The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos is a quirky tactical RPG based on an audio comedy by James Lang, and is developed by Artefacts Studio, SCRYsoft, and Dear Villagers. The satirical take on the classic RPG genre features the same old dungeon adventure, tactics combat system, and the tabletop feel of D&D merged into one package.
This combo had me skeptical at first because it’s tricky to deliver this kind of humor. But to my surprise, it managed to land on its feet and got me invested in exploring the massive Dungeon of Naheulbeuk. It also helps that, not too long ago, I played a tabletop-like RPG with a heavier and darker theme, so The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk’s lighter tone helped me take a break from a gritty story and have some fun.
To an Epic Quest we go my Friends
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk throws us on the journey of seven characters, each filling the role of your typical RPG character; namely the Ranger, Elf, Wizard, Ogre, Barbarian, Dwarf, and the Thief. They’re commissioned to recover a statuette from the terrible dungeon of Naheulbeuk. While their quest sounds fairly simple, things go out of hand when they recover a cursed amulet — The Amulet of Chaos — bringing misfortune to the whole party and trapping them inside the massive (and according to the Elf, stinky) Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, leaving them with no choice but to push forward on their quest for the statuette and find a way to lift the curse.
The whole presentation feels like watching a Saturday night cartoon, but with some F-bombs thrown in and well-hidden adult humor snuck in between the lines. Sometimes, the Narrator not only throws some useful tutorials, but also some self-aware lines, although not apparent to the characters.
As for the party, they’re your typical fantasy characters: the Ranger proclaimed himself as the leader, the ditzy Elf and the greedy Dwarf hates each other, the Barbarian is a muscle head, the Wizardess is a know-it-all, the Ogre is a glutton, and the Thief is a coward. What makes it funny is that they are self-aware, pointing out things like experience points, and their witty lines outright say that they never take their situation seriously. These dialogues blend into the narrative without having the humor feeling forced, and at times you can definitely hear some well-hidden references from other fantasy media. Still, despite me having fun with the dialogue, the constant F-bombs and the toilet humor got old. Not saying that the humor is bad, you’ll just hear a lot of it, especially with the Dwarf.
Although the satirical humor may not appeal to everyone, it can definitely grow on you, especially when you start investing in its gameplay. With all that being said, the narrative is entertaining enough; you just have to give it a chance. It also helps that the character designs look straight out of a CGI cartoon with voice acting that fits each character. Although, I admit that I prefer the Female voice for the Narrator compared to its bored-sounding Male counterpart.
Roll for Six
Despite being inspired by tabletop games, there are no real dice involved here except for a random skill check system that’s quite hard to grasp. Instead, the gameplay is comparable to XCOM where you must take advantage of covers and hazards of your surroundings, and at the start of the combat, you must think carefully about where to place your units.
Each character will have two action points which are spent by moving and attacking. You can spend two action points to cover more field at the cost of not attacking with that character, or make a pass on that turn to wait for the enemy to make their moves.
The combat system is the strongest point of the game for me as while it is fairly simple at first, it does take time to learn how the mechanics of covers work. But compared to the rabbit hole of character attributes in the game, I would say the combat is way simpler to learn. This is Because, in combat, you’ll just have to think of either finding a good position or a cover, preferably somewhere you can flank and score a backstab to the enemy. This is why one of my favorite characters is the Thief as, while he can’t take much damage, his stealth and backstab skill can deal tons of damage to an unsuspecting victim.
Like I said, the character attributes is a tough to learn if you’re not familiar with tabletop games or RPG. Terms like Charisma, Precision, and Constitution appear along with simple terms like Dodge and Parry, so it will take some time for a beginner to learn and know the impact of these attributes on a character build. But the good thing is, when a character levels up, two of these attributes are highlighted, making it easy for new players to distribute skill points if they’re unsure of how to build their characters. Though, the option of making your own build is still available, if you’re a seasoned adventurer.
Going back to the random skill check, I’m not sure if any of the character attributes affect the success rate, so it just feels too based on RNG. I didn’t really enjoy having a window of failure when you just want to use a buff for your party, with no clear explanation on how it works. Failing to do a successful skill check applies a debuff to the whole crew, and as for my experience, there is no real way to avoid it if you fail, and that totally sucks. So my advice is to take some time to build the skill tree, since there are lots of useful skills that you can unlock, you just have to choose carefully and the character attributes can come second as the game assists you on what attributes to level up.
Once you’re all set learning the system ,you can explore the Dungeon of Naheulbeuk at your heart’s content.
Speaking of exploration, you can navigate the dungeon in an asymmetrical view that can be controlled by using the left analog stick. So, you can see points of interest or hidden passageways that may contain valuable loot. Although at times, I still found it quite difficult to get a proper angle to see some hidden clues on certain puzzles around the dungeon. I think it is just proper to say that the camera control could be better. Also, the UI could really use some work since, at times, I press the wrong button and end up on a different page. It sounds like a “me problem” rather than a design problem, but my muscle memory just hits the wrong button with the UI design, and it can be a real headache considering that the next page takes a second to load.
The holes in the Cheese
Now, another point of improvmenet in The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is the sound design. While the game’s cartoony presentation and humor works, the sound design and audio presentation feel lacking a bit. It didn’t get me in the mood that I’m heading on an epic fantasy quest, and some characters’ voice acting (though minor), like one of the elderly wizards, sounds too young for his age.
Another thing that I find to be dread of my days is the loading screen. Unlike with my previous dungeon crawler that had way too many loading points, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk for the PS4 takes its sweet time to load when it gets its chance. Although loading is not a major occurrence when exploring, heading to a different floor, or booting the game itself takes a minute or few. Maybe my hardware is starting to age, but I’m sure this is not the case for some of my other games where loading the menu just takes a couple of seconds to load.
Final Verdict 7/10
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos’ satirical take on the fantasy genre translates well as a video game, offering a fun and challenging turn-based battle system and simple puzzles that will definitely appeal to seasoned adventurers. Although for newbies, it will definitely take them some time to learn the ropes. The good thing is the key information is concise enough to understand, helping them start their own quest.
While the humor is perhaps the game’s selling point considering the source material it, could feel repetitive at times, but the delivery of the dialogue saves it. But for me, the humor can be set aside because I actually stayed for its gameplay, making it a worthwhile pick. It could have gotten a better score if it weren’t for some rough edges that I found halting my drive during gameplay. Still, other than these hiccups though, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a fun and funny RPG.
This review was made using a game code for PS4 provided by the publisher.