to access exclusive content, comment on articles, win prizes and post on our forums. Not a member yet? Join now!

Dungeon Hero

Preview: Goblin fungus cheese

As we all know, the coolest thing about Stalker was the guys sitting around a campfire, plucking acoustic guitars. Now imagine that instead of a grubby Ukrainