Version Reviewed: 1.1
Graphics / Sound [rating:4/5]
Game Controls [rating:3.5/5]
User Interface [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:3.5/5]
It's hard to decide on what makes the dungeon crawler genre so satisfying. My friend Phil says that the genre (Diablo) is so fun because of all the "fat loot", and that all the games in the genre are great because of the large amounts of "fat loot" (should it be spelled "phat"?) that you get to collect. My other friend says that it is great because, and I quote, "click click click and everything is dead". What I gather from this is that all of my friends are either mentally incompetent or potential serial killers, and that the genre is just plain great, no matter what the reason.
Underworlds is the newest foray into dungeon crawling on the iPhone. I admit, I had my doubts going in... mostly involving the "click, click click and everything is dead" aspect , the amount of "fat loot" that there would be, and length of the game, but I knew that it would be entertaining at the very least.
Descent to Hell, or The Start of the Review
The game starts you out as the protector of a small caravan that stops at a town that, as you find out very quickly, is cursed by the devil. The caravan acts, for the rest of your game, as your merchant and your teleportation hub (teleportation... we can't figure it out, but they definitely had it in the past). You start the game the way any respectable game should be started, getting hired to clear the rats out of a pub. I'd be a bit alarmed as to the size of the rats, and why the strongest rat has a name and a posse, but that is besides the point. You kill them all, go back to the pub owner, and get your next mission. I could recap the rest of the game, but would you still play it?
Since my storytelling time was abruptly ended by myself, I will quickly go over the gameplay. Your health and vitality (use it to use your special powers) are represented as jugs that go down when you get hurt or use special powers. Much like other games in the genre, you find potions throughout your quest that make these jugs replenish. Using the potions is easy, just tap on one of the jugs and it refills.
The movement scheme works one of two ways. The game lets you either tap on the screen to move your character wherever you want, or use a D-Pad like button in the bottom left corner to navigate the caves. The button is unfortunately too small and unresponsive to be of much use, so I don't recommend using it. On the right side of the screen, and this is really helpful, are two main buttons, one says "Action", and one says "Loot". These buttons make your character either attack the creature next to you and pick up all the loot that you have gained. Because some of the on-screen items are so small, these buttons quickly become invaluable to your quest.
Fat Loot, Getting and Managing Your Stuff
The final part of the control scheme, and Phil's favorite section, it the management of the copious amounts of "fat loot". Throughout the game there is a fairly respectable amount of loot that you get to pick up, ranging from simple potions to unique swords dropped by mini-bosses. What's great about Underworlds is that you get to equip your normal swords and shields, but also leggings, boots helmets, amulets, etc. By the end of the game, most of your items have great titles, which always means that you have done well. There are two sad things about the loot, and both are things that I would love to see in a future updates. The first item of importance is that the weapons are not further upgradeable. I love it in Diablo 2 when you make your already awesome weapon even more awesome with a few gems. The other issue I have is that there are no range weapons to pick up throughout. No bows, crossbows, or even staffs that shoot fireballs.
My favorite part of games in this genre, besides the "fat loot" of course, is the character development. I love deciding between leveling up strength and dexterity because depending on how you do it, your character must play differently. This is true in this game to a point, but there are some balance issues that I need to address. Most of the game you are running through crypts and catacombs killing all the undead creatures around you. Very rarely is there a stretch where you only have to kill one at a time, so you are pushed in a way towards strength, just so you can kill the creatures faster. Every level up you are given 5 points to upgrade, and every level I put 3 to strength and two to other things. There is certainly nothing wrong with upgrading strength all the time, but it would be nice to need to pick something else.
"I wanna be a b(r)awler, shot caller"
Picking intelligence is always entertaining. It's the ultimate nerd stat... sure, you can have your big brawny butcher of man, but I could just turn you into a toad. Sadly, there is no character select option in Underworlds, which means that I can't be a character that would necessitate intelligence. You get to be a fighter, a fighter, or a fighter. Since I chose to be a fighter, there were no magic spells to learn and no range weapons to shoot, so I tried to concentrate on stats that would make me swing a sword as hard as possible.
What Hell Looks and Sounds Like
I have no idea what Hell looks like, but I do know that Underworlds looks alot like what I remember the first Diablo looking like. The textures and details are good enough, not exactly wowing you, but also not underwhelming you at all. The sound on the other hand is pretty... interesting. Beyond the normal hack and slash sounds, there are enemy damage sounds and background music. The music I have to say is pretty good for what it is... background music in a dungeon crawler game. I do wish that there were more tracks though, just to spice the levels up a bit. As with the music, the hack and slash sounds are all decent, but there is one alarmingly glaring problem, one that needs it's own paragraph.
The Problem With The Bad Guys
As you progress through the game, you will come across a slew of enemies that all look extremely different. The problem with them is A. they really aren't that different (there are no range weapons in the game), and B. they appear in the game in waves, almost as if there are levels. Let's say that the mission is to investigate a room with a potentially evil alter. Throughout this mission, I can expect to only fight skeleton warriors, because this is the skeleton warrior section. Fighting only one creature type at a time gets repetitive, especially when you have to hear the enemy dying sound so many times in a row. The most annoying part of the game, by far, is the ghost level, just because of the absurdly annoying sounds that the ghosts make.
The Bottom Of The Pit
Beating underworlds one time through should take you about 3-4 hours, which isn't terrible for an iPhone game. The game, with all of its "fat loot" makes for an entertaining experience, even if it doesn't give you the ability to be a wizard or an archer. Before I give this game more than 4 stars though, I would like to see a few things. I need some range weapons and magic spells for sure, if only to give me a reason to not jack up strength after every level up. I would also like to see some enemy variety so that I don't get stuck killing ghosts and only ghosts for 20 min.
If you love the dungeon crawling genre, this game will be an entertaining ride for a few hours. As long as you aren't expecting Diablo 2 depth, you should be alright. I really want to give this game 3.75 stars, but I can't, so I will round up to 4.