When done right, dungeon crawlers can be incredibly satisfying to play. The constant loop of fighting enemies who drop loot which allows you defeat more enemies who drop better loot appeals to a basic instinct to constantly improve yourself. However, as Korgan proves, it’s possible to miss the point entirely and make what turns into a rather dull slog through boring environments, encounters and loot that in a lot of cases actually does nothing. Playing single player, you are free to cycle through the hunter with her crossbow, mage with fire and ice attacks or warrior using melee attacks with a single button press.
Combining the characters’ traits is the way to succeed, though in my time with the game I found the warrior next to useless. It wasn’t until fairly late on that I got a decent axe, but even that didn’t really matter as just a few hits from even the most basic of enemies took him out. Every time you level up you gain one skill point to assign to a character, but that is one between the three, not one each. Skill trees are short, but progress is slow, and I found that focusing the meager amount of points I got on one character was for the best. I mostly powered up the hunter, using her heavy crossbow attack firing out three arrows at once at melee attack range combining with the mages freeze attack, making pretty quick work of most enemies.
Even this wasn’t ideal however, as if they unfroze before I moved away it was pretty much guaranteed that my health would take a major hit. Potions are found on defeated enemies for health, mana etc, but are very rare to come by meaning often times I was attempting to get by a whole level on one health bar. Each character has their own health bar, but if just one falls then you must restart at the latest checkpoint. These are fairly generous, enemies won’t respawn and any traps disarmed will remain so, but it still puts a halt to the flow of a session. There are also multiple objectives per level, completion of one unlocks the next until you reach the boss. These generally are boring slogs across the level though, and the next objective will not even be achievable until the previous one is done, meaning a ton of backtracking and it just feels like padding for the sake of it.
You get no reward for completing them either, though the checkpoints do keep track of every individual notch of progress you make. A store in the menu is available at all times, but the frankly ludicrous prices of the items within mean you’re better off putting up with dying and retrying. Weapons and armor can also be found on enemies or in chests, but these add little value. Most of the stuff I found gave a whopping 1 point bonus to a stat or even better, a 2% protection to spells. The rest of the loot is absolute guff. In whatever guise it may be, the description with it says it all; useless. They have a value in the games currency, but I could find nowhere at all to sell them, or indeed anything. Dropping the items simply makes them vanish into thin air, and the menu is so unintuitively designed that if you keep too much stuff it just becomes a mess.
Items are grayed out if a character cannot use them, but it requires going through each individual item with each character which quickly becomes a faff. This is compounded by the fact that when you do loot a chest, it’s either take all or nothing. There is no way to just pick up the one item you’d like, and as picking up the majority is literally useless I soon found that I was just ignoring enemy drops and only bothering with the bosses or chests. Controls are unfortunately not any better. Face buttons attack, bumpers for items and left stick to move. Fairly standard, but shockingly, the right analogue stick is used solely as the interact button. Stand next to a chest for example, and you’re required to hold the stick in for several seconds to open it. Not really intuitive for sure, but I could get over this if you actually used the stick for the purpose you naturally reach for in this genre.
There is no way at all to aim your attacks, other than whatever direction you are running in. As I said above, you’ll likely be taken out in a few hits so having the controls literally force you to run into danger just screams of bad design. Boss battles suffer the most here though. Normally they are surrounded by a few minions who are easily dispatched, but stand your ground and you will fall in as little as one hit. The best and only tactic is retreat, punctuated by short shots that basically tickle the health bar. Not only is this frustrating, it’s boring. You simply circle the arena trying to get a half decent gap to turn around and fire off a few arrows before it’s on the run again for ages. The only thing that got me through these was playing the Benny Hill music in my head (and now it’s in yours), but even that got old by the time the massive health bar was depleted.
As an episodic game, I’d like to hope that some of these criticisms will be addressed down the line, but unless they change the way the game fundamentally works I don’t think that will be the case. You’ll also notice that I’ve not touched on the story yet. That’s basically because I barely saw anything of it. A long-winded intro to episode one is just 4 or 5 screens with big GoT-esque font text that doesn’t really explain anything. A few totems around the prologue have about 3 lines of text across them, and I’m not sure if my game had a bug or if the initial intro was missing. Lots of what looked like background art slowly passed by, but no spoken audio or text showed up before I was unceremoniously dumped into the game.
Korgan has the look and feel of a mobile title, albeit with marginally better production value. However, the boring slow combat, poor controls, general lack of meaningful progression and terrible loot system, chases away the main joy that’s typically a standard for this genre. Indeed, the prologue is free to play and as such is open to all, but even that feels like too much to ask.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.