Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Hudson
Developer: Hudson
Genre: Action RPG
Format: UMD
Released: US 02/15/08
Japan 11/15/07

Graphics: 70%
Sound: 65%
Gameplay: 75%
Control: 75%
Story: 75%
Overall: 72%
Reviews Grading Scale
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Changing jobs is key to unlocking the full potential of this game.
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Using special attacks in a combo with teammates really boosts the damage.
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You'll use the components enemies drop to create items.
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Oh yeah - it's boss time.
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John Tucker
Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts
John Tucker

I play a lot of hack & slash games. I know they're far from the most high-brow of the RPG sub-genres, but I enjoy them. Of course, there are a lot of mediocre and downright terrible hack & slash games out there along with the good ones, but I usually manage to enjoy all but the worst of them. Dungeon Explorers: Warriors of Ancient Arts is definitely in the right genre for me, and it's not terrible, but did I enjoy it? You'll see.

In Dungeon Explorers, you play as one of three races, none of which has had much contact with the others in the years before the story begins. The races all know that the others exist, but they have been sealed away from each other by the same spell that closed off the dungeon that released monsters into their lands. Since then, things haven't been good for the representatives of each race who were trapped in another race's territory, and as the game begins, you'll get only your chosen race's perspective on the matter. Later on, you meet up with the others and work with them to defeat monsters, and it's obvious from the moment that you do that race relations will never be the same again. The story's not amazing, but I give them a little extra credit for the different perspectives given by each race.

Along with choosing a race, the character creation process involves choosing a class. You begin with six classes available to you, and as you progress through the game, you'll gain the ability to switch them between missions. As you level up in the initial six classes, more classes become unlocked. Some, like the Samurai class, won't surprise you, but others like Boxer are a little off the beaten path. A demo was released before the game, and by downloading it, you can see a few of those wacky classes without putting in the effort required to unlock them if you care for a preview.

Gameplay in Dungeon Explorers mainly consists of getting quests, then slogging through a dungeon to complete them. At times, you'll be alone, but more often, you'll be in a group with one to three NPCs. You have a limited number of AI modes to set on the group as a whole, but I didn't really notice a huge difference in how they behaved regardless of which mode I chose. I appreciated the fact that I was with a group, because it made ranged characters more viable than they frequently are in RPGs, but I wished they'd listen to me when I tried to get them to stay away from the boss who was killing them. At some point, a multiplayer mode unlocks, and playing with friends would definitely help with that frustration, but knowing that you don't get multiplayer from the beginning adds some frustration of its own.

Killing monsters earns you experience and components that are used to create items and fills up a "party field" meter. I liked the party field, because it performs useful functions like reviving teammates who have fallen in battle and removing negative status effects. I also liked the fact that you have to approve use of the field, so you can choose not to allow that stupid Hunter who keeps getting himself killed to waste any more of the meter. On the other hand, I didn't like the fact that enemies didn't drop loot. As unrealistic as it may be for a spider to have been carrying around Milabrega's Rod, that's a big part of the excitement that keeps me grinding in hack & slash games. Without that in Dungeon Explorers, I had a hard time convincing myself to beat down the umpty-ninth copy of the same snails I'd been killing since my first mission.

There were a number of other little touches that I appreciated, like the fact that your experience meter shows the percentage of points you've earned toward your next level. Much easier than saying "well, I have 628,934 XP, and I need 723,500 to level up, and I get 250 from each monster..." and so forth. When you do level up, your character's various stats go up by a fixed amount (which appears to be based on your class), and then you get two more points that you can use as you see fit, whether you want them to shore up weaknesses or pump up your strong points even further.

Dungeon Explorers isn't a gorgeous game, but it's passable. When you pick up an item or level up, large text covers a hefty chunk of the lower half of the screen to tell you what happened, and that annoyance is my biggest graphical complaint. I like knowing such things, but the text was just too big. It's sad that armor doesn't appear on character models as well, but your outfit is dependent on your class, so I understand, because that gets in the way of displaying armor.

Sadly, my assessment of the sound in the game is about the same. The music didn't really stand out to me as either great or awful. However, some of the sound effects were annoying enough that I spent most of my playtime with the sound turned off. I play a lot of my games with the sound muted, so it didn't bother me, but it might be a turnoff if music or sound effects are really important to you.

When all is said and done, I wouldn't strongly recommend Dungeon Explorers, but neither would I tell you to steer clear of it at all costs. If you enjoy grinding to unlock classes, and the experience of playing as different classes is more important to you than random loot drops, you could very well have a lot of fun with this game. The same is true if you have friends to play it with. My personal experience, however, was that it didn't bring to the table the kind of things I find fun in a hack & slash game. I'm glad I rented it rather than buying it.


© 2009 Hudson. All rights reserved.

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