Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and The Monster Seal is a bit of an anomaly. It is, on the surface, a standard JRPG with the usual glut of dubious oversexualized imagery and questionable sexual themes that seemingly come over to Western shores a dime a dozen. However, like most things in life, delving beneath it’s initial skin-deep first impressions reveals its true incandescent beauty. And oh what a beauty it is.
Developed by Aqua Plus and published in Europe by NIS America (one of the Vita’s stalwart 3rd-party supporters) Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and The Monster Seal is a 3D dungeon-crawler JRPG set up in a similar style to The Legend of Grimrock, Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy – the latter two examples being the most suitable analogues considering that they too were developed in Japan, came over to the West and were released exclusively on Sony’s handheld.
You are a Fried (pronounced Freed), an adventurer with the unique ability of capturing and sealing monsters away within the pages of special tomes. Fried is part of a suppression team working with The Royal Library, a sort of fantasy FBI of sorts, whose main objective is to put an end to the monster uprising that threatens the Kingdom of Romulea. It’s pretty clear that this game has little interest in breaking the fantasy RPG mold and to be honest, I’m okay with that. It’s a game that clicks remarkably well with players familiar with the classic dungeon-crawler games that Dungeon Travelers 2 is so undeniably inspired by.
So what do you spend most of your time doing in Dungeon Travelers 2? Well, for the most part you’ll be travelling through, you guessed it, dungeons. You’ll also be battling numerous monsters, which are handy for grinding XP, weapons, armour and gold. You’ll be looting treasure chests, chatting to your amiable party-members and upgrading your gear in The Royal Library, which acts as a sort of home-base. Dungeons are explored from a first-person perspective, though effective use of the on-screen map is useful so you don’t do a Jack Torrance, get lost and die horribly. The map is broken up into grid-like squares with players moving one square at a time.
Within mere minutes of booting up the game and traversing its introductory tutorial level, Dungeon Travelers 2 mercilessly kicked my ass. It’s a steep, cruel learning curve that may put many unsuspecting players off but I implore you – stick with it and you will be handsomely rewarded. After the initial difficulty spike Dungeon Travelers 2 does a great job at explaining the game’s numerous mechanics in a measured drip-fed fashion that helps to give the game a pleasing meditative rhythm.
The most important mechanic that Dungeon Travelers 2 adds to its dungeon-crawling formula is its addition of Sealbooks. Sealbooks can be created once you have defeated a certain monster a handful of times (about 10 monsters per Sealbook should suffice). Once you have defeated enough monsters you can return to The Royal Library and create a Sealbook of that particular monster. These Sealbooks can be equipped by a member of your party and this gives them helpful passive buffs that will prove useful when exploring the exponentially difficult dungeons that await you. For example, a “Knocker” Sealbook gives the party-member the benefit of increased physical damage, whilst an “Ainsel” Sealbook gives the party-member the benefit of increased physical evasion and so on. These Sealbooks can be leveled and can also be swapped out on the fly in the middle of a dungeon. Handy!
There are also Grand Sealbooks that function in a similar way to standard Sealbooks, however, these can only be equipped by the main protagonist Fried. Grand Sealbooks give the added benefit of buffing your entire party. These can also be swapped on the fly, but are harder to come by and are usually dropped by higher-level monsters or bosses.
The level of customization is jaw-dropping and I really admire the way the game respects your time. Unlike Demon Gaze, you are not penalized for returning to your home-base, so you can happily grind to your heart’s content and return home when your team are looking a little ropey. The dungeons are also no where near as intricate and confusing as Demon Gaze which is also a pleasant twist to the formula – you won’t get half as lost as you did in Demon Gaze. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Demon Gaze, but Dungeon Travelers 2‘s welcome tweaks to the formula really help to give the quintessential dungeon-crawler blueprint some fresh new legs. The load times are also snappy and the music is catchy and memorable for all the right reasons – thankfully it didn’t grate on me after hours and hours of listening to it. The attack theme also changes from dungeon to dungeon which is a lovely little bonus too.
The artwork is incredible with its quasi water-colour painted style popping off the Vita’s screen. Enemies are mostly charming anthropomorphized fruit and vegetables or scantily clad women which brings me to the elephant in the room. Sure, Dungeon Travelers 2 can, at times, be unnecesarily erotic and suggestive but I just find it all a bit silly more than anything else. I can understand someone being offended by some of the needlessly sexy artwork and that’s fine, I understand, but I’ve played games like Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars and really enjoyed them. I find the erotic themes of games of this ilk to be more humorous in its senselessness than truly offensive, though maybe that’s just me. Everyone is different and if games like Conception 2 offend you then maybe steer clear of this game.
For everyone else, however, I’m here to wholeheartedly recommend Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and The Monster Seal. It’s kind of like your favourite pair of jeans, a game that fits like a glove, feels super comfortable and is easy to slip in and out of. It’s a remarkable JRPG with depth and charm in spades and I unreservadly recommend it to anyone with a slight interest in RPGs. You don’t want to miss out on this one. Dungeon Travelers 2 is simply one of the best JRPGs I’ve played in years.
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