- The 2D art for the characters was cute.
- Everything Else
If there was a genre of 3DS games that needed to be added to, it’s the dungeon crawler genre. Excave, the first of a trilogy to be brought to America, looks to fill that that void and takes its best shot at doing so. Though the question still stands, is it fun to play?
The game starts out so laden with tropes that it appears more like a parody: Black screen, text introducing the ‘story’, fade out. Immediately you’re given the option to jump into the game without any type of introduction to mechanics or any type of tutorial beyond hints left around in the first set of dungeons. Immediately the first thing that stood out were the only enemy you fight for the first four dungeons; Slimes. It’s a bit boring and frankly disappointing that all that is offered to us is a set of uninspired monsters whose largest variation is their color. The monsters featured in the game never become particularly interesting, giving us a full catalogue of creeps and creatures we’ve already seen a thousand times over both within and outside of the very same genre. The most interest of Excave artistically would be the bosses, which really aren’t anything to write home about. By far the most interesting area of the game would be either a period of dungeons laden with traps or the final set of dungeons filled with lizard men and living statues.
Mechanically the game is incredibly simple, which is a bit of a disappointment even for a game as cheap as this. Clunky is the best way to describe Excave’s mechanics. Combos are boring and generic, which is no surprise given that the player has an option of mashing A to swing their weapon or pressing B to raise their shield/use a potion/cast a spell. This is a problem further exacerbated by the delay between the button input and the actual action taking place and as a result it’s very easy become staggered by the enemy and lose all momentum you may have. Boss fights are trivial due to the shield completely nullifying any attack so long as you’re facing the attacker, removing any sense of accomplishment for every minor and major boss battle. The difficulty within the game is primarily artificial, the game solving the difficulty curve by simply throwing more and more projectiles at you until the game begins to resemble a poorly designed bullet hell. Perhaps the greatest crime mechanically isn’t the clunky and stale fighting, but the poorly designed touch screen menu that requires players to have a third arm jutting out of their
chest to properly use.
Beyond the introduction telling you that there’s bad things afoot in the magical lab, there’s nothing that actually gives context for that other than chests sprinkled through the game that allude to mysterious bad things. It seems that the best context the game designers were willing to give was an afterthought to the game which is really just a “go hunt for treasure” story. In this generic hack and slash that lacks all of the fun of hack and slash games, there is no reason to progress and no real drive to continue fighting baddies when the only objective is to get better loot to kill tougher enemies.
Excave succeeds in providing a dull addition to a genre that desperately needs life. It’s only made more unfortunate that Excave’s greatest flaw isn’t bugs or glitches. It’s not the lack of a pause button or the lack of a map in the drab maze-like levels. It’s how horribly dull it is.