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Dungeon Encounters by Hiroyuki Ito and friends

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)

Blurb on the game from associated press:

A new dungeon exploration RPG where you must strategise to survive!​

An otherworldly labyrinth has suddenly appeared on the outskirts of a quiet town. Make clever use of your abilities to chart the depths, overcome obstacles and defeat your foes in thrilling battles!
From some of the key development team behind the legendary FINAL FANTASY franchise, DUNGEON ENCOUNTERS is a dungeon exploration RPG where you must strategise to survive. The streamlined interface gives you the freedom to prepare and manage your party as you strive to reach the final floor.
During your expeditions, you'll discover rare and powerful items, meet lost adventurers who might just become new allies, and come face-to-face with deadly monsters.
Do you have what it takes to overcome the numerous trials that await you and discover the dungeon's secrets?
DUNGEON ENCOUNTERS is available 14th October on Nintendo Switch™, Playstation®4, and Steam®!

And a more extended write-up.

I don't think the names involved really matter a lot other than providing the initial hook and building associated interest, because just looking at this and reading what it's about makes all of it sound really, really interesting. I know Yoko Taro is helming that also soon-to-be-released card-based tabletop-esque RPG, so maybe this is a trend within Square Enix. Always happy when small-scale projects like this get made.

BATTLE DO
 
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YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
But for real, I initially thought this game wasn't even going to have encounters with monsters at all, that maybe it was just gonna be traversing a dangerous dungeon full of traps and stuff, hence making the dungeon itself the "encounter." Oh well! I might pick this up but I also might wait for impressions...
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I don't mind minimalism in RPGs now and then, but I'm a li'l worried that this one might be a little too minimalist for me. Usually these kinds of RPGs have loving description text for rooms and situations and stuff to compensate for being scaled down, but the impression I got from the video is that exploration here nigh exclusively amounts to Battle Do, Hero Get!, and Traps.

That said, the music kicks and I do like the art style for protagonists and monsters and stuff like the thieves being adorable li'l mice and one of the party members being Basically Totoro.

$30 ($24 right now) is a bit much to risk on something I might not like, but I'm interested in learning more about it and it's nice that Square Enix allows for these kinds of things to happen.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
"Minimalist Dungeon Crawler with Totoro as a PC" is definitely nook a hook I was expecting today.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I'm not counting on it since the videos focused on stuff like the battles, traps, and party member diversity...but does the game have any cool flavor text at all? Just been wondering about that.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Every character is a named individual who has their own backstory biography and reasons for venturing into the labyrinth which you can read about in their profiles.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
This is an extremely funny game. It does not arrive at such through textual writing, since that is sparse to nonexistent (though the biographies are great), but through the play mechanics themselves, contrasting with the unadorned presentation and the prog-dad-at-leisure stylings of the music. I'm not laughing at the game, but I've laughed with it more than once at the unexpected interactions that occur, or in delighted disbelief at the fate my party's subjected to. I think dungeon crawlers, blobbers, whatever you call them, often have the greatest avenue for finding humour in just what transpires during the course of them, and I've already built up a lot of affection for the game's cast and suggested world through the invocation of such.

Some of the character concepts and designs are just really good too: a married woman and mother of two, looking for work to make ends meet and exploring the labyrinth for the paycheck; or a former maid implied to have burned down her employers' mansion after having had enough of mistreatment--she now collects weapons for the thrill of it. Sign me up, or rather, I'll sign them up, and I have.
 
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Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
I still don't understand what this game is. I mean, I know there are random encounters, but what are the mechanics of the dungeon navigation? I've seen a few videos of it but I don't know what the "hook" is for those crossword puzzle looking dungeons. Do you have like a limited number of moves to make to "solve" the puzzle? Is there a fail state besides dying in battle? I like the aesthetics of the game quite a bit, but I have no idea if I want to buy it or not lol
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
You chart each dungeon floor by walking over the tiles, painting the ground as you go. Events and battles occur on specific tiles, though battle tiles shift locations on the same floor upon revisits. Events can be anything: could be treasure, a bestiary page on a particular monster, various shrines and services, or navigational puzzles to solve; all of it gets recorded in an exhaustive exploration log with the relevant Z/Y/X coordinates so you can find your way back to something should you wish to. Coordination is really important to the game otherwise too because each party member exists somewhere in the labyrinth according to that spatial data--when you swap party members in and out, you have to be on the same tile as them, and those being swapped out get left on the spot. That aspect interacts with the game's design in interesting ways where petrified folks, for example, aren't just a status effect you're lugging around--you have to leave them in the labyrinth until you find a way to heal them, and then go back and retrieve them. Similarly, if you experience a full party wipe, you can form a party of whoever's left topside at the adventuring academy, and they have to make it to the knocked-out people to rescue them--if they perish too and no one's left, then that's some kind of failstate that I haven't seen yet but does exist. There is a lot to the game that emphasizes a playstyle that's not about individuals, but the shifting and flexible currents of managing a guild, where you'll rotate people in and out as needed because something unforeseen will certainly at some point happen. The game also doesn't seem to have manual saving of any sort, instead favouring regular autosaving, so whatever risk you undertake for your curiosity or pushing too deep you will have to commit to.

