”’Platform: Xbox 360”’
Let’s be clear from the outset: I’m a sucker for a decent dungeon crawl. I’m a huge fans of RPGs with complex plots and superb characterisation, but I can happily sink a few hours into a game where you do little more than whack monsters repeatedly, grab their loot and keep upgrading your weapons and armour. And judging by the success of the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games on the console formats and the likes of Titan Quest and Sacred on the PC, I’m not the only one. That’s why I was excited to see that the latest title to hit Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade was basically a hack-and-slash heavy dungeon crawl with built-in co-op play, After all, Arcade’s bargain-basement pricing is ideal for this sort of dip-in, dip-out game.
Developed by Wanako Studios for Sierra, Arkadian Warriors is as basic as dungeon crawls get. It appears the evil Gorgon has come to threaten the peaceful land of Arkadia, and only three heroes – each able to transform into a sacred magical creature – stands in its way. Curiously, while you might expect this to be the start of an epic quest or journey, you’re actually thrown into a series of errands that see your burly warrior, speedy archer or floaty sorceress transporting straight from town to a nearby dungeon and completing whatever mission your friendly quest-giver has in mind. It might be killing off a minotaur or collecting some poor girl’s mother’s scattered bones, but either way it’s going to demand a lot of cracked monster skulls.
Which basically means racing around the dungeon with the left stick and whacking anything that moves with the A button. For added beef you can call in magic capabilities with B, while aiming missile weapons with a Zelda-style target lock on the left trigger. The most exciting bit is probably the Y button. Build up what the game calls your ego gauge, and your champion transforms into a big magical creature with enhanced powers of destruction – ideal when you’re surrounded by a mass of monster cannon-fodder but unable to scrap your way through.
Graphically speaking, Arkadian Warriors looks like an HD version of the cult PC dungeon crawler, Fate in that it eschews gritty realism or graphical finesse for a simple, cutesy look with fairly basic textures and lighting. Arguably, Arkadian Warriors hasn’t quite got the same charm, though it’s characters and hostile beasts look fine and are animated well enough. Music and audio is adequate for a budget release, but nothing more, and if you’re looking for cinematics or deep characterisation then you really are in the wrong place.