I’ll be honest, when I saw that Super Dungeon Bros (SDB) was to be launched and become instantly a Games with Gold I was a touch worried. It’s like seeing a sequel to a movie you liked being direct to DVD release, you instantly meet it with a tinge of doubt. For me, at least, it sends a message that either the game isn’t that great or, more likely, it’s filled with microtransactions. Whether it’s the developer themselves or the publisher is inconsequential because someone, somewhere, felt that by giving it away free they’ll lure some people in enough for them to, possibly, part with some money.
In the case of SDB, I get the feeling it was a bit of both. Developed by React games you play as one of four rock named Bros (Lars, Ozzie, Freddie and Axl) who are tasked with helping the realm of Röckheim. You can play local multiplayer or online however at the time of writing whilst you can tackle things locally with as many Bros as you like, online forces you to have four. This can be rather inconvenient if all you want to do is take on the dungeons with your friend and no-one else. In my time online my friend and I had to, literally, carry one or two other Bros through due them going AFK.
Anyway, the rock theme permeates deep with everything from the soundtrack to the overall tone of the game. It’s kind of fun but the humour often misses its marks. Sure the comedic rumblings of the titular characters are amusing, to begin with, but the repetition sets in pretty quick and you just wish they’d shut up. Visually things are rather impressive. Each level is procedurally generated with a theme running through each different zone that runs down to the types of enemies in each. In Cryptheim you’ll meet skeletons with the level taking a crypt-like feeling whereas Chillheim has you taking on yeti’s and killer bunnies in a frozen tundra. The colours pop and even when things get frenetic, the game engine seems to handle things well.
SDB classes itself as a dungeon brawler and while it’s got the dungeon part down the brawling isn’t quite as on point. For starters ranged weapons might as well not be in there. To begin with, you only have two weapons unlocked a sword and a crossbow. Furthering your arsenal requires shards that you can either collect from inside the games treasure chest or, if you want to, you can buy shard packs from the in-game store. If you decide on the crossbow, you’ll quickly begin to wish you hadn’t. The limited ammunition you have before your character reloads is bad enough but the fact that enemies get close to you so quickly renders it useless even quicker.
The sword fares better but suffers from the overall clunkiness of the combat. Your character only has three attacks – soft, hard and super. With sword in hand, the soft attack is a gentle prod which is fine when the enemies are low in number. The hard attack comes into its own when the threat meter (a bar which raises with time and increases the enemy count) starts to climb. Your super, of which you only have two, are best used only when the proverbial is hitting the fan. The balance of attacks is fine but should you tackle dungeons solo, as I did, you’ll suddenly find that the imprecision in direction and effect makes battling the lower levels harder than it need be. This can be compounded even further if you decide to activate any one of four modifiers that you can choose right at the start of your adventure.
In both single and multiplayer you have a finite number of lives the latter of the two it’s pooled between all four combatants. Once you run out that’s it, you’re done and you must start all over again. Any weapon modifiers you’ve purchased during your run through expires and you’re forced to go again with just your basic weapon. Whilst I appreciate you can’t keep anything it’d be nice to one or two that last for a period of time outside of your run through or can be purchased and used from the start. It just makes a lot of the hard work put into advancing your character as you go seem a little pointless.
However, SDB biggest annoyance comes in how it approaches multiplayer. As mentioned earlier you can only play online as part of a foursome. There is no way, at present, to start a game with just you and a mate. You are therefore forced to wait on matchmaking to pair you with some other unfortunate soles who’ve decided to tackle SDB at the same time as you. If anyone backs out before you start the process starts again. Should you be lucky enough to start game things don’t stop being annoying as if you have like I did, a player goes AFK, you have no way of kicking them forcing you to have to either carry them or kill them. It’s a gross oversight and can really hamper your attempt to conquer the dungeon as, you see, four players is realistically the best way to play.
In summation whilst SDB isn’t a particularly bad game it sabotages itself with clunky combat, forced multiplayer and an overall feeling of a paint by numbers game. If you’re lucky enough to play SDB with friends it can be fun but only because of the people you’re playing with rather than with what’s happening in the game playing out before you. The presence of microtransactions rubs a little salt into proceedings but mercifully it doesn’t seem like you need to partake to advance things in a timely fashion which makes you wonder why include them at all? If you’ve snapped this up due to it being one of this month’s Games with Gold then there is some enjoyment to be had but it’s not one I’d be rushing out to pick up otherwise.