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Happy Dungeons Preview: Adorable Little Brawlers

Happy Dungeons is a gleeful, quirky take on the cooperative brawler. Picking up after its predecessor Happy Wars, Dungeons’ adorable brawls take place below the world, inside caves, caverns, and dungeons filled with a spectrum of enemies ranging from aliens to goblins. It’s a mostly linear, endearing brawler with a lot of personality, even if its combat feels slightly underwhelming in comparison.

Dungeons allows for up to four simultaneous players in a match, each choosing from one of three character classes: the warrior, the mage, and the cleric. Remaining true to traditional RPG conventions, the warrior is more of a tank-like melee character, the mage utilizes ranged attacks as its primary mode of combat, and the cleric sticks with casting healing spells as a way to keep their teammates fully operating.

Every class has a set number of special abilities they can execute during combat, including area of effect and rare attack moves. As players progress, they can select new abilities, level up their individual weapons, and use Happy Dungeon’s robust character creator to build their ideal fighter.

Customization is an important element in Happy Dungeons. Items, classes, and characters are all just a handful of options available to make the Happy fighter you choose into the best reflection of yourself. It has a definite quirk, and Happy Dungeon’s humor ultimately shines through each of these options. There are goofy clothing options like the Man-Eating hat, a witch’s hat with a gaping, toothy mouth in the center, and even skins making characters into green people and small, adorable bears. Whatever suits your quirky stylings, chances are good Happy Dungeons has it on offer.

Items can either be purchased or farmed through the death of enemies. While playing, developers were careful to point out to me that loot is divided up equally between everyone on the team, meaning you won’t have to fight someone to obtain a helmet or new sword.

The typical level in Happy Dungeons lasts typically 10-15 minutes, with several waves of scaling enemies--depending on how many will play-- and a final boss fight toward the very end. And this is where I felt a bit underwhelmed with what Happy Dungeons had to offer: everything about it from its personality to its customization is adorable and endearing, but all of the features in the world don’t make up for the fact that its combat feels more like lucky button-mashing than cohesive, strategic play.  

After watching and playing several rounds, I’m led to believe this is the case for a handful of reasons. First, the visual language of Happy Dungeons is muddled and confusing, making it difficult to identify enemies and friends in the heat of a large, chaotic brawl. Little to no feedback on the behalf of the player or the enemies makes it doubly difficult to tell how much damage I’ve taken, how many enemies I’ve killed, or even if the on-screen enemies have even gone down at all. Strikes have no weight, and the only aspects of combat I felt were worth anything were the special abilities, which require a timed recharge in order to use them again. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but when special attacks are recharging, it’s difficult to not feel underpowered, merely swatting at flies until the time my attacks recharge enough to unleash hell on a group of unsuspecting aliens.

Granted, Happy Dungeons is coming to Xbox One game preview this August, and developer Toylogic have shared their plans to continue developing and improving it up until its release with new updates arriving frequently.

It is Free-to-Play, although the sound of its model convinces me it is more than a mess of microtransactions used to block the player from the core game without nickel and diming them. In-game currency can be purchased or farmed throughout, which is then used to purchase new items and customization options.  

Happy Wars was a surprise hit on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and Happy Dungeons looks to recapture the magic of the original by resurrecting the same adorably quirky selection of characters and a tight focus on cooperative gameplay. Sure, combat feels like it could use a bit of smoothing out to make it more intuitive, but it’s a wholly entertaining and inoffensive brawler with a great deal of heart.

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