This is a weird one. Its whole aesthetic, its characters, and its story are all strange and twisted, feeling almost like a Lovecraftian Sci-Fi creation, and that's what draw me to it initially.
I mean that wasn't all.
It IS an action RPG too, something I've always loved. The devs aimed to create something that brings back the spirit and feel of old-school RPGs like Fallout while adding the features expected by modern gamers at the same time. I'm interested in that, but it was really the strange twisted peculiar world made by Laughing Machines that I was most looking forward to seeing.
So Undungeon takes place in a multiverse. Its concept that's becoming popular right now, with the MCU seemingly going in that direction, so it's a good time to use the idea.
In this game's reality, there are an infinite number of Earth's, all different from each other in some way, with their own history, peoples, and cultures.
All that keeps them separate is a barrier we can neither interact nor interfere with.
Or so we thought.
It seems the walls of reality are not as strong, or as absolute, as we once thought. Something, or someone, has caused them to collapse completely causing realities to smash into one another. This event came to be known as The Great Shift.
It caused damage to the very reality of space-time itself, seemingly beyond repair, with the result likely to be The End of all Things.
Unless someone intervenes...
Sitting upon high is The Ultimate Being, The One Above All, The Lord God himself who seeks to repair what he can of His creation. Knowing He cannot do it alone though, you are brought into being.
You are His Herald.
Pieced together from leftover flesh and bone, sinews and organs, He breathes life into you and tasks you with carrying out His will. Using a mixture of melee and ranged combat you will crush His enemies. You will seek out survivors and recruit them to His cause. You will roam the shattered remnants of each Earth, seeking out something most important to Him.
The leftover remains of each world's vitality, it has mostly faded into the nothingness between dimensions. Small parts remain, however, hidden in far-off places or held by powerful beings, it's your duty to collect them all.
With these fragments, you may bring something new from this ruined creation
You cannot save this Multiverse
However, with enough essence, you might create something that could replace it.
Restore order in all the dimensional fragments, influence and determine the fate of the broken worlds and you'll create and decide what happens in a whole new reality.
The story goes into much more detail, with a ton of lore and world-building thrown in for good measure. The NPC cast of weird and twisted beings, the floating eyeballs, cyber-enhanced desert raiders, broken techno angels, and more all have branching dialogue trees and are packed with plot details.
It all does get a bit confusing though, to be honest. There's still a lot I don't understand and bits where I had no idea what they were going on about. They'll reference events and characters, talking like this should be common knowledge (which to them it probably is) but which you're completely unfamiliar with. The sheer amount of text, filled with unfamiliar names and titles, can make it feel as fleshed out as the best sci-fi universes but can also leave you with no idea of what they're talking about. It certainly fits with the whole "shattered reality" thing they have going on, giving an impression that they're remembering a jumbled history, taken from multiple timelines and smashed together to create a narrative. It's an amazing sci-fi meets religion type of story, one that poses some deep and existential questions, but one that might leave you with a WTF feeling for much of the journey.
This strange jumble of different worlds, times, and technology is also prominent in the game's aesthetic too. The sprite work is second to none, all handcrafted, and a joy to behold. It's an unsettling combination of art too. Ancient ruins made of stone mix with mangled flesh, ripped skin, and deformed pulsating organs. It's covered in technology with glowing circuitry and sparking energy all around. It all comes together somehow however to create a coherent world that's gorgeous, weird, and sometimes a little unsettling, all at the same time. While the background and location art is amazing, it's the characters, enemies, and NPCs that really stand out as they ooze charm and identity, from the lowest common enemy to the highest most difficult boss.
But what do you actually do?
Well, as already said you control a Herald known as Void, a demigod made from the cobbled together bits and pieces of other beings. Think the Grim Reaper but with the razor-tipped claws of Freddy Krueger and you're about there as far as his appearance goes. He sets out from his hub world, which can be populated with helpful allies, as he seeks to gather essence to create God's new world. As you'd expect from an RPG though, there's also a million side quests to complete alongside the main quest. Investigating the death of a mysterious attacker, tracking down missing tribe members, clearing out hordes of enemies, fetch quests, and more all make an appearance as you explore each of the vastly different worlds. It all plays out in a top-down style, part Diablo-esque looter and part Wasteland in its exploration and dialogue system. There's an overworld map that, as it's explored, allows access to a collection of smaller areas where the moment-to-moment action takes place. You'll talk to allies, take on missions, discover lore and buy from vendors before seeking out the next location.
Oh and take part in the combat of course.