The battles operate on ATB principles but by default they're set to "wait", and that differs from the FF convention as any ally's turn filling up pauses the game entirely so you can treat the entire thing as a fully turn-based system where you just have a visual tell for all turn orders. Healing in battle is not emphasized, and instead it's about damage mitigation: everyone has physical defense, magical defense and health points, where corresponding damage types exhaust the character or monster's defenses, upon which that damage type can be used to attack their health values and bring them down. You're equipping people according to these needs and coordinations, in having the right kind of tools and damage type spreads to take on the enemies, while being mindful of what you can endure, with hats and clothing increasing the phys/mag defenses of a given character. There's a basically equal spread given to single-target weapons and spells and multi-target equipment in the game's repertoire, and you have to arm people accordingly with other nuances in mind too, like flying enemies needing ranged weaponry, or mages reflecting spells, requiring physical offense. There's a real mathy nature in gauging all the cascading risks in an encounter, trying to take out enemies before their turn fills up, and taking calculated risks with your own options--many of the stronger weapons operate on the damage formula style of FF's axes, where they have a high maximum damage value but could just as easily do as little damage as one point. Otherwise, weapon damage is fixed, so you're supposed to plan around all of it as it happens. It's a dense but intuitive system.

It's just a really interesting mix of exploratory and combat concepts that interact with each other in novel ways you don't get in most other games, or in this specific combination. I want to stress again that it appears at least to me to be about the cohesive whole of the guild's operations, so any hardship experienced along the way should just be taken as interesting texture, even if you have to do something like training an entire roster of recruits from scratch because the previous crew made a miscalculation. That's happened to me, and it was an awesome feeling to get as a real consequence of my actions.
 
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Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Oh, that actually sounds pretty interesting. Thank you for that writeup! It communicates what the game is better than any of the official stuff I've seen lol

I think I may pick this up, and give it a go when I finish my Shining Force III playthrough...
 

Bulgakov

Yes, that Russian author.
(He/Him)
This is my first time playing a game like this since I was about 15 (the closest I've gotten to an ATB system since then is Undertale, which felt very different). It's pretty interesting and the "memorize you some hexadecimal" aesthetic is surprisingly fun. It also encourages bridge puzzle analysis, which I'm enjoying.
 

MrBlarney

(he / him)
Thanks to this thread for reminding me that this game released. I only saw the Japanese trailer on its original announcement, so I almost discarded thinking of it as a Japanese-only release. I've played through the first seven floors over threeish hours, which feels like is enough for some first impressions?

The game is almost excessively minimalistic in its presentation and features. Your guild members are almost fully interchangeable, as there are no restrictions to what anyone can equip, and that equipment defines what each party member can do in combat. There seems to be some small random variation in HP and PP (equipment capacity), but as far as I can see, it's a minor enough point that you're not hurt just arbitrarily choosing a party based on your own preferences.

Equipment is also extremely streamlined in variation due to the limited number of 'types' of attacks. Your offensive equipment 'elements' are simply physical vs. magical and melee vs. ranged, with additional dimensions of variation for fixed vs. random damage, and single vs. multi-targeting. There's something amusing about going into the magic shop and seeing just four magic spells, all starting with some root of "Mali-", and just increasing numbers to distinguish tiers of strength. Defensive equipment is also similarly streamlined: headgear adds magical defense, body armor confers physical defense. Heavy armor confers only the matching defenses, while light armor sacrifices some defense to confer action speed.

One thing that I'm a little bit concerned about with regards to equipment is how it might affect the difficulty curve of the game. As Peklo mentioned, the game is more or less about getting through combats without taking HP damage: your defenses are topped up after each combat, but HP is not. So if you find yourself regularly taking HP damage in each combat, despite showing good strategy, then you NEED to update your equipment. However, there are pretty large jumps in effectiveness between tiers of equipment, so combats can suddenly go from scraping by to being a breeze simply with a single shopping trip on the surface. Hopefully there'll be some navigation abilities to make such re-surfacing and re-diving trips more manageable.

