Mobile Gaming Review: “Dungeon Village”

Mobile gaming is a steadily-growing market. An estimated 50.4% of Americans (as of March) now own a smartphone. But I’ll be honest–when the whole discussion on mobile gaming started, I wondered whether or not it would ever really appeal to me and to gamers like me. Sure, Facebook had shown that social and casual games could be successful for the population at large. My concern was whether or not there would there be games for those who counted themselves as gamers, or whether we’d just be stuck emulating old SNES games.

Gradually though, I saw that the game selection could indeed cater to “gamers”. While there are of course many games designed for a more casual market, we have seen solid products aimed at the more traditional gaming crowd. And perhaps it is little wonder that one of my new favourites was produced where so many of the favourite games from my childhood were: Japan.

Dungeon Village (iOS $3.99, Android $4.99) takes the typical Fantasy RPG formula and turns it on its head. No longer are you the brave adventurer heading into dungeons: instead, it is a town simulation, and you play the guy who runs the town. You offer quests, sell magical items, and eventually (if you’re doing your job properly) host the homes of adventurers. The game itself is not a massive departure from other Kairosoft games in terms of structure or art (you may already be familiar with the first major release from Kairosoft, Game Dev Story).

They definitely are not trying to rewrite the book here, but the formula works and is fun to play. Your adventurers level up and you can spend money to upgrade their equipment or gift them items that they find in dungeons. They also have cheeky names that are references to famous RPG or literary heroes. Clown Stripe and Gilly Gamesh were both pretty amusing.

The town itself is also of great importance, though. Your heroes need facilities to buy weapons and armor, and an Inn (obviously). Later, you can gain access to more advanced buildings like restaurants and combat training areas. These facilities will boost your adventurers’ stats, but they also increase their satisfaction with your town, making them more likely to choose to settle down. Adventurers living in your town generate tax revenue at the end of the year, so keeping them in your town is a good goal to have.

As your town grows in popularity, you’ll find more and more adventurers lining up to defend it. Time to hand out those powerful magical artifacts to complete strangers and pay them to defend your lands and enter strange caves!

The game uses the tried-and-true pixelated graphics from previous Kairosoft titles. I personally love this art style, and as someone who has played through Final Fantasy VI more times than I’d care to admit I am definitely used to it. It fits the genre and feel of the game very well. There’s a fairly good variety of sprites, with different enemy types popping up steadily throughout the game.

The music is repetitive and you will turn it off almost immediately, but that’s essentially par for the course with Kairosoft titles. I recommend cooking up a playlist on YouTube with all your favourite RPG soundtracks and just running that in the background.

As with most Kairosoft titles, you get some excellent first value for your first playthrough, but secondary playthroughs may not be as interesting. Still, for $5 you get your money’s worth in one go, especially if you’re already a fan of the RPG genre. Make no mistake, this game is a gamer’s game. Not only would many of the references be lost on players who are not fans of the genre, but the concept of the game itself is probably not very appealing to them.

I give Dungeon Village a solid 4 out of 5. If it had better replay value and adjustable difficulty levels, I’d bump it to a 4.5. The lack of a decent soundtrack doesn’t really bother me since this is largely something that mobile gaming has yet to anyways.

Have you played Dungeon Village or other Kairosoft titles? Let me know in the comments!