By Spencer . May 29, 2007 . 7:08pm
If I learned anything from playing Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground, monsters are fickle. You can’t build a dungeon with straight forward corridors and hope goblins will appear. You have to add in corkscrew turns and build a labyrinth for bats to hang out in. But it just can’t be a plain dungeon with dirt corridors, that’s not glamorous enough for slimes. You need to play interior decorator too and update the hallways with wood and later stone floors. Before you can make the dungeon of your dreams you need to start on the first floor in a four way corridor.
The architect, the protagonist, begins with a few pieces to build your dungeon straight lines, L shapes for turns and square rooms. Since the dungeon is deserted it’s up to you to fill in the pieces by pressing triangle and choosing them from a menu. The key to Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground is to make a complicated maze by using lots of L pieces and T intersections to branch the dungeon out. All the way at the end you can put in a few rooms, which can be a home for groups of kobolds and lizardmen. If you add in more twists and turns stronger monsters might appear. But monsters don’t invade the dungeon right away you need to return back to your house and rest before wild cats start appearing. After a day of rest in game time you can return to your dungeon and start fighting monsters for neophytes like black bats.
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground’s fighting system is a similar to other action RPGs where you press circle to swing your dagger and triangle to do a slower special attack. You can mix button presses to change your three hit combos and do a useful spinning attack. However, the system isn’t more complicated than button mashing your way through your dungeon. Monsters don’t have a lot of artificial intelligence either. Weak monsters encircle the architect, which puts them in perfect range to be hit by the rock spell, the sole magic you can cast at the beginning of the game. Later on the first floor boss monster, the Griffon, is easily killed with hit and run tactics.
Combat feels unrewarding too because you don’t level up by fighting monsters. The way to boost the architect’s stats is unorthodox; you eat food at the end of each day after returning from the dungeon. You need to fight monsters to earn meat to cook, but you can also blow through most of the dungeon dodging monsters with few consequences. It’s probably better to save the architect’s strength for the square rooms you set up, which tend to contain stronger monsters that drop gold or items. Gold is the most important thing to collect in Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground. You need it to buy new spells, equipment and more importantly parts from the builder to expand the dungeon. You’re always going to be short on cash because building and decorating a dungeon is expensive. As a constant work in progress the dungeon always feels incomplete. Basic rooms need to be upgraded to guest rooms or storage rooms to draw in stronger monsters and as soon as one floor is done you’re building the next… from scratch. There’s a lot of grinding to be done before you get even close to attracting the wandering demon and this is the very beginning of it.