While Super Dungeon Tactics may lure you in with its cartoony visuals and charming cast of characters, its engaging combat systems and challenge will keep you loading the title up for just one more match. Based around the board game, Super Dungeon Explore; Super Dungeon Tactics does a remarkable job at converting the experience of the table top genre into an enjoyable turned based strategy game, even if the inconsistent difficulty can get in the way of some of the fun.
While my time with Super Dungeon Tactics is spent with the Switch version; the content, mechanics, and overall gameplay is identical to each version and any critique I have regarding the Switch version is based around the portable nature of the system, so feel free to use this review as a guide for each available version out there.
Developed by Underbite Games, Super Dungeon Tactics is a turn-based RPG featuring a colorful cast of characters, a variety of loot to equip and attack patterns to master. While you’ll be joined by 15 total characters throughout your adventure, each of them will vary in situational usefulness and building the proper team to take into battle will be just as much of a challenge as is staying alive.
While adventuring out in the woods in the land of Crystallia, a Dwarven Fighter and an Ember Mage encounter a group of Kobolds, a creature race you’ll encounter throughout your adventure. These creatures are dangerously close to a nearby village that will be in need of much protection before evil can be vanquished. As you work through the tutorial and get your self acquainted with the townspeople in this small settlement, you will start to attract newcomers to your guild, offering up their arsenal in an effort to wipe out the Kobold race. You’ll soon meet up with the Dark Consul, who are in search of an ancient relic, assuming you have it in your possession and will not stop before it’s theirs.
Super Dungeon Tactic’s story is well established, well paced, and features comical dialogue from time to time. While the threat is dire, the title never takes itself seriously and allows the story to remain in the background while you learn the mechanics, attempt to survive, and get to know each member of the large ensemble. Apart from taking in the story campaign, you can tackle training missions, challenge encounters as well as bounty missions, should you want to grind away at earning more loot and consumables.
Whether it is the drastic reach of the Questing Knight, the range capabilities of the Glimmerdusk Ranger, or the up close and personal dagger strikes of the Riftling Rogue, Super Dungeon Tactics produces a wide range of characters loaded with personality and charm. Apart from a unique character named Candy, each of the lot can be renamed to your heart’s content meaning that if you want a character named Steve, then you can call him Steve. Gragnok became my Hearthsworn Fighter, and I came to often rely on the efforts of my Royal Paladin named Sir Emmit. Each character is featured throughout the game through beautifully hand drawn artwork used in the story’s visual novel cutscenes and via adorable 3D models that roam the battlefield in search of a fight. Missions will often have you choosing who to take with you or splitting up teams to divide and conquer.
As you vanquish the Kobold army and the agents of the Dark Consul, you’ll collect a wide range of gear to make your hero’s hit harder and withstand more abuse. While each character has a level attached to them, they don’t actually level themselves up in any real way and you will use your newly discovered loot to further their power. The game also offers up multiple difficulty options that raise or lower the health given to each character and how much will be earned back in the following mission should they have perished along the way. Each hero will equip gear based around four main categories; Gems, Weapons, Armor, and Trinkets. Gems have a wide range of uses across multiple heroes like boosting health or armor and their use and purpose change based on which hero you have equipped them too. While I will go more into detail about weapons and attacks later on, these will dictate how effective your hero is based on via the weapon patterns and the distance of which those patterns reach, just make sure to equip weapons to new characters as they will strangely unequip their weapons before the next mission. Each character has two weapon proficiencies and it is worth noting that no two heroes share the same combination.
Armor, much like weapons, come loaded with various stats that will allow you to withstand harsh strikes and stand up to the worst the Kobold menace can produce. Armor will either allow for more health, shielding, or the amount of distance you can traverse in a single turn. The more shielding a character has allows them to take several hits before their core health amount is even touched. For an example, check the icons next to Sir Emmit’s health in the picture below so you can see what I mean. As I’ll be getting more into the mechanics of the game and its use of dice shortly, you can further add on more shielding should you garner the luck of the dice themselves. Lastly, are Trinkets, and these work very similar to that of Gems, however; you can earn Trinkets that can push away enemies at the end of a round or cause them to take damage instead.
Super Dungeon Tactics is a turn-based adventure game based around attack patterns, character stats, and random luck. While sure, a certain degree of skill will keep you alive, but the majority of the game is based around the luck of the dice and the turn order that will dictate the very means of your survival. At the start of the match you will position a turn order and placement for your heroes, then upon starting the round, you will pick from a selection of rolled dice that offer up an increase in power, special attacks, additional armor, further move distance, healing, or a skull indicating a debuff for that character. Both sides of good and evil will have their own dice, and you won’t always get to choose first, so ensuring you have selected the best possible outcome of the dice roll is imperative. One touch upon the dice that I really enjoyed is the animations given to the dice roll, especially when they bounce against the wood grain box they are being tossed into.
