Paradox's recently showed off more of it's upcoming medieval co-op, hack 'n slash title Dungeonland. We had a chance to play a few rounds of the Dungeon Master mode (which has since received a few visual upgrades), fight through a new macabre level called Cannibal Kingdom, and tinker with the game's character customization options. If you haven't been paying attention to Dungeonland, now's the time to start.
Dungeonland is essentially a multiplayer dungeon crawler with a huge co-op focus. Think Gauntlet, except with an all-seeing overlord throwing bad guys in your way. Up to three players can hack, slash, stab, and bash their way through the Dungeon Master's (AI or player-controlled) hordes of goblins, trolls, cute purple worms, and muscle-bound ducks that would put Schwarzenegger to shame. The goal of the heroes is overcome the challenges of the labyrinth, defeat the boss at the end of the level, and collect as much gold from the expedition as possible--fairly standard stuff.
The loot system in Dungeonland is a bit different than the typical dungeon crawler. You won't be grinding through the levels to gather better gear--only gold. The gold can be used in the item shop to get unique costumes, which range from fairy wings and astronaut suits to ninja gear and Viking armor. Weapons can be purchased as well, but none of the equipment provides any stat bonuses; it's all purely visual customization. Potions, however, can be bought and activated for special combat skills, like a charge attack for the Warrior or a teleportation attack for the Rogue.
The classic "holy trinity" of RPGs is in full effect for Dungeonland. The Warrior is your classic tank, the Rogue does the most damage, and the Mage can heal allies and damage enemies with elemental-based attacks. We played as the Rogue, who was extremely proficient at sinking his blades into his enemies. The backstab ability is particularly useful: A successful strike from behind any enemy is an instant kill, which came in handy when we were ambushed by a horde of mutant ducks. Surviving enemy attacks requires good team coordination and lots of communication. Your team shares a pool of extra lives, so if you let your buddies bite the dust too many times, it'll be game over for everyone.
The levels always play out differently each time you enter a match--even when you are playing against the Dungeon Master AI. Since the AI reacts to the way you're playing and could have a different set of skills, monsters, and traps to throw at you in each map, every match turns unpredictable. In one section, you might face a relatively easy group of trolls--but in a second run-through, the Dungeon Master might drop in a massive duck enemy that spawns a minion every time it takes damage.
The new level, Cannibal Kingdom, had a prehistoric Jurassic Park theme to it. The layout felt similar to some of the previous areas we had played, but there were some distinct areas that affected gameplay. One section had us cautiously battling over tar pits, which slowed our movement as we tried to wade through. Environmental traps like the tar make it extremely difficult to run away from danger when things get a little hairy.
Dungeonland keeps a lighthearted theme with the medieval mayhem, and is a blast to play in three person co-op. In the Cannibal Kingdom level, you might notice tributes and nods to publisher, like when you realize you're standing on Paradox's fossil logo. Also, if you pay close attention to the background, a certain square-pantsed sponge's pet snail--which apparently is one of the developer's favorite TV shows--just might make an appearance.
You can check out Dungeonland when it comes to PC in January 2013. For more information on the Dungeon Master mode, check out our Dungeonland Dungeon Master mode interview with the developers.