Your main melee weapon is Voids razor-sharp claws. These slowly wear down with each slash and must be swapped out for new ones as they break. Luckily they appear in shops, as rewards, or as loot regularly so you always have a few on the go. Secondly is your ribcage, which acts as your defensive item. The first one you acquire, given right at the start of your adventure, cast a "one hit and it's gone" protective shield that absorbs any attack before shattering. Other types come along but all are defensive in nature. The third and final part of your arsenal is your skull, which allows you to dash in certain ways and is used for closing distance or avoiding damage.
Alongside these three main items are a whole host of different consumables like throwing knives, shurikens, grenades, and a ton of different healing and status effect negating items as well. These can be swapped out at any time with the tap of a button, the action pauses so you can concentrate, and come in a variety of strengths and effects.
Void himself is also extremely customizable, letting you create a build that fits your playstyle. Unlike most RPGs though, this isn't done through finding new armor parts. You don't buy new helmets, acquire new breastplates or pick up new greaves. No no, nothing so mundane when dealing with a demigod like being created from a mishmash of biological leftovers. So instead of sheets of steel, Void becomes more powerful by replacing the flesh. Eyes, brains, hearts, lungs, and more can all be found and replaced. Upgrading your stats, and adding abilities, it's these organs that allow you to choose your build type and customize your character to your liking.
Combat boils down to a Hyperlight Drifter style affair. You can throw knives or lob grenades (if you have them) but for the most part, you'll be relying on your main three skills to get you through. You'll be dashing in towards an opponent, getting a few hits in with your class, before dodging away to avoid damage or relying on your shield. To complicate matters, however, you also need to factor in stamina too. Dashing, attacking, and using shields all drain your supply, leaving you unable to do anything when it drains completely.
And it will drain completely, especially in the early stages of the game. You'd think an ultimate being, custom-built by God and able to walk between dimensions, would be able to slash more than three times before being drained completely but apparently not. It is a minor niggle, one you learn to adapt to and can improve, but it got very annoying when larger numbers of enemies were involved.
It also isn't the only thing that makes life difficult either.
You see the combat feels...off.
It's hard to quantify exactly why that is, all the parts are there, it just doesn't quite click together as it should. Void feels weightless with his attacks having no heft behind them. There's a floaty quality to his movement that doesn't give that satisfying flow when moving from opponent to opponent, and there's no feeling of crunch when attacking.
Now don't get me wrong, it all works as it should, and it is definitely serviceable, it just doesn't soar to the high heights reached by the excellent art and story.
What irked me more however was how crazy and busy the on-screen action gets. And I don't mean that in an action-packed frantic but fun type of way. Instead, it's distracting and hinders your ability to recognize the telegraphing of attacks, affecting your game at the worst of times. The bright and detailed backgrounds, debris from destroyable environmental objects, and enemy sprites conspire with flashy attack animations, enemy health bars, status effect icons, and on-screen indicators to create a busy mess where enemies are extremely difficult to see. It's bad enough when it's one or two opponents, but when bigger numbers get involved it becomes a real problem. When the near-death effect kicks in too, however, where the screen darkens and sparks with energy, you have a combination that really can make the battles feel unfair and frustrating. Not something you'd expect from an otherwise well-crafted game.
Ultimately Undungeon is an interesting, if flawed, action RPG. The story is great for the most part, with loads of cool lore and world-building. It asks existential questions about reality and can really make you think. It has enough confusion to build on the shattered existence theme and certainly makes you want to keep going in order to understand more. Sprite work is a different class too. Hand-drawn at every level, it's all beautiful. Backgrounds are filled with little details that stand out, NPC and enemies are all well designed and have the strange and otherworldly appearance you'd expect from a reality jumping storyline. Combat is where it breaks down though. It's the weakest part: it's not bad but just mediocre. The basics are all present, and they work, but the polish isn't quite there. A harsh stamina allowance breaks up the flow constantly, and your character feels floaty and weightless. Add to this an extremely busy screen, that obscures the action in the worst way at the worst times, and you've got a situation where combat is more frustrating than it should be. Still a decent RPG however, its problems mean it doesn't reach instant classic status like it should. Those into deep RPGs with interesting and deep stories should take a look, especially if they're into old-school-style games like the original Fallouts. Those wanting a quick combat title though might be disappointed as that's its weakest part. Luckily though, it is available on Gamepass so those interested can try without risk and they'll enjoy the beautiful and horrible aesthetic and story. Just don't expect too much from the combat.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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