Inside Pulse 12

Review: Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal (Sony PlayStation Vita)

dtcoverDungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A. Inc.
Developer: Aquaplus
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 08/18/2015

Let’s start things off by saying this game has a lot of fan service. Most of the enemies are scantily clad monster girls, there are dozens of events where you get a close up of one of them with her clothes ripped off, that sort of thing. That can dominate the discussion of a game, so I wanted to get it out of the way. Yes it’s there, and if you get the creeps from that kind of thing, just don’t play the game. If it doesn’t bother you, than by all means read on and see if the other elements of the game are what you’re looking for.

DT2’s story is an interesting mix of fantasy tropes and anime tropes. The setting is a world where a demon once ruled the land with hordes of monsters. Five hundred years prior to the story, the demon was vanquished, and the monsters have since dwindled. Fried, the main character, is what’s known as a Libra. These people lead groups of knights into battle against monsters, and then seal said monster inside of magic books, as it’s the only way to wipe them out for good. Along the way, you’ll meet a decently large cast, consisting almost entirely of women and young girls. Fried’s boss is a woman, his party members are all women, and of course, just about every enemy is a monster girl. In some ways, it’s progressive. In other ways, it’s just an excuse for all that fan service we talked about. It never gets too creepy or into harem territory though, so that’s a plus.

dt1The real problem with the story is how slow and predictable it is. Often times you can see a plot twist coming a mile away, but you’re left to slog through a multi-hour dungeon before it moves forward. Several of the dungeons in the game are trekked through for what seems like no other reason than to pad the game’s length. While the game does have some smaller events to keep you going in between, the story is often put on the back burner for large stretches of time. Were it not so obvious what was going to happen, this would be a bit more forgivable. There are things here to enjoy, it just takes a lot of patience to see them.

To say the visuals of this game are behind the times is putting it mildly. It should be noted that, in Japan, this game was simultaneously released on the PSP. As such, it is not optimized for the Vita. The vast majority of the visuals are static character portraits. There are no models, the dungeons consist of miles of identical hallways, and the effects are limited. The art is fine, although the blocky looking backgrounds are ugly to look at. It’s just not impressive.

dt2For audiophiles, there’s only the Japanese voice track in the game. However, the actors/actresses do a pretty bang up job. Not only do the voices match the personality of the various characters, but there’s a good range of emotions and reactions to boot. Some of the battle cries get repetitive, but that would happen regardless of the language. The music is generic fantasy stuff, with an equally generic rock track for battles. However, it’s the good kind of generic that serves as solid background fare. It’s a decent overall package.

As the name implies, DT2 is, in fact, a dungeon crawler. You move around on a grid from the first person perspective. As you move around each dungeon, you’ll fill out your map, open doors, find treasure chests, and get into random battles. While the first couple of dungeons are pretty straightforward, the others start getting a bit tricky. There are lots of traps and obstacles to slow you down. For example, there are one-way doors, invisible walls, and portals that will send you back to the start. On top of that, there are sections in some dungeons where you can’t see your map and some where none of your magic will work.

Combat in the game is pretty straightforward as well. Once again, it’s in the first person perspective. Enemies appear as static images in front of you. You can attack, use skills, use items, defend, or try to escape. A handy diagram on the right shows the turn order, you can press the right shoulder button to keep track of enemy buffs/debuffs and such.

There are some interesting mechanics at work here. Both your party and the enemies you encounter have up to two rows of combatants. As such, various weapons have different ranges. Short ranged weapons are good for front line to front line combat, for example. Characters in the back usually take less damage and are attacked less often. Also interesting is “chant times” for spells. When you go to use a spell, that character does not immediately cast said spell. Instead, they chant to cast it, and that can take a few turns before it’s ready. If they’re attacked while they are casting, they may get interrupted and fail to cast the spell altogether.

dt3Character leveling works a bit different in this game. Each character has base class of either fighter, magic user, scout, spieler, or maid. At level fifteen, they can choose a second class based on that first. For example, a fighter can become a berserker or a paladin. At level thirty, they get a third class which further specializes them. The good news is that you can still level up skills in any of a characters three classes. Each level, you’re given a number of skill points that you can use to level up any of your available skills. This will let you earn new spells, improve old ones, get passive boosts, and so on. Each rank in a skill costs a certain number of skill points to level up. It gets more expensive as you go. At the start of the game, this process is slow. You get one skill point per level and thus have to wait multiple levels to upgrade some skills. The amount of points you get increases over time, however, which smooths the process out.

There are over a dozen characters in the game, so you can pretty much see every different class combination if you choose. Your party size is capped at five, so there’s actually a lot of room for customization of your squad make up. The downside is that characters not in your party do not earn experience. If you want to keep a balanced team, be prepared for a lot of level grinding.

Speaking of which, let’s get to the game’s downsides. Progress is slow, and you’ll often have to fight dozens of battles to get a level up, which means a lot of accumulated game time. When you’re trying to get enough skill points to level up a specific trait, this gets tiring. Further, enemies are generally not pushovers, and you have to study them to figure out the dangerous ones and prioritize them first. Even if you feel strong enough to just button mash the attack button, you could still get killed by a crazy spell out of nowhere. Let’s say you level up some more and finally get to the point where you can just breeze through them. That doesn’t mean you’re actually strong, or have the proper party makeup, to fight the boss. You’ll likely get steam rolled a few times until you’ve ground out a few levels or found a spiffy new weapon or two. Considering it usually takes hours and hours simply to find that boss in the first place, this can be disheartening.

dt4Perhaps the most tedious thing about the game is that the dungeons are designed to keep you going around in circles. There’s usually only one good path to take, and the wrong one will send you back to the start. Every time you have to take that walk of shame back to where you were a moment ago, you’ll end up stuck in more random battles and the clock will just tick away. It’s boring at best, and frustrating at worst. It’s particularly bad when you’re running around trying to find that one false wall that’s hiding the switch you need to move forward.

Let’s end things on a couple of more positives though. There’s a cheap consumable that lets you instantly escape a dungeon when you’re out of battle. This lets you go back to the hub to sell off items, change your party, and other useful things. You can also save at any point outside of battle. This means that a sudden sound thrashing doesn’t have to mean hours of lost progress. There’s a fun system that lets you create spellbooks for an enemy after you’ve defeated enough of them. You can sell them for cash or even equip them for various boosts. They can also be used, if you find a blacksmith in a dungeon, to enchant your weapons.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150There are a number of interesting and solid gameplay mechanics at work here. However, if you want to enjoy them, you’re going to have to get through a number of potential hang ups. There’s the fan service, the constant slow grind, the slow plot, running around in circles in dungeons, and other common tropes of the genre working against this. If none of these things tend to bother you, you’ll likely have a blast with the game. If they do bother you, you’ll almost certainly hate it. Keep that in mind if you’re trying to decide if the game is right for you.

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  • Doragon Ichizoku

    I was interested at “has a lot of fan service,” but it seems that’s not enough to keep me playing. On the other hand I do want to support Atlus. I put this one on the maybe list.