REVIEW / Dungeon Travelers 2 (VITA)

 

Developer Aquaplus and publisher Atlus have joined forces to present their latest dungeon crawler, Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal.  Set in the Kingdom of Romulea, you take on the role of Fried Einhard the Libra, a sorcerer of sorts that has been tasked with building a team and saving the kingdom from the coming onslaught of mutants and monsters.  As a member of the Royal Library, you are the last line of defense to quell this uprising and prevent them from wreaking havoc no matter how many of them you have to beat the pants off.  Literally.

In this cheeky new, first-person dungeon crawling JRPG, you must recruit your team, equip them with the most powerful weapons and skills that you can find and use their abilities to their fullest if you expect to walk out of the dungeons alive.  You never know what is lurking around the next corner. So, be prepared and have your Sealbook at the ready because the citizens of Romulea are counting on you.

 

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Alisia (right) and Melvy are close friends of yours that you will meet up with early on in your journey

 

Gameplay in Dungeon Travelers 2 takes place in, you guessed it, dungeons.  These dungeons are maze like areas that you have to work your way through while battling some of the most attractive monsters that I have ever seen.  However, it would be a mistake to take these monsters for granted because while they may look innocent and alluring, they all pack a deadly punch.  While making your way through the labyrinthine corridors, you will also encounter traps, pitfalls, treasure chests and all manners of beasties that will test your mettle and provide you with the means to keep your party in the best equipment available as well as other items that replenish your health or remove status ailments.  All of the familiar JRPG tropes can be found in this game like character leveling and equipment swapping which instantly makes this game feel solid and fun.

 

Dungeons are very drab and uninspired affairs but the character designs are meant to keep your attention anyway.

Dungeons are very drab and uninspired affairs but the character designs are meant to keep your attention anyway.

 

In most other JRPGs, the player is mainly just concerned with leveling up the main characters in hopes that while you are grinding you never meet an enemy that is too strong for you to overcome.  As a way to make leveling up the characters more fun and to give the player more of an active role in the later development of the party members, Aquaplus has implemented a system that gives the player the ability to take their characters in one of several different directions depending on how you want to utilize that character as you progress in the game.  Characters in Dungeon Travelers 2 come in one of five main classes — fighter, magic user, maid, spieler and scout.  Once any character reaches level 15, you gain the option to specialize that character into one of two to three sub-classes.  You will also have this opportunity again at level 30, where you have the option to choose between three to four additional advanced sub-classes that will make for, honestly, some pretty badda$$ party members.

 

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Having the ability to choose your characters developmental path keeps you invested in how your party grows and becomes more powerful.

 

One other aspect of Dungeon Travelers 2 that really struck a chord with me is the ability to arrange your party members in several different formations depending on their special abilities.  This feature is nothing unique in the JRPG genre but in this game, when your character attacks, several factors are taken into consideration to determine the outcome and a characters specific location in the team’s formation can play a significant role in that overall calculation.  The proximity of your attacking character to the enemy (front row? back row?) as well as the weapon being used and the particular skills of that character determines how much damage is given, how much is taken and if that attack was critical or not.  Judging an enemy’s prowess solely on the fact that their level is lower than your current party could be the mistake that has you pressing the restart button.  Each enemy’s specific abilities, strengths and weaknesses must be considered as well as the items that they typically drop so that you can be sure to collect the items and monster spirits needed to build the strongest and smartest party members that you can.

 

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The formation of your team (bottom of image) can be adjusted to fit the strengths and weaknesses of your team at any time.

 

Speaking of having the strongest party possible, all of the standard tools and trades of war can be found in Dungeon Travelers 2.  Lances, axes, short-swords, long-swords, maces, crossbows, daggers and good old fashioned magic can be used to fend of the hordes of mutants and monsters that you will inevitably face on your journey to higher and higher levels of skill.  Each character also has the ability to increase their proficiency in particular skills through the character’s “Skill Custom” tab in the game menu.  You can acquire and level up these skills using Skill Points that you earn in battle.  While the accoutrement of battle is important to your teams overall effectiveness as protectors of Romulea, there is one other source of power that you can use to round out your crews battlefield capabilities: Sealbooks.

 

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You will often find weapons and equipment that will need to be identified before you can use it. It costs some gold to have it identified but you can usually sell it for more than the cost of identification so even if its not something you can use, its still worth a good amount to sell.

 

Being a JRPG, Dungeon Travelers 2 has its fair share of grinding but Aquaplus has implemented a system that, while it doesn’t remove grinding as a main way to level up your team, it does make it so that all the grinding doesn’t just effect your money bag or increasing your experience points.  As a Libre, you have the ability to absorb the spirits of defeated monsters and mutants.  By gathering a certain number of the monster’s spirits, you can then create a Sealbook.  These Sealbooks will strengthen the entire party with various enchantment effects by equipping them to party members.  So, even when you are grinding, all three of the games main character building features, gold, EXP and Magic, are continually progressing which is a benefit to the development of your characters in the fact that all of those slain monsters are contributing to your cause in multiple ways and you are not just grinding for grindings sake.

 

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Sealbooks are created from the spirits of defeated demons, monsters and mutants. They can then be equipped to the party members to add additional boosts to the character or the entire team.

 

While the visuals in Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal aren’t totally unique they are very cool nonetheless.  The game sports a very clean-lined anime style that helps to present some very interesting character designs.  The layout of the dungeons isn’t very remarkable but the rest of the art assets definitely makes up for their lack of polish.  If you have been following this game online then you have heard all about the uproar over the dress of, or lack there of, many of the games main characters, monsters and mutants.  At times, the mostly female cast, aside from the random enemy that is a cherry, an orange or a half-peeled apple, are dressed in the barest of fashions that cover only enough to earn the game a Mature rating.  While the game looks amazing with bright vivid colors and a cartoon-ish design, it definitely is not for young kids.

 

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Many of the scenes in the game are images of women wearing almost nothing and posed very seductively. If this bothers you then you might want to pass on this title.

 

One thing that you can depend on Atlus to bring to fans is a game that has a stellar soundtrack, if nothing else, as well as a voice cast that is only matched by that soundtrack.  The music in Dungeons Travelers 2 has a way of setting the tone no matter where you are in the game.  Whether it’s when you are scouting an unknown dungeon and end up neck deep in monsters or between dungeons just having a few minutes to get to know the other characters, the music is spot on and is the perfect compliment to a very deep and engaging game.  The script is also surprisingly good and does a great job with mixing some adult humor and innuendo into a great story about long-time friendships and looking out for those that are the closest to you.  The voice acting is superb and in Japanese with English subtitles but just listening to the dialog clearly reveals the level of determination that was present in bringing the characters to life.

 

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Don’t get fooled by the looks of these “monsters.” They are deadly regardless of their outward appearances.

 

While on the surface Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal may seem like just a teenage boys naughty dream, there is a surprising amount depth and strategy to this game.  To dismiss this game simply because of the scantily clad women (let’s be clear, most of the enemies that you will face are women and not “monsters” in the traditional sense), would be a mistake if you are into JRPGs.  This game, in spite of the chosen art direction, is one of the best JRPGs feature-wise that I have played all year, and as a reviewer, I have played a lot.

Despite appearances, Aquaplus has created a worthy dungeon crawler that offers more than 80 hours of story gameplay, a surprisingly complex RPG system, and TONS of customization.  You can pick it up now on the PSN or in your local game retailer for $39.99. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed.

 

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