Dungeon Stars is a hybrid of the endless runner and hack-and-slash genres. It features the autopilot of the former and attempts to blend it with button spamming. I know what you’re thinking: This description screams mobile game, but it’s a little more complex than that. There’s more polish and it feels like a more robust product, despite being in Early Access.
The core of Dungeon Stars has you run through dungeons with three characters. Each dungeon has a few floors packed with enemies and loot. The goal is to upgrade your characters so they're strong enough to take on the harder dungeons. You get better loot and stronger equipment, and the cycle continues.
Tons of Loot - There is plenty of loot and treasures to hoard while plowing through dungeons. You can get money, equipment, potions and special items for upgrades and power-ups. There’s a sense of excitement every time you see a special chest on the map. Most of the loot is actually useful as you need it for customization and upgrades. It’s great to see that Dungeon Stars rewards you for playing through levels multiple times.
Simple Gameplay - Gameplay is a simple affair in Dungeon Stars. There are three basic moves: swipe attack, smash attack and block. It’s important that you rotate these moves to get through dungeons with ease. In addition to these basic attacks, you can use spells.
There are three elements in the game in the form of colors: Blue, Red and Green; or, if you prefer, Ice, Fire and Earth, respectively. Bear in mind that the different elements aren't all that different. They each inflict a status condition that causes burn damage over time. The actual spell you use can be different. For example, the first Ice spell is an Iceball attack that moves in an arc. On the other hand, the Fire spell is a ground pound that burns the ground and deals damage over time. Variance in gameplay is a more subtle affair and that's fine for this type of game.
Enemy Variety - As with the characters, enemies also come in three colors. The cycle is as follows: Red beats Green and Green beats Blue, but Blue beats Red. The bonus damage makes a major difference if you can exploit weaknesses, especially for bosses who have plenty of health to whittle down. There are numerous enemy types as well, with new ones showing up as you progress. Some shoot lasers from afar, while others try to rush you on sight. You have to adapt your playstyle depending on what type of enemies appear.
It's surprising how the enemy you're facing can alter your approach. The tanky goblins hit hard and have a shield. However, they're slow to attack, allowing to avoid taking damage as long as you can time your block. The ranged attackers can inflict poison and burn if you aren't able to block their attack. They have a random pattern so you can't predict their moves. Carelessness will result in you taking unnecessary damage, a problem because you can't heal during a floor. Dungeon Stars introduces more enemies as you progress, so there's always that little bit of anticipation to see what's next.
Artstyle - The visuals of Dungeon Stars are cartoony with exaggerated proportions. The developers have done a great job to make the cartoonish style stand out and feel unique. The characters and enemies look distinct, even the overused goblin archetype. The bright colors, in particular, helps to make the game "pop." It's a fitting style for the light-hearted tone of the entire experience.
Lack of Game Modes - Right now there is only one way to play Dungeon Stars. You plow your way through dungeons that have several floors of enemies. There isn’t a story or anything of the sort. Some extra styles of play would be a bonus, such as endless mode or a boss rush. It would add some replayability to the game.
Repetitive Nature - The cost of accessibility and easy gameplay can be high. It can get repetitive quickly, especially with a single game mode. While Dungeon Stars can pique your interest at the start, it devolves into a time-killer game. That may be ideal for a mobile game, but not so for a PC game.
Music - There are few tracks in the game and they feel uninspired. The music doesn’t add anything meaningful to the experience, which is a shame. When you’re grinding, great music in the background can enhance the experience. The bosses also don’t have any special music for the occasion. The bosses themselves aren’t that spectacular but the music could have helped out.
Dungeons Stars is a promising project that could develop into a great game. There is a solid foundation for an addictive loot-driven experience. The simple gameplay may be a major turn-off for those looking for a meaty experience. A few different game modes could help resolve this issue. The lack of content makes Dungeon Stars difficult to recommend at this time.
Arshad reviewed Dungeon Stars on PC courtesy of a Steam code provided by the developers.