If you’re itching for a hack-and-slash level-grinding experience on your DS and don’t care about story, character development, or varied gameplay, you might find Dungeon Explorer: Keepers of the Ancient Arts bland but tolerable. If you’re looking for anything beyond that, however, this action RPG is sure to disappoint.
After customizing your character (you’ll get to choose your general look, race, gender, and job), you’ll immediately be treated to one of three poorly translated and relatively similar storylines, depending on your race. At first, the plot appears promising: your character helps to seal an evil cave, which ought to eliminate monsters from the world, but then men themselves become overambitious, and their internal squabbling breeds evil in the land. From there, the story quickly melts into a convoluted mess, with odd bits and pieces (not to mention random fast-forwarding in time) that never really fit together.
Gameplay consists of accepting a single quest from the adventurer’s hall, and running through a randomly generated dungeon (there are several different environments, like a fiery cavern and a leafy underground, but they all have the same feel) while collecting treasure chests (hooray for loot…money is tight in this game) and destroying “Monster Generators” (stone portals that spawn one of a limited variety of enemy creatures) until you reach a mini-boss. Then, you defeat it, port back to town, and repeat the process until you’re able to access the next Story quest, which is essentially the same thing but with story elements thrown in. In a phrase, we’d have to label the entire experience as pure tedium.
Combat is the only element of the game that’s alluring. During quests, you can often bring up to three A.I. party members with you. Together, you can perform timing-based combos. You can also customize your teammates’ behavior in a system sort of like FFXII’s gambit, prioritizing their actions based on the role you want them to play. You’ll have a pretty wide arsenal of skills and spells to utilize, depending on your current weapon and class (and their respective ranks), and the combat interface is straightforward and clean. If you get bored, switching job classes freshens up the combat experience.
A deep crafting system and decent multiplayer (you and two others can crawl through dungeons together, though you all need your own copies of the game…and you can only gain items, not experience points, through multiplayer sessions) round out Warriors of the Ancient Arts. It’s nothing revolutionary or even particularly interesting or compelling, but it’s not broken either. Those bored and desperate for an RPG fix can give this title a shot.
Feb 27, 2008