Scott’s news that Bethesda is publishing a new co-op dungeon crawler got me digging out my old favorites, and it inspired me to compile a Top 5. Even though dungeon crawling action-rpgs are a sub-genre in themselves, within that I see at least four obvious styles:
• Classic Rogue-like, just you against a dungeon. With terrifying perma-death…
• Single-player with shops and quests – maybe a pet, too.
• Parties with NPCs. These tend to be more traditional rpgs, albeit with trimmed down combat systems.
• Multiplayer, local (console), and online (PC) with parties
It has to be said that the best dungeon crawlers have probably been on PC over the years, but as a committed console and arcade gamer my top 5 tends to lean toward the latter style, more specifically local co-op, and will probably be different from most peoples’ choices. I’m sure most of you will be horrified at the omission of Diablo (I only played the inferior playstation version, with its use of 10 memory card blocks!!). And I haven’t played Torchlight yet. But hey, here are my TOP 5 DUNGEON CRAWLERS:
5. Gauntlet - I’m embarrassed by how much coinage I threw in this arcade machine in the mid 80s, which I later bought for the Sega Master System. I never beat the game because there were more levels than hours in a human life. Sure, it’s repetitive and ridiculously simple, but “Green Valkyrie needs closure badly.”
4. Borderlands – The purists will be sickened by this choice, but Gearbox’s latest fps/rpg IP is a dungeon crawler in disguise. The killing, looting, selling and buying mechanic is highly addictive and best enjoyed with friends. Obtaining a platinum trophy hasn’t drawn a line under this addiction – I started my fifth character last night. Awesome dlc too.
3. Demon’s Souls – Two weeks ago I would have put King’s Field (PS1) on this list, but its place has been usurped by its spiritual successor from FROM software. I’m loving this game. Less of a dungeon crawler and more of a dungeon extreme punishment, this masterpiece is deceptively old-school in its ‘just one more go’ gameplay. It is the closest to a single player game on my list. (You can co-op as a mute ‘phantom’ – cool!)
2. Neverwinter Nights Online – The only PC game to have ever glued me to a keyboard and mouse for more than ten hours was this classic Dungeons and Dragons rpg from Bioware. The original single player experience was an NPC party affair, but several user generated worlds online, including Nordock and Middle Earth 2, were highly addictive RP-heavy co-op romps.
1. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance – The Baldur’s Gate rpg series on PC was given a linear action game makeover for the PS2, and the result was one of my favourite games of all time. Also set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, the impressive detail, dynamic lighting and character progression gave the gameplay unexpected depth. The barmaid at the Elfsong Tavern had possibly the first wobbly boobs in videogames, I swear. The first major boss, the Orb of the Undead, was an unforgiving grind but satisfying to beat. I’ve beaten this game 3 times with my partner, twice with my best buddy, once with my uncle and another couple of times on my own, so it has plenty of repaly value! Dark Alliance was an underrated pioneer on consoles – the engine was used for many subsequent games, both good (Champions Of Norrath, X-men legends) and not so good (Bard’s Tale, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel). The game spawned its own sequel in Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, which, although ambitious and lengthy, was just too darn easy to retain the same level of immersion.
The more I read about Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, the more my dream of a less linear Baldur’s Gate: DA with greater character customization seems less and less likely. The developers, InXile have confirmed there will be no local co-op, no choice of characters. A fantasy co-op Gears of War does sound fun though… In the meantime, what are your top 5 dungeon crawlers?