Game name: The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos
Release date: September 17, 2020
Genre: Tactical RPG
Developer: Artefacts Studio
Publisher: Dear Villagers
If you are anything like me, when you read “The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos” you probably thought “did these people ask an AI to give their game the most generic yet incredibly weird name possible for an RPG?”. I know I did. And yet, I’d be incredibly wrong, since Artefacts Studio‘s latest title is actually based on Le donjon de Naheulbeuk, a series of comic fantasy works created by French author John Lang. So, with my very wrong assumptions out of the way and not a lot more in the way of descriptions, join me in this adventure as I delve deep into the Dungeon of Naheulbeuk.
While the game masquerades as a classic party-based RPG for a few seconds, we’ll quickly realize that this is actually a mix of (pretty great, in my opinion) turn-based combat and loads of comedy. Right from the start it’s obvious that the developers had a ton of fun cracking jokes at the genre’s tropes, while subverting some of them, and falling right into others. Pop culture references are dime a dozen, and you can find loot named after pretty much every popular fantasy property in history. If you aren’t the kind of person who can enjoy somewhat abrasive satire and crass humor, I’d say that there’s a fair chance that you won’t enjoy this game, but in case you can stomach it, there are a number of reasons that will make it worth your while.
I’ve just mentioned that I think The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk‘s combat is actually pretty great, and there are a few reasons for that. The first of those would be that if you’ve played any of the recent incarnations of XCOM (well, any but the third person action one) then you’ll instantly be familiar with the basics of Naheulbeuk‘s combat system. Characters can take cover, move, perform an action, move extra tiles without performing an action, have special moves, all that good stuff. There is an overwatch mechanic (that can be cancelled if an opponent sneaks by and attacks the character that was covering the area) and an initiative system dictates each unit’s turn in battle.
So far, so XCOM, right? Well, aside from that very basic description of the combat system, there are some really nifty features such as team attacks, and a system that turns the whole “I missed a shot that had a 99% hit chance!” on its head, as it gives characters powerful buffs based on their misses during battle (yes, you read that right). You can also delay a character’s turn so they can act later, when there’s a better opportunity for them to make an impact, and there is a pretty nifty waypoint system that takes care of units having dodgy pathing when it comes to overwatch areas or other dangers.
While I found the game a bit on the hard side (but I’m no turn-based combat veteran, so take that into account), it’s undeniable that there’s room to experiment from battle to battle, something that is accentuated by each unit’s skill trees, both passive and active, letting the player customize their roster of heroes to their liking (well, there’s a caveat here, as with the exception of one spot, you will always have a Dwarf, a Thief, an Elf, a Ranger, an Ogre, a Wizard and a Barbarian, with the final spot being filled by your choice between a Minstrel, a Priestess or a Paladin). And of course, since this is an RPG, there’s loot to be found, and it will further impact the way you play.
Of course, a good combat system can only take an RPG so far, something we’ve seen in titles like Dragon Age II, where Bioware reused every area a hundred times, making the game feel a lot more repetitive than it actually was. On this front, I have good and bad news: Naheulbeuk‘s levels are obviously hand-crafted, and there’s a lot of variation from one dungeon floor to another. Sadly, most quests involve a lot of going back and forth to places you’ve visited, so in the end, the game does feel quite repetitive in that regard, something that could have been alleviated if it was a shorter adventure (I spent almost 40 hours in-game, according to Steam’s playtime tracker, and I wasn’t playing on the hardest difficulty level).
On more positive news, I absolutely adored the game’s soundtrack, which was composed and recorded by John Lang, the author of the series this title is based on. Some tracks are standard fare fantasy stuff, but there’s always a hint of mischievousness in the air, and it fits the experience perfectly, something that games that enjoyed a far bigger budget than this one can’t always achieve.
What I definitely didn’t enjoy is the amount of bugs present still after release. I’ve found myself stuck in situations where some units decided they’d had enough and refused to move (forcing me to restart the game completely), and there are weird issues when using certain skills from time to time, leading to unexpected crashes and other horrors. Thankfully, there have been two patches in the last few days, so the developers are definitely aware of those bugs, and actively squashing them.
Overall, while The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos is definitely not for everyone due to its focus on comedy (which didn’t always hit for me), the game’s combat is mostly excellent, and if the most egregious bugs get patched, I can see it becoming a cult hit.