The first thing you will notice when playing Super Dungeon Tactics is Underbite’s love for tabletop gaming. Super Dungeon Tactics is directly based off Soda Pop Miniatures’ beloved game Super Dungeon Explore. The pure fact that Underbite was able to recreate the world of Crystalia while keeping the charm of the original game is amazing.
Super Dungeon Explore is a fast paced table-top strategy game with some of the cutest chibi heroes you will find. Even though the game is only six years old, it has already built a legion of fans. From gluing the first generation characters together to meticulously painting each model, these fans know every single detail about these characters and their world. We had the chance to chat with Cory Heald, the video games' creative director at Gen Con earlier this year and one of the things that really stuck out to me was how much detail they wanted to put into every character. The image below shows the board-game's cards compared to the in game artwork used for Tactic's two starting characters.
Your journey starts off with the Hearthsworn Fighter and the Ember Mage stumbling upon a few Kobolds, the main enemy of the game. After making quick work of these you discover that the Kobold were about to attack a mysterious town. This town doesn't show up on any map, which is unusual, but the villagers seem friendly and welcoming. As you go through missions, you will be tasked with protecting the town and discovering the mysteries the lie within.
Your roster will quickly expand from your first two characters, but so will the enemies you face. Throughout the campaign, you will acquire thirteen more characters, including many fan favorites! Each new character feels unique. Some may be a bit overpowered near the end, but this never felt like a problem since you could always choose other characters if you wanted more of a challenge. The new characters really helped keep the game moving forward, while also providing a reason to go back to old missions and face them with these new abilities.
Just like the tabletop game, each character can equip four items. The game has an interesting way of incorporating the tabletops Bit system. Instead of moving into higher levels as you play a map, it's now in the gear you acquire. Early on you may be getting a lot of 8-bit gear, but as you progress through the story, 16-bit gear will soon start to drop. As you gain new loot by finishing story missions and bounties, your character will continue to increase in power. You will also start to acquire better dice, but more on that in a second.
New gear is the only way to increase your character’s stats. This wasn't a problem for the most part, but there is one mission that required going back to grind a few bounties before I could continue with the characters I really wanted to use. While not a big issue, it is worth mentioning that you need to complete a mission before you take home the loot. So if you get stuck, try another map to mix thing up and hopefully get some better gear. There are a ton of missions and bounties (side quests) in the game, so there is always something fresh to play! If you want to see one of these bounties first hand, make sure to check out our video review where I take on the bounty "Unwanted Guests" with four of the early characters, the Fighter, Mage, Barbarian, and Cleric.
What really gives the game a "tabletop feel" is the unique dice system. Before each round, a set of dice is rolled for each character along with any enemies that have a special ability. Then in the same order that you will move, dice are selected one by one. Both the dice and move order are randomly generated each round. This makes each battle unique while adding some replay value to maps you have already conquered.
This can be both a good thing and a really bad one. There were several missions where drops were exactly what was needed to breeze through like the hero of Crystalia! On other missions, though, it seemed like a blue dice would never drop, or they would all be taken before my character could choose. The blue dice on the Cleric is a passive that AOE heals any party member near her after the round. With that same dice, some other characters got to attack before even being hit during the enemies turn. Needless to say, grab the blue dice early and often!
The objectives given in missions are often simple. Like the tabletop version, you are tasked with destroying spawning points. The real challenge comes from positioning and preparation. Unlike most games, you never know how many maps you will have to conquer before returning to camp. You may be able to lay waste, and finish a map quickly with heavy losses and damage; but, if this particular mission features another battle further in, or even better, several more additional maps, you can easily find yourself in a pickle. Not knowing how many battles lie ahead kept me extremely conservative and really added a level of depth to inventory and unit management that you don't see on the game's surface.
While the game is good, it’s also not without its weaknesses. The story left a lot to be desired. It really seemed like it was only there as a means for introducing new characters. When it finally seemed like the plot was coming together the game was over. It really felt like it needed just one more act after the curtain fell.
The dice sequence, while cool, can also take forever. They have built in a system that allows the game to select the dice for you, but this often resulted in the dreaded skulls for my party while better dice were still on the table. If there was a way to speed this part up, it would have a huge impact on the game.
Thankfully the developer is constantly updating the game to make it better by taking advice directly from the Steam forums. One major change that was quickly added while I was playing for the review was being able to use the WASD buttons to move the camera as well as the arrow keys. As a right-handed gamer, I can’t thank them enough for adding this small but significant feature.
If you are looking for a deep story to sweep you away you might want to look elsewhere. But, if you're looking for a fun strategy game with some unique mechanics, make sure you check this one out. Overall, I really enjoyed my thirty-six hours in Crystalia and I’m excited to see what Underbite brings to the game next. Hopefully, we see the Deeproot Wolf Rider soon!
Super Dungeon Tactics was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
While the story is lacking, the deep dungeons and intense strategy kept me coming back for more.
- Unique Dice System
- Multi-tiered Missions
- 18 Additional Maps to Conquer
- Lackluster Story
- Camera Struggles Near Buildings