One minorly negative part of the design is that the titles of entries in the Event Log are all given from the start, and these spoil some of the things to discover later in the game, such as enemies, shops, and rewards for solving puzzles. At least it's nice to know that there will be what I assume to be regularly-spaced checkpoint teleporters. But there's a lot of charm in how everything on the map is marked with a hexadecimal code. Even things like stairs and shops are just numeric codes, where in any other game you'd at least get a symbol. It feels like playing through a tabletop roleplaying adventure or hexcrawl, with lookup tables for everything you'll encounter.

But overall, I'm feeling pretty hopeful about the game. The slow ramp up of the game seems to be hinting at the game doing its best to explore the space of its minimalistic design. I've needed to use my spatial awareness, and a simple movement ability, to get to a seemingly isolated part of the map. There's equipment to be found that isn't part of the standard lines that are available in the surface shops. There's a couple of guild members that seem likely not follow the same equipment rules as the majority. The biases between defensive and HP stats for enemies, along with some innate abilities, already show some flavor in how to approach combats. There's potential in the PP limits to require careful specialization of party members' equipment. It's still early on, so we'll see how well the game can keep things interesting through the long journey to the bottom of the dungeon.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Some serious commendation for the character design in this. They're the work of Ryoma Ito, who's previously done stuff like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. For this, there's a touch to the art direction that renders the subjects as diversely believable and consistent in a way that captures them as convincingly occupying the same world, if different parts of it--and highlights the instances where they do not, like the isekai lad. It's the best work I've seen from Ito--and probably the RPG cast I've liked the most since Scarlet Grace--so I'll drop the game's roster below. It's not much of a spoiler as everyone can be freely inspected via the menus when starting out, but as far as I know you don't get the full body shots of anyone in-game, so here they are.



Nanga Pahr / Sesspare / Guyselblanc / Rwenzo



Lhaulagi / Maynasar / Elva / Juloche



Shunga / Rodovich / Gracia / McAllie



Ilbertha / Nalpurna / Jufren / Houk Gau



Modenali / Jorath / K-2000 / Ntleyana



Sir Cat / Auyue / Valtoro / Everethe​
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Played a little over an hour of this. I like it a lot! Is there a way to either zoom the camera out a bit (I'm playing this on Switch btw), or is there perhaps an ability obtainable later on that lets me see a whole map of the current floor I'm on? It's not a huge deal if not, but it'd be nice, since I find it hard to commit too many of these floors to memory. Being able to see where enemy encounters are helps lessen the frustration of wandering around, though. Is there a way to pass a turn in battle, too, or am I always required to attack with one of the weapons I have equipped? I know I can use an ability, too, but sometimes I'd just like to skip a turn (though this is pretty rare, admittedly).

I've seen a few people on twitter knocking the music, and they're weirdos. The music is great lol
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
I didn’t realise that the game was:

1) on Switch

and

2) 20% off

Else, I’d have bought it already. As it is now, it’s downloading and I honestly cannot wait. Battle mechanics in JRPGs have always been my raison d’être (even if I also love storytime), so I am currently impatient for the download to complete.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Is there a way to either zoom the camera out a bit (I'm playing this on Switch btw), or is there perhaps an ability obtainable later on that lets me see a whole map of the current floor I'm on?

Definite answer to this so only look if you want to know: yes, there is an ability for it which zooms out the view further away so you have an easier time in getting your bearings. It's part of your exploratory skillset you have to commit resources to, which I think is a nice design choice.

Is there a way to pass a turn in battle, too, or am I always required to attack with one of the weapons I have equipped?

Hold whatever the cancel button is on your platform--B on Switch, X on a DualShock, etc. Not to chastise or anything, but it's mentioned in the very brief tutorializing the game does, which you can refer back to from the menu.
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
Peklo, I cannot fault you for this cos you couldn’t possibly know, but you honestly cannot expect Kazin to be able to read.

Boy ain’t too bright.

We are friends this is a bit, Kazin resub and finish ShB already.
 

MrBlarney

(he / him)
Isekai lad is a very whimsical personage to include among the academy roster, and I'm tempted to sub him into the main team when I find him, depending on if the circumstances allow for it. I actually haven't found any of the "Wandering" lost members yet, and it's a little tricky to tell if I've missed how to retrieve them, or if it's something I'll find out later. Their levels suggest I've passed a couple of them, but some of their equipment also suggests that I might not have passed them yet.

