Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground

Dungeon crawling isn't for everyone. It may in fact be the oldest and sometimes the stalest of genres in the eyes of many a jaded gamer. So, when embarking on a quest to rid the dimly lit halls of rat beasts and rambling skeletons isn't necessarily ones idea of a thrilling experience, what else could we do to possibly fill our empty nights and weekends? How about, instead of exploring preset or randomly generated dungeons for the 1000th time, we go out and create our own dungeon? A dungeon with our kind of layout and trimmings, our favorite monsters and oodles of loot for the taking, then, when we've got it all ready to go, maybe dungeon crawling won't sound like such a bad idea after all.

This is the premise and the journey that Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground will allow players to follow. It's the latest game from XSEED, the one company devoted to making the RPG scene on the PSP worth talking about. They recently released Valhalla Knights, and later this summer we'll also see the release of Brave Story: New Traveler, the RPG adaptation of the Brave Story anime feature. Right in the middle though, is Dungeon Maker, and it's looking to provide an experience that is obviously unique. Dungeon Maker isn't technically a part of the Maker series, but players are probably going to lump the games together by name recognition alone. RPG Maker and Fighter Maker have both been released on Sony platforms as well, leaving Dungeon Maker a kind-of haphazard create-a-game family to look forward to awkward conversations with at the dinner table.

Dungeon Maker has a step up on its brethren in at least having a true story to center its creation element around. Players take the role of the Architect, a novice dungeon maker seeking what every dungeon maker seeks: fame, riches, and to hear the lamentations of the women. Well, minus that last bit. The Architect is actually seeking not only his personal glory, but to build a grand and hideous dungeon that will draw the vilest monsters to its caverns. Then, he'll rid the world of the beasts himself in one fell swoop. The ultimate goal being the Wandering Demon, the most powerful creature roaming about causing havoc and dismay; by attracting the Wandering Demon to his dungeon and defeating him, the Architect will free the townspeople of their worries and fears. The story, as always these days, isn't vastly deep and promising, but at least Dungeon Maker has vague names like The Architect, The Wise Old Man, and the Wandering Demon going for it; how very postmodern!

The townspeople serve as an important focus for the Architect, and they'll eventually help teach him what makes a better dungeon. They'll offer magical spells and assistance to aid him in his quest as well, however, not at first. The townspeople have seen this all before, and this novice dungeon maker isn't enough to inspire their support as he strolls in claiming to be some sort of grand Architect. I mean, they saw The Matrix too, and that guy didn't have much going for him either, right? As the dungeon grows in scale the people will come along and begin to offer their wares, advice, and even quests to the player.

Fighting beasties in Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground is strictly realtime and players can rely on RPG norms like melee weapons, ranged weapons, and magic attacks for putting monsters in their place. Each weapon has its own special attack and look for swords, clubs, bows, lances, and more to be included, as well as magic attacks that pertain to a specific elemental property. Of course, players won't be needing weapons for squat if their dungeon isn't worthy enough to attract more than cobwebs. For that reason, players are going to have to devote the necessary time to creation, or if they're a tad lazy, they can make use of the PSP's wireless ad-hoc functionality to trade up with a friend and explore a totally new dungeon.

Making dungeon crawling exciting again is no easy task, so if XSEED is looking to appeal to more than just the genre stalwarts they've got to hope the creation element in Dungeon Maker is truly appealing. The visuals look simple but varied and the creation system looks robust at this point, so time will tell if The Architect can stand his ground on the PSP. Check back in the coming weeks for a review of Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground.