Some say that single-player PC Role Playing is on its deathbed. DreamCatcher Games doesn't think so, and is releasing Dungeon Lords, their D.W. Bradley-created RPG, due out later this year. Most of the console-oriented gamers reading this won't know who D. W. Bradley is, but he's the man who's often considered one of the original innovators of computer RPGs. Bradley worked on three of the Wizardry games as well as games in the Might and Magic series. D.W. Bradley and his team at DreamCatcher have worked to create an RPG that is more accessible to the general public.
Developed by Heuristic Park, Bradley's development firm, Dungeon Lords comes into play with a simple control scheme based on the WASD scheme common in most every First-Person Shooter today. Dungeon Lords is more action-oriented than Bradley's previous titles, sharing more in common with Diablo than with Might and Magic. Players swing, dodge, and handle combat with WASD and the mouse, but it's yet to be seen if additional mouse buttons will be supported. The title features a combo-oriented fighting system as well as an interesting build of statistics and magic. With seven races and two sexes, there is a fair amount of avatar choices for the player. Akin to old-school role-playing games, men are a little bit stronger than women, but they also happen to be just a smidgen less intelligent.
Character creation can be initially imposing, but goes in line with Bradley's vision of having a more mainstream game. After the initial draw for skills, players are able to get to the action quickly and easily. Completely opposite from Baten Kaitos' level system that allows characters only to level up in a single place, Dungeon Lords allows players to distribute experience into skills whenever, wherever. Need additional strength to bash down a door? Drop your extra EXP into your bash skill and take down that door with your newfound might. Additionally, players can level up skill and spell sets that allow armor and weapons to be used or let their avatars bust some more magic missiles down the road. Specialization is more difficult, like many standard CRPG systems, as the more advanced skills cost a lot of skill points.
The preview copy of Dungeon Lords we received didn't have much in the way of story. What is known is that two lords, Lord Barrowgrim and Lord Davenmor. Davenmore's daughter was to marry Barrowgrim, but she wasn't much fond of the idea and picked up and bolted. Now the land finds itself stuck in the middle of combat, and he hero finds him or herself locked in the quest to find the princess. As inferred by the title, just like old CRPGs, combat comes first and story comes second.
Visually, Dungeon Lords shares much in common with World of Warcraft's User Interface (UI) in some ways. Character portraits appear in the upper right hand corner along with health and mana bars. The UI finds itself mostly clear the rest of the time, unless the player recalls any of the menus. This simpler UI may attract players whom tend to be a little put off by some more complex RPGs such as Neverwinter Nights. Characters are made up of quite a few polygons and players are able to customize their avatars to a decent amount. Enemies are varied, and there seems to be little to no palette swapping, unlike many contemporary Computer RPGs. The version of Dungeon Lords we had time to sit down with had environments that weren't yet completed, but they should be well filled by the time Dungeon Lords hits the Gold stage.
Dungeon Lords shares much in common with other games in the genre when it comes to its sound. The sound effects clang with metal and sound realistic. Music was missing from a good portion of our preview copy, but what did exist sounded good. It's yet to be seen how every bit of the aural experience will mutually make a complete experience, but once the game ships, we'll be able to see how Bradley's masterpiece fits together.
Bradley's new game takes the party out of the party system and lets the player run around by him or herself, carving out a path with magic or mayhem however they choose. With more in common to today's action-oriented titles than Bradley's other titles, it should be interesting to see how an old-school developer works with a new-school system in more ways than one. D.W. Bradley's Dungeon Lords will be available April 20th, published by DreamCatcher Games. Everyone who thinks Computer Role-Playing is dead, here's a game to prove you wrong.