Undungeon - Stitch Together an Unmade Reality
Play as a Designer Walking Corpse Tasked With Fixing a Broken Reality
A Tried and True Premise With Sick Visuals
Undungeon belongs to the action RPG genre; a genre with plenty of independent offerings. Developed by Laughing Machines and published by TinyBuild, this game has you playing as Void. Void is an amalgam of body parts formed into a humanoid and tasked with saving a dying universe whose tethers to space and time are fraying.
Begin at The End (Of Reality)
In Undungeon, play an undying herald, formed from a melange of organs, consciousness, and bone, named Void. Void has been sent down to Earth by God, armed only with razor-sharp claws and agility, with the task of repairing the wounds that reality is suffering from. There are a fair bit of smart choices in dialogue and the story is a bit vague, which only adds to the mystique.
Concept Rating: 4/5
The End of Reality Never Looked Nor Sounded So Good
Undungeon's presentation is arguably the game's strongest offering through the marriage of retro pixel graphics and a very transcendental soundtrack of electronic and lo-fidelity guitar, resulting in a disjointed Western aesthetic that just works. Every NPC and threat comes from some point in time; the cowboy mummy rocking a wizard had who trades knives for brains is just one notable example.
Graphics & Audio Rating: 5/5
Literally, Build Your Body As You Rebuild the World and Destroy Enemies
In Undungeon, players guide Void through all of the usual varieties of RPG quest: find missing people, bring fertilizer to those who need it, figure out the source of a strange resource, etc. This is a top-down looter where you slash, dash, use consumables, and evade attacks.
Void is a composite creature and this has mechanical ramifications. Players can upgrade and modify his brain, flesh, legs, heart, and intestines, as well as apply runes to his core to suit whatever your particular playstyle favors. There is an overwhelming level of customizable to be had from this game; I had over 15 types of arrows and twice that many grenades available to me within one hour's time spent playing.
RPGs are all about building up your character. This one has you literally do that.
While all of this sounds amazing, the battlefield has some irreparable flaws that Void cannot fix. Despite offering 360° movement, Void's animations are limited to four directional sprites plus one connecting frame, resulting in a very stunted animation. Movement has no acceleration, conveying an unwelcome sense of floatiness. It seems hard to figure out why this game does not feel good to control but the dearth of transition frames and visual chaos during fights seems like a good starting point. Attacks lack impact and all of the different spells and explosions make it hard to tell what is actually going on during battle.
Other complaints would be the darkening, cracking screen effects as Void nears death, artificially raising the difficulty of the hard-to-parse combat. Enemies grow in power for every hit they make against you, which is just not how that is supposed to work. Yes, custom organs mean extra health bars, but taking sufficient damage can disable those health pools until you either head back to the hub world or save; i.e. the more damage you take, the less you can actually heal from items.
Weapon and item-use are limited by Void's lacking stamina gauge. Three quick swings are all it takes to wipe out stamina for a few precious seconds. Death is a hard reset, deleting any new progress and sending you back to your last checkpoint.
Gameplay Rating: 3/5
An Interesting Game Held Back By Odd Decisions
Undungeon has a lot of promising gameplay elements that are enhanced with excessive customization but the story is hard to parse, possibly being cribbed from a fragmented, implication-focused approach to storytelling. Unfortunately, the controls and animation make it hard to grasp your effectiveness and its mechanics make you feel like you are playing some project where the antagonists of this world wrote the rules.
Replay Value: 3/5
Clunky gameplay mechanics mar this sleek-looking game with a very nebulous story.