All new MOBAs suffer the same fate; to be compared to DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm. If you’re going to attach the ‘MOBA’ title to your game then it’s an inescapable fact, and if a game isn’t distinct enough from the big three to make an impact, then it can wave goodbye to its potential player-base. Hunger Dungeon, then, was always going to have a tough time ahead of it, and the all important question is what makes this game distinct enough from the dozens of others in the genre to warrant your time?
Hunger Dungeon might use the title of MOBA, but don’t expect to be running down lanes and destroying towers. The game has much more of a multiplayer brawler vibe, and while there are still creeps around for you to attack, their main purpose is to provide you with attack buffs, or gold for more items. The emphasis is really on fast-paced combat – mashing left and right-click, while casting purchased spells on cooldown. The game has also adopted a more than generous free-to-play model, with characters having a free rotation period before being locked for a while unless you purchase the whole game. And for the more frugal player, there are definitely enough dungeoneers to try out and keep you going if you don’t feel like paying up-front right away.
If this sounds too familiar and you’re looking for something new, Hunger Dungeon seeks to provide a new twist on the classic formula through its eponymous ‘hunger’ mechanic. If you don’t eat enough food (dropped by killing players or smashing chests), then you might find your health and mana regenerating slower, and at lower levels still you will start to see your character become ‘peckish’, or even ‘very hungry’, resulting in slowed movement and a gradually decreasing health bar. This sounds like a nice mechanic in theory, but all it appears to do in practice is attempt to artificially slow down combat, which seems to be an odd aim for a game selling itself on fast-paced face-smacking. This may well be my inattentive nature, but in fights I often found myself forgetting about the mechanic entirely, and when I eventually did think to search out food to dispel my debuffs, I found it incredibly difficult to gather enough to fill the hunger bar to a reasonable level. All this lost time meant I’d missed out on kill involvement, while my opponents feasted on the spoils of their constantly rising KD counter.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is the aesthetic. Hunger Dungeon has opted for the retro 2D pixilated look, which these days is often a risky move, as it can be tricky for a title to differentiate itself from other pixel-graphic games on the market. Personally I think the game has a charming appeal about it, and is one of the few modern titles to pull off the ‘retro’ look, and is definitely helped along by the soundtrack, which manages to be both catchy and atmospheric. Unfortunately though, the appeal of pixel-art in games is mostly subjective, and Hunger Dungeon might find itself losing a sizeable portion of its potential audience with this increasingly controversial graphical choice. If I had to point out particular flaws with the design, I’d personally like to see more detail on the character models. The developers have certainly managed to make the sprites look distinct from one another (itself no small feat), but I can’t shake the feeling that the background arena is much more detailed than the actual dungeoneers that are fighting within it.
When a game is selling itself on its combat, developers have to ensure that combat mechanics are incredibly fine-tuned, else overpowered characters and clunky controls can take the joy out of bashing another players head with your mythical hammer of choice. While it does feel great to zip around the Hunger Dungeon arena at lightning fast speeds, this doesn’t stop some of the games design choices seeming a bit questionable to the casual player, as least on certain characters. The Ranger Princess, for example, gains more damage the longer she’s stood still, but within the confines of the relatively small Hunger Dungeon screen, it felt practically impossible to fully charge the Ranger’s attack. And as the main portion of the game is a free-for-all where only the killing blow on an enemy counts towards your score, the Ranger’s slow build up, easily interrupted with a single blow attack can be incredibly infuriating. In team-based MOBAs such as DOTA, if someone steals your kill it’s annoying but ultimately no big deal, as the team still benefits, but in Hunger Dungeon you can spend 30 seconds whittling away an enemy’s health, only for a rogue shot from across the battlefield to cause your time to be spent in vain, leading to more than a few pulling-your-hair-out moments. It’d be a tricky feature to replace, and you can see why it’s been implemented that way, but I’d personally like to see some reward for players who have spent most of their health on an opponent, only for their kill to be cruelly taken away.
A game like Hunger Dungeon is made or broken by its community, and whether or not it can gain a following. I wasn’t surprised to find it tricky to find a game, as this is a relatively new title, though was pleased to find that there were several lobbies with free spots once I changed up the region I was searching in (easily done in the top right of the screen), with only a short wait before games began. Bots are programmed reasonably well, so even in games where we couldn’t find more than a couple of people, there was still enough going on to occupy us. The main upset was that players were quick to leave lobbies when they began losing, and I frequently found myself quickly playing. While players discover the game though, I feel Hunger Dungeon has more immediate appeal as a game to play with a small group of friends. And with its generous free-to-play model, and as a casual distraction without the intensity and stress of other MOBAs, I can definitely see the attraction of setting up a quick lobby and having a delve into the dungeon with your friends, which could be the saving grace of
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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