Undungeon Review (PC): Guardians of the Galaxy

Reckon you've got what it takes to be the go-between for chaos and the concept of existence? Look at you... an Undungeon review for the PC.

Undungeon is an intelligent and engaging dungeon crawler from developers Laughing Machines and tinyBuild. ‘Dungeon crawler’ isn’t the definitive label for this game as it’s pretty ambitious and has a lot on offer. 

On the surface, it’s an action RPG from a top-down (ish) perspective where you’ll teleport around a bit in an attempt to save civilisation. If you didn’t get the memo, you are our last hope: a Herald that has been assembled out of a box of snappable plastic, slimy, fleshy organs, and more upgrade opportunities than a Raspberry Pi.

There are two Herald’s on offer in Undungeon, the first being the Void. The Void is a grim reaper type that I got to know in my playthroughs. They’re a charming type, helping out communities, running errands, and slashing open beasts and bandits with sharp, pointy claws and a ranged dagger attack that’s straight out of the circus. Oh, you can throw grenades too.

Undungeon release date
Source: Steam

Your mission in Undungeon is to piece together quite a few existential questions and decide which way you’ll topple on the karma scale – a measurable feature that confirms your reputation in the world. Be good, and people will like you. Be an utter bastard and they might not be forthcoming, but will fear you. Like the reaper. 

It reminded me of Disco Elysium in many ways, but without the narcotics and cool hairdos

There isn’t any voice acting in Undungeon, but there is quite a bit of text. Not English class all over again, reading about that Shakey Spears fellow, but it’s very well written and it’s expected of you to pay attention to what’s going on as you have to respond to NPCs, complete the main objectives and optional side quests. It reminded me of Disco Elysium in many ways, but without the narcotics and cool hairdos. Undungeon is a different kettle of fish, though, and it may have you feeling quite perplexed in terms of the storylines.

It’s fair to assume there’s a levelling system, but it’s a little unorthodox. For starters, your Herald is the Mr (or Mrs) Potato Head of galactic guardians as their body parts are interchangeable. This won’t reflect on a cosmetic level, but stats will improve when you earn recipes and combine organs to stuff in the ol’ body.

Stats include min and max damage, knife damage, stamina, health, and so on. Besides getting bonuses from your fleshy bits, your Herald’s weapons have buffs, but you have a core, too. Each time you level up with essence, you can unlock a new slot to place a generic rune or buffs such as attack, luck and what-have-you. The only thing with this is the slots are tied to a category, and it’s not initially clear other than through colour coding. In other words, if you unlock a place for standard runes, you can’t equip a dedicated attack rune. Sometimes levelling up is a bit in vain. 

Undungeon PC Review - Oyster
Oyster, meet World. Source: Steam

Nothing lasts forever, and that applies to your equipment (body parts included). Through wear and tear and taking shotgun shells to the chest, your bits will deteriorate, so it’s important to adopt that Borderlands mentality of continually upgrading. That said, durability is reasonable for most items. They won’t break that much, but it can be irritating when you’ve sourced the parts for an organ, installed it at your base, then lost it during a mission.

Besides the excellent and frequent text, combat plays a large part in Undungeon gameplay. Initially confusing to comprehend, the world map allows you to select a destination that your Herald will walk, accumulating game days. This becomes significant for specific missions. Enemies can intercept your pilgrimage, but it’s not one of those random FFVII encounters, and you can flee if short on health.

Combat balances melee and range tactics quite well. As a fan of melee, I found myself interchanging through most battles – especially when you have a companion on hand (AI) as they’ll get in close or hang back so you can do the opposite. However, while the pixel art in Undungeon looks nice, the animations can be choppy, and I ended up button-mashing as skirmishes had the habit of being clumsy and jittery. Enemies can also impose quite a bit of damage, so unless you equip the right gear, you may have to repeat some sections a handful of times to get the proper configuration.

With the life expectancy of components being pretty low, Undungeon keeps you on your toes and never really lets up on the pace, not that it’s a thrill a minute. It’s far more accommodating than most rogue-likes due to the upgrade abilities, but then again, this game touches upon quite a few genres, so it’s not exclusively one type of game. Nevertheless, with its intelligent dialogue and interesting upgrade system, Undungeon is enjoyable, but the combat could have been a bit more exciting.

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