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Dungeon Hero - updated impressions

Don’t let the title fool you; according to the guys from Firefly Studios, the lead character of Dungeon Hero is actually a bit of an asshole. But apparently he’s just the right asshole for the job that a race of goblins needs getting’ done. Actually, both words in the seemingly generic title are tinged with irony, as your psychopathic protagonist doesn't hack through a boxy brown cavern filled with evaporating skeletons that drop potions out of their asses, either.

The world you'll explore is no mere dungeon by any means, but rather a living, breathing underground society inhabited by numerous otherworldly races. The Goblins that populate this vast and dreary sector are very socialized; they eat, communicate, play music and have their own economy, jobs and even children. However they just so happen to be at war, and they need your sadistic human ass.

The version of Dungeon Hero we saw was far from finished, but for a game that isn't due until 2009, it already looks quite striking, thanks to a new HD engine. The atmosphere is incredibly gothy and grim, but it’s also pretty damned immersive; resident goblins bellow things at you when you walk past, and they’ll also shout directives and objectives instead of involving you in lengthy cutscenes and text menus. Huzzah!

The developers went so far as to call Dungeon Hero a “goblin sim,” but that doesn’t mean you won’t get to kick their asses. There are different factions of civilized beasties at war with one another, and eventually some will turn their malevolent gaze on you. We got see a little of the close combat in action, and your character is by no means a weightless warrior. Carrying a two-meter sword, he was referred to as “the anti-Kratos,” and it was readily apparent he was swinging something really heavy. Likewise, there's no leaping high into the air and slowly floating down like a delicate feather as the hero combos enemies in midair. Oh, and taking a mace to the face? It hurts. A lot.

Even though the tight combat was the only violence on display, developer Firefly has also promised plenty of ranged and close-quarters combat in addition to the requisite swordplay. They’ve got a fairly intensive level-up skill tree (somewhat similar to the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X), so you can continuously upgrade things like health and regeneration abilities, as well as trade old attacks for new ones. As we watched the developers fooling around on the fly, they breezily swapped a defensive kick to the stomach for a decidedly more aggressive headbutt.

There’s a lot more going on in Dungeon Hero then the title would lead you to believe. It may star a human unwittingly tricked into fighting, but it was emphasized that this is more of a story about the goblins, and you’ll still have four clans worth of the troll-like dirt-walkers to interact with (and by "interact with," we mean "kill"). Plus, there were even whispers about aliens and an encounter with Death himself. That covers enough genre bases to have us anxious to see more.

Mar 12, 2008

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