Dungeon Hero - first impressions

Aug 23, 2007

Fantasy often has a few holes in it. Take Mordor's representation at the close of the cinematic Rings jaunt - a dusty, arid surface with a bunch of orcs just standing around shouting at each other. Where was the infrastructure? Where did the green-skins do their shopping? Where were the basic sanitation facilities? Great as Peter Jackson's vision was, it's doubtful he'd ever get a job as a town planner. The same is true of your average dungeon: who, honestly, leaves a big chest full of treasure just lying around next to a badly concealed pit trap?

"Why has someone left that gold?" continues a concerned Simon Bradbury of Firefly studios. "Why hasn't that spider eaten those goblins? Why are they just standing there waiting for me to kill them? I mean, ours is a dungeon with toilets in%26hellip;"

Firefly, you see, have a thoroughly British fascination with toilets. The last time we spoke to Bradbury, we were discussing the intricacies of the people of ancient Rome having toilets in their kitchens for CivCity Rome; the time before that, the importance of the gong-collector in Stronghold. Firefly is big on creating places that work - and places without toilets generally don't.

Dungeon Hero is set to be released several eons from hence (spring 2009 at the last count), and is dead-set on remedying exactly what we hate about seemingly every dungeon crawl ever created - from Dungeon Siege to Diablo. Not only is there a bizarre Deathtrap Dungeon fantasy set-up that's wholly inconsistent with real life, but also any story feels unnecessary and tacked on. Here, then, an entire living, breathing city with goblins bustling around and going about their daily business is being constructed (somewhat of a Firefly specialty really) - serving as both a foot in reality and as a narrative device.

You play as an interloper from the surface, and you're a bit of a jerk - hacking here and dismembering there. Goblins treat you as an untrustworthy alien, largely ignoring you striding through the streets of their four city districts and bumping your head on the ceilings, concentrating on their own personal clan war. One of the goblins has dug a little too deep though, and tapped a direct connection into death itself. They'll probably start wanting more help when they find that out.