When it comes to RPG games, I miss the classic, simple nature of them. I love the genre and I’ll forever lean on it as one of my go-to callings, but this gen especially, we’ve seen some pretty poor examples. The plot’s structure is relatively fluid. Taking place within the lands of Crystalia, the game opens up by describing the story of light and dark. Pre-dating Crystalia, there was only the Goddess, and then from the darkness came laughter, bringing light with it. The darkness of the etherium was then shattered by the heart and joy of the Goddess’ blinding light.
The lands of Crystalia now a mark of everything joyful and loving, so much so that the goddess cast her light into the sky and it split into all of the colors of the rainbow, ultimately giving life to all of Crystalia’s inhabitants as a result. However, in the shadows, the dark consul rose with great skill along with the midnight blade; a vastly powerful weapon and tool, capable of piercing the veil between two realms. This is where your story starts. Two characters; a dwarven fighter and a human mage, both keen to take up the task of finding out the truth and the origins of this tale.
Once you have read a heap of dialogue (get used to that) you’re able to name your starting characters and dive into the prologue. Here, you’ll learn all of the basics of play; controls, combat and so forth. Super Dungeon Tactics’ tutorial does a good job at feeding you into the game without boring you, nor outstaying its welcome. Super Dungeon Tactics serves itself as an isometrical turn-based RPG, with the usual gameplay elements present throughout; grid-based combat in which players will move characters and attack per-turn.
Each of the game’s levels offer up varying sub-goals, be it putting out fires, saving NPCs, or something alike. This alone adds a great deal of variety to the game, nicely breaking up the pace throughout. As already alluded to, the gameplay formula remains inline with expectations. You’re allowed one movement turn and then one attack turn. The kicker, however, is the inclusion of a dice-roll system that will apply to both you and your opposition. During the beginning of each phase a handful of dice will drop on-screen, granting you the ability to select them.
This, largely, is a game of luck and chance, because if the enemy gets to go first, you’re shit out of luck. These dice will either represent buffs or debuffs, and only one hero or enemy can hold one dice at any given time. It’s also worth noting that once you assign a dice to a character, they’re locked in with that selection until the next phase. As progression is made, more variations of these buffs and debuffs will be introduced. The same can be said about the cast of characters that you can add to your party, all coming with their own unique pros and cons.
The dice system can become somewhat tedious when it wants to be, oftentimes feeling as though it’s deliberately working against you, but it’s a system I’ve come to love nevertheless. It makes the game feel dynamic to some degree too. To give you an example of how the dice system functions; you could get a dice with the symbol of a sun on it, which will add +1 damage to your attack, though, you could also get a skull symbol, which will do the direct opposite. When you take into account that the game demands that you take what’s on offer, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the tension each battle brings.
There’s a massive amount of different dice to select from, so it pays off to choose from your dice pool carefully. The drops are completely random, but this can be both a blessing and a curse. For instance, when it was just my dwarven fighter against a kobalt enemy, we both found that we had matched each other’s output and defense, leading to a battle that lasted far too long until I eventually beat him with a lucky roll. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often but when it does occur, it can be a real pain in the ass. There’s also a difficulty modifier if you wish to take on more of a challenge.
The game offers a total of six difficulty settings, ranging from easy to xtreme; each bump in difficulty increasing the drop rates for gear, increasing enemy health and decreasing your health. On the topic of gear, this is obtained through defeating the enemies within. Gear is the only way to better the stats of your characters, with the best gear (Mystic) only being available in the harder difficulties. Gear arrives in three forms; weaponry, armor and jewelry, all of which can be applied your party members unless, of course, the game states otherwise.
This also feeds into the dice system, being that new items will add new moves to your attack pool and will subsequently add more symbols to the dice drops, or alternatively, just generally buff you up. Customization here is key and to get the most out of the battles, you would do well to weigh up what each gear piece does before you apply it for the sake of it. Newly earned gear can only be truly obtained when you complete a level, rather than obtaining it on the spot, so to speak. Furthermore, gear can only be applied before each level begins, again, consideration is a forefront importance.
There’s something particularly intriguing about diving into a new level and not fully knowing what you’re getting yourselves into. Whether that be how many screens you’ll need to fight through, what enemy types you’ll need to overcome or indeed, what rewards you will gain for your efforts. The juggle of combat is top-notch at the best of times, constantly having to weigh up your damage output, your armor rating and your movement count, to strategically overpower your foes and make the best of whatever situation you’re in. It’s empowering and, strangely, quite accessible yet tough.
I have to commend the writing here too, which relays the overarching story quite well at the same time as remaining charming and fun-loving. My major gripe is that, at times, the framerate seems to drop on occasion. Hopefully the developers can issue a patch to get this sorted soon. I also enjoyed the colorful and cutesy design of the game. Super Dungeon Tactics presents a colorful pallet that boasts a decent portion of diversity across the board, ultimately singing praises to its table-top counterpart. I’ll say the same about its solid soundtrack and audio cues, further heightening the adventure.
There’s plenty of content to soak up here, and that’s not even mentioning the deep pool of questing that players can take to if they want to spice things up a bit and separate their party to tackle different objectives in separate areas. The price-tag may seem a bit steep at first glance, totaling $19.99 (or region equivalent), but there’s no denying that you’re getting a healthy return for your investment. Despite its few issues, this is one of the best turn-based RPGs in recent memory. I fully plan on returning to this game several times over, and I advise you do the same.
Super Dungeon Tactics does its source material a great deal of justice. This cutesy yet robust game is one of most creative and accessible turn-based RPGs in recent memory. Despite issues with the framerate, the interesting and well developed gameplay mechanics sit well with the game’s traditional foundation, making for an adventure that’s vast, tense and empowering from beginning to end.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.