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Role Playing on the Road – Dungeon Village

In this week’s installment of Role-Playing on the Road, I’m going to touch on a compelling, but unfortunately shallow mobile RPG experience:

Dungeon Village (played on Android)

This is the first RPG effort from Kairosoft, the minds behind Mega Mall Story and, most notably, Game Dev Story. (Dungeon Village was originally and unsurprisingly titled RPG Story.) Like most Kairosoft games, Dungeon Village follows a number of cute sprites as they perform their day-to-day activities, and it’s up to the player to give them the resources to make them happy and productive. Unlike other Kairosoft games, this one introduces traditional RPG elements such as battles, quests, and item creation.

The gameplay is incredibly simple. You start out in a barren town with only a handful of adventurers. As they defeat enemies, your adventurers level up and you collect gold, then use it to erect a variety of buildings — homes, restaurants, cafes, circuses, schools, etc…  Buildings gain experience by being patronized by adventurers. The more your adventurers enjoy the various attractions, the more they spend, and the more popular your town becomes. You can throw events like parties, BBQs, and art shows to raise the town’s popularity or your adventurers’ stats.

That’s Dungeon Village’s biggest success: the easy formula. Yes, it’s similar other Kairosoft games, but the little tweaks make Dungeon Village very addictive. I loved expanding my town and attracting adventurers to it; it’s surprisingly easy to sink a few hours into the game without moving from the couch.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stretch very far. It’s fun and addictive, but it’s also very easy. Leveling your adventurers and expanding the town doesn’t take much effort; it’s as easy as spending within your means, making sure the adventurers enjoy the attractions your town offers, and making sure enough adventurers go on each quest. I was glued to the screen for the first few hours, but once the last adventurer had set up her home in my town I felt no need to keep playing.

On a more positive note, Dungeon Village is very pleasant to look at. In typical Kairosoft fashion, the visuals are colorful and adorably pixelated. The adventurers all look like stylized NES sprites, and I loved their names, many of which were obvious references to other games and stories — Seffy Roth, Frod Bigguns, Chung Lailai, Gilly Gamesh, etc… My only issue with the visuals is that when the town really gets going it, it can be difficult to tell things apart. The music is a similar style: cute, midi, catchy — and repetitive. I had the volume low or off most of the time. The whole thing adds up to a charming, if slightly nauseating, style.

Overall, I’d like to give Dungeon Village a great recommendation, but I can’t. It’s missing something that might take it to the next level. As I said, there’s great fun to be had, but you hit a glass ceiling before too long. A few things frustrated me that I feel Kairosoft can improve on in Dungeon Village 2:

– I got annoyed by having next to no influence in battles. Yes, you get a say in which adventurers go off to a dungeon or quest, but after that the player must passively stare at the screen and hope for the best. I wish there’d been some kind of battle system, some element of skill — turn-based combat, or the option to zoom in and take control of one of the adventurers. Eventually I stopped even looking at the adventurers in battle; I’d just send them off and wait for them to come home.

– I want some kind of story, some kind of narrative to keep the thrust going — even after you’ve maxed out your town’s level. A rivalry with a nearby town. A singular antagonist with a vendetta against you. I suppose there’s an element of this with the dragon family that regularly attacks, but not nearly enough. Even something like random natural disasters might spice up the experience.

– This sort of ties into my last point: re-playability. Or, rather, more playability — much more. Once my town hit five stars, I lost a lot of steam; once the final adventurer showed up and made a home, I lost interest. There needs to be something more to work toward.

So those are my thoughts on Dungeon Village: a fun and addictive little game that lacks that “Tetris” spark — something that turns a simple series of repeated actions into a dangerously addictive drug. I’m not decrying Kairosoft for not creating the heroin of mobile RPGs, but there’s something really great here — along with some hefty room for improvement. At $4.99 it’s just worth the purchase, but there are cheaper (read: free) experiences in the mobile world that give you a more.

[Perma-note: If any of our loyal JTM readers have any mobile RPG suggestions, please mention them in the comments below. I’ll download each suggestion, and, circumstances permitting, feature them in a future RPOTR article.]

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Posted on August 8, 2012, in Roleplaying On The Road and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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