After you’ve chosen your dice, you will then move your character around, attack at enemies, use a consumable like a potion, or interact with chests, doors, or other environmental objects. Each character will have different levels of movement allowing some to move a great distance while others just a few spaces around them. You can have them consume items to aid in their traversal or have them select one of the dice that indicates the assisted movement. The turn order at the bottom of the screen will change each round and while sometimes It may stack the odds in your favor, it can flat out ruin you later on. I had one round where my characters were rather low on health and nine different enemies were stacked back to back at the start of the next round, wiping out 5 of my heroes in a single turn. It is also worth noting that enemies attack in groups, so one red enemy token on the turn order can mean multiple enemies belonging to that pack.
As you deal out damage to enemy forces, characters will gain Aggro and cause them to be the focus of each Kobold you encounter. While you can take consumables to lessen its effect, you could actually outfit your tanks in gear that earn Aggro and allow them to be the focus of attention while your more squishy characters can get off a few attacks without the threat of being immediately hunted down.
Each character’s weapons will come with stats that indicate how they attack. Some can attack 3 or 4 squares at once, cast down magic upon multiple foes, or through a powerful swipe of one square ahead of them. As you equip more powerful weapons to each character on the team, you have to pay attention to not only the way the new weapon will attack but the special attacks that come with it. While the new Lance I equipped to my Knight did far more damage than what I used to do before, it lacked the counter-attack that normally would wipe out additional units without having to wait for my turn. Weapons, both close combat and ranged, will attack and damage based on the attack pattern on the screen, but only in view of your fighter. This means that objects in the environment or around the corner in a cave will be blocked off from choosing those spots as a viable attack location. As I mentioned before, each character can be proficient in two different weapon classes, so if you want your Rogue to act as an archer, you can do that.
While most story missions will result in a one and done quest, several of them will extend out to two or three missions that see you attack with a large force or split up and take on the Kobold threat at numerous locations. These types of missions prevent you from refilling your consumables between missions and thus becomes a true test of endurance. These missions can prove to be considerably challenging at harder difficulties, and even to a certain degree on the easier ones. In fact, the difficulty is probably my biggest complaint I have with the game and its not just because certain encounters can prove to be harder than others, it is that there isn’t a constant rising of difficulty present, it tends to fluctuate wildly, even in the same encounter. One moment I am mowing down Kobolds left and right and then I get surprised by a boss and his three ogre’s and they flat-out wreck my party in just a few turns thus wasting the last half hour or so for that attempt. While I don’t find that the title is impossible in any real way, my problem lies within that the challenge is inconsistent rather than getting progressively more challenging as you go.
When you complete the first few tutorial missions you will unlock the mission prep menu. At first, I was puzzled on how to even select my heroes, their loot, and the other requirements that needed to be met. While It took me a few minutes to get everything all sorted, I still feel that the menu system isn’t as intuitive as it could and should be. When you move the cursor around to the menu you want, it will have a glowing blue border around it. When you need to go back to a previous menu, you need to back out, let the border glow blue again and then select the next menu from the icons at the bottom left of the screen. Had the game used a tab system instead, like it does for its weapons and armor, then you could follow the steps needed to prep the mission without the confusion on where to go and what to select next. While it is second nature now on what to do and how to go about doing it, that initial confusion still stuck with me.
Super Dungeon Tactics has a very polished art style backing it up with environments to match. The board game appeal is certainly felt within each location and the variety in paths to take are also equally impressive. While you can zoom in and out, or swing the camera above the action, I always found I needed to move the camera around more often than I would have liked to. It’s not a big gripe or anything that made the game frustrating, it’s just something I felt I needed to bring up.
The only issue I have visually with the title is that when playing on the Switch in portable mode, the text is incredibly small and very difficult to read. Now, the developer is fully aware of this and has plans to address it in a future patch, so that should make it far easier to identify stats and special attacks without having to squint while reading the very small font.
While I did enjoy my time within the world of Super Dungeon Tactics with its engaging characters and story, its inconsistent difficulty and cumbersome menu’s are something that soured my experience to a small degree. I still boot up the game and tackle a bounty mission here and there and plan on unlocking more and more gear to get the most out of my go-to squad. This is a title that you can pick up and sink some serious time into, just don’t be fooled by its colorful and cheery aesthetic, this game certainly packs a wallop.
A review copy was provided by the Publisher for the purpose of this review.
All screenshots were taken on a Nintendo Switch.