwing knife that we can recall from a distance. Each weapon has its own stats such as damage and critical chance, and is required to take on enemies such as sentient skeletons, mimics, flying weapons and slimes, up to mighty end-of-level bosses in rooms that serve as an arena.
The variety of opponents is not exciting but at least it manages to avoid the feeling of already seen. Opponents of various kinds and shapes will resort to different attacks: small slimes with helmets will happen, or other variants capable of firing magic bullets and moving faster.
As the hours pass and the game world progresses – from the Overgrown Dungeon full of vegetation to the Infernal Dungeon based entirely on fire – we discover more and more hostile creatures and we finally get to unlock the crossbow, another weapon at our disposal. . In the future it would be appreciated the inclusion of other options such as axes and shieldsso as to offer the possibility of customizing the loadout by choosing between two-handed solutions (heavier but with greater damage) or more versatile, such as the default kit accessible from the first minutes of the game.
Feeling weapons and obtainable items
The feeling of the weapons is satisfactory, thanks to the peculiar management of physics: every enemy can be removed with the sword and more generally sent in any direction, so as to throw a skeleton into a chasm or to keep well away from the fearsome slimes and their unpredictable movements.
Throwing the knife is one of the best activities of Ancient Dungeon in its banality: although the sword in our possession causes more damage, we often find ourselves tempted by the repeated throwing of the small blade for the scenic beauty of this practice. In addition, the knife does puncture damage if it hits a target on its call. Or again, any projectile, be it a dart or a magic sphere, can be blocked with the sword; although it is a small trick, it is one of those pleasant details to appreciate during the fights. To complete the package we find theimportant quantity of special items obtainable while exploring the dungeon or upon its completion: beat the boss at the end of the level, you access a transition room where you can get a single upgrade for the statistics of the adventurer or brand new weapons, which can otherwise be purchased in a shop from discover while exploring the area. Behind one of the many doors to open, in fact, we will find a merchant willing to sell us such upgradesmagic potions with the most disparate effects, keys to open chests and rooms closed with padlocks or dishes to fill our three hearts.
In the same room there will also be a real slot machine with which to exchange coins for objects and vice versa, sometimes without indications of the prize we will receive. Regarding the coins, these can be obtained by breaking pots and boxes present throughout the map, defeating monsters and opening chests. Among over 100 objects to discover and dozens to unlock upon reaching certain objectives, some will change the size or appearance of weapons to remind us of the additional effects we have access to, whether it is an increase in critical chances or the type of damage inflicted on enemies.
Finally, once the final enemy has been defeated, then upon returning to the camp, an additional resource is unlocked: the “Blood of the Beast”. It allows the player to access permanent upgrades for your weapons, essential in order to survive more easily. By doing so, you also access the NG +, equipped with not indifferent bonuses: for each successful session you will get two additional “drops of blood”, while the runs that end with the death of the adventurer allow you to obtain specials research points. These allow you to unlock secret rooms, “deals with the devil” (similar to those in The Binding of Isaac), discounts in the shop or other bonuses available at the Acolyte.
Simple and winning design
We are therefore sure that you will not get bored with Ancient Dungeon after the first victory, a triumph that will not be easy to achieve. The level design is fine and the voxel aesthetic does not leave you speechless but remains pleasant even after tens of hours spent with the viewer on: props such as boxes, jars and tables are well made, as are the individual monsters. In some contexts, the latter could be confused with walls or floors (thanks to similar colors), but it happens rarely.
The reuse of assets across multiple dungeons, with the application of a few specific aesthetic elements depending on the setting. We do not perceive this solution as a sign of laziness on the part of the developer who, on the contrary, seems to wisely characterize the game areas by gradually introducing more elaborate rooms or interesting creatures.
Each procedurally generated level leaves room for rooms with real chasms to push enemies into, crumbling bridges, traps that are difficult to spot and some small cramped space hidden behind cracks in walls, grated floors or bookcases, where special or secret chests are hidden of various types. The rooms can also have stairs or rings on which to climb to reach an elevated space, to the advantage of diversification of exploration. If you want a break between one level and the next, however, you can save the game and exit the game after each boss defeated.
Some considerations on the experience with the viewer, in our case Meta Quest 2 with the native version of Ancient Dungeon: we have not perceived neither problems such as lag or stuttering, nor identified bugs that compromise the correct display of the elements on the screen. Generally the VR experience is enjoyable, with no obvious critical issues.
The future of Ancient Dungeon
Exiting the Early Access phase does not in any way determine the end of the project. Eric Thullen has already opened the door to mods both on Steam for PCVR – thanks to the future integration of the Workshop – and for the native version on Quest 2 via SideQuest. Currently, the mods created by the most passionate players are mostly available on the official Discord and include additional classes with special weapons (an example is the Gunslinger with musket) or items taken from Terraria and The Binding of Isaac.
Also under development is the inclusion of additional rooms for the generation of levels. Simply put, the replay factor will become more and more important over time. The official roadmap instead includes additional dungeons, a “Monster Encyclopedia”, brand new traps, minibosses, monsters never seen before and many other new features to enrich Ancient Dungeon. The future is therefore bright for what is an already solid experience and with potential not to be underestimated.
Ancient DungeonPC Analyzed VersionAncient Dungeon VR is a great roguelike dungeon crawler in every respect. The proposed story is not very deep and confirms the essential framework for a really fun playful package. The procedural generation of the levels guarantees a remarkable replayability, while the debut of more creatures in the future would be welcome. Particle effects and lights do not stand out, thanks to the voxel modeling that aims at simplicity, while realistic physics is the real surprise in light of its fundamental role, because it embellishes the clashes with a pinch of tacticism. The support for mods and the promising roadmap, finally, are what could further elevate the content value of Ancient Dungeon VR.