ReviewsReview: Undungeon

Review: Undungeon

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I love the freedom developers have to design fantasy worlds and bizarre stories. The blend of science fiction and mythology never bores me, and I’ll try anything that looks weird and wonderful. Game Pass allows players to delve into games they may otherwise have overlooked. One such title that may sadly fall into this trap is Undungeon. The confusing description of collapsing worlds and a Multiverse that needs to be reset doesn’t instantly grab you. However, this is one slow-burner that make take you by surprise.

Developed by Laughing Machine and published by TinyBuild, this is an old-school-inspired action RPG. Set across multiple bizarre landscapes, you control a claw-wielding herald called Void. His job is to save what is left of the Multiverse by completing quests, exploring vast words, and gathering organs. 

Undungeon is confusing as hell. 

When a game opens with an in-depth description to set the scene and a basic but thorough tutorial, you’d think you’d know what was going on. Sadly, Undungeon is confusing as hell, and I’m still not entirely sure what is happening. 

Yes, it’s clear that the game takes place after the point of no return! You must complete your quest to reset the Multiverse from collapsing in on itself. But, after that, I’m simply going along for the ride to see what unfolds.

You’ll encounter multiple guides, including a floating eyeball that offers you advice, and a hub keeper who happily reminds you of how difficult you were to create. After all, Void isn’t a normal creation! No, he’s a blend of essence, organs, and ribs all cooked together in some ungodly pot.

Death is but one hit away!

Missions and hack n slash combat. 

The odd plots and strange flowing story may be confusing, but the core mechanics are intelligent and fun to experiment with. The gameplay brilliantly blends its two genres with ease. The free-flowing real-time combat works well with the action elements. Whereas the character levelling and statistics and attribute improvements lean towards the RPG layers. 

Encountering scampering scorpion-like creatures who spit acid projectiles was hellish. However, the hack n slash style combat creates a hectic but unrefined experience. It seemed at odds with the rest of the stylised gameplay, even though it did well to break up the mission-based exploration. Sadly, these standard RPG staples will leave you uninspired. You’ll save lost people, transport goods, and explore unknown areas. Veterans of the genre will be stepping into very familiar territory. This isn’t a bad thing. I just hoped for more. 

Upgrades and equipment. 

When death wipes your progress back to the last checkpoint, you are going to want the strongest character possible. This is where XP, levelling, and bigger and better equipment comes in. 

Being an ungodly creature that is created from organs and essence has its advantages. Namely, the ability to swap out your inwards for new, improved parts. You can change your heart, skin, brains, legs, and intestines for improved versions with attribute boosts. Moreover, a rune-based system allows you to fine-tune Void to your gameplay style.

I loved the customisable approach, and this extends to the equipment that Void can use. With grenades, throwing knives, and potions at your disposal, the claws aren’t the only method of attack. Furthermore, they can be traded en route and repaired in the central hub. Sadly, nothing lasts forever and your gear takes a beating throughout. You must maintain everything you own or you’ll weaken your approach. It is an inconvenient layer of micromanagement, but one that matches the RPG mechanics. 

Slash your way to victory.

Undungeon looks and sounds fantastic. 

Though it has a strange story, weird organ-based mechanics and standard RPG quests, Undungeon undeniably looks amazing. Its striking pixel art demonic imagery and Sci-fi edge work fantastically well. Its wonderful top-down perspective gives you a fantastic viewpoint, and the game feels alive and full of energy. Yet, this strange world isn’t perfect. Its hectic battles and odd movement are overwhelming and jarring to look at.

With spells exploding, projectiles flying and creatures leaping, there is a lot to take in. As for the jarring moments, Void lacks fluidity when he turns. This is distracting when much of the action requires quick and accurate movement. Sadly, this is one retro element that was badly implemented.

The dark and creepy Sci-fi theme is captured in the low-fi audio. This wonderful soundtrack adds energy, emotion and atmosphere to this eerie odd title. Furthermore, the excellent sound effects of crashing magic and slicing claws brilliantly complement the hard-hitting action.

Influence those around you.

An exhausted godly hero. 

Heroes with weaknesses are nothing new, but to run out of stamina almost immediately is ridiculous. Void can slash his claws for three consecutive attacks before he’s gasping for breath! This annoying and poorly executed concept is thoroughly frustrating and is a turnoff. If you combine this with the poor turning circle and distracting combat visuals, Undungeon is quite a handful to play. I did, however, appreciate the use of submenus and the stylised pause in the action as you equipped new weaponry or different potions/accessories. It was a great way to break up the hectic gameplay while making it manageable to handle.

With death wiping your progress, you are kept on edge throughout. The strange storyline and weird mechanics are oddly moreish, and encountering the bizarre NPCs only muddies the water further. It’s a game that’ll keep you playing out of intrigue as you’ll want to know what is going on. Its tough gameplay is reflected in the challenging achievement list and completionists will lose hours to it. 

Undungeon is fantastic even with its shortcomings. 

Imperfect games are unfortunately a given these days. However, this doesn’t define whether a title is playable or a success. Undungeon is fantastic despite its shortcomings and I was fascinated by much of its central concept. Its strange style won’t appeal to all, but I loved it and recommend you to buy it here! Game Pass subscribers have nothing to lose as you can play it free of charge. Complete your quest, upgrade Void, and reset the Multiverse. 

SUMMARY

Undungeon isn't perfect, but I loved it nonetheless. With fantastic old-school aesthetics, this tough title will fill you with nostalgia. Because of its busy combat mechanics and poor turning circle, Void can be a handful to control. Despite its shortcomings, this is a great title that is free on Game Pass.

+ Excellent old-school aesthetics.
+ A tough and unforgiving title.
+ Challenging gameplay.
+ Free on Game Pass.
- Clunky turning circles.
- Busy combat visuals.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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