In any case, I'm a few floors into the second stratum and I'm appreciating the environmental storytelling, as much as it can be conveyed in this game's presentation style. The design of the floor maps actually has quite a distinct style on the second stratum compared to the first stratum. Seeing a cluster of events and tiles laid out in a way that breaks the standard pattern conveys the feeling of discovering a town or outpost, without the game being explicit about it. You get to use your imagination to build out the dungeon that your party is exploring, and that's pretty refreshing.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Definite answer to this so only look if you want to know: yes, there is an ability for it which zooms out the view further away so you have an easier time in getting your bearings. It's part of your exploratory skillset you have to commit resources to, which I think is a nice design choice.



Hold whatever the cancel button is on your platform--B on Switch, X on a DualShock, etc. Not to chastise or anything, but it's mentioned in the very brief tutorializing the game does, which you can refer back to from the menu.

Okay, makes sense. And I don't feel chastised! Those games that have button prompts always visible are made for me specifically lol. The only time I wondered if I could skip a turn was while I was in a battle, and once I finished that battle I forgot to go look in the menu for button layouts.

Boy ain’t too bright.

Not a bit: this is true. lel
 

Bulgakov

Yes, that Russian author.
(He/Him)
I do find it super amusing, having played for about 10 hours, that the battle victory music is a somewhat obscure Christmas Carol, later appropriated by Bizet (the composer who wrote Carmen) as incidental music for a play. The lyrics come into my head constantly while playing. My suspicion is that the design team knew about the Bizet use of the song, but not the holiday usage, or simply didn't care. As far as I'm concerned, it just means we're having an unusually Christmasy dungeon crawl!

I believe most of the rest of the soundtrack is classical music references as well (I haven't gotten very far yet, but I definitely recognize some Mussorgsky in there).
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
It's entirely classical music as far as I can tell; a real Parodius or Drakengard of a game. Uematsu is attached to the project in much the same capacity as with the FF pixel remasters, in "overseeing" the work, but it does certainly carry his spirit with whomever else is handling the material. Every classical snippet he slipped into his soundtracks over the years finally got a game of their own to run wild in.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Wiped my party while trying to run from a literal black hole that I accidentally ran into which killed my whole party in one hit because I

ain’t too bright.

Then I had to very carefully take scrubs from the first floor to floor 23 where my party died to swap them into my party to then take them to a resurrection square, then go back for my final leveled party member and revive and heal them (sorry to leave you four scrubs at floor 23, good luck have fun). I assume if I die now, it's game over, right? I haven't found any of the "wanderers" to take back to base and have a backup party, mainly because the ability I have that searches them out tells me how many squares away I am from them, but not which floor they're on, and the "Composition" menu just lists them as "wandering," too, so that seems like a bit of a pain to try to find them. I suppose I should though, eh? Just in case I get myself wiped again like an idiot?
 

MrBlarney

(he / him)
I just got the ability to find Wandering party members, and I'd say it's worth the search. It is definitely tricky since it doesn't distinguish between multiple Wandering members and you do have to think in three dimensions. However, each member you find (except Gracia, who's a bit too early on) has some piece of equipment that you'll probably want to transfer to your main party. As a bonus, you'll get some additional reserves in case your main expedition wipes again. I would recommend setting up a party of three, doing some math and logic, and rescue them from the dungeon one at a time.
 

Sprite

(He/Him/His)
On one hand, I have other streamlined RPGs I still need to finish, like Scarlet Grace, as well as weird stuff I want to get to.

On the other hand, I’ve been obsessed reading about this game since it came out and am just enamored with the idea as a whole. I’m both repelled and intrigued by how harsh the penalty for failure is.

I am continually impressed by modern Square Enid’s dedication to developing games at all budget levels, from AAA money pits to mid-range stuff like Bravely Default to teeny tiny, indie-esque stuff like this game.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
I just got the ability to find Wandering party members, and I'd say it's worth the search. It is definitely tricky since it doesn't distinguish between multiple Wandering members and you do have to think in three dimensions. However, each member you find (except Gracia, who's a bit too early on) has some piece of equipment that you'll probably want to transfer to your main party. As a bonus, you'll get some additional reserves in case your main expedition wipes again. I would recommend setting up a party of three, doing some math and logic, and rescue them from the dungeon one at a time.
Yeah, I ended up doing this, and I found a dog with a great weapon (though I left him unequipped in the labyrinth for now, though I do plan on going back to get him, now that I've gotten to floor 30 and can warp close to him fairly easily). In fact, I've found all the people listed in the Composition menu up to the dog, so now I have a pretty decent reserve party at base. I should probably go back to floor 23 and pick up the party sitting there, too, though it'd take like four trips lol.

This game is great.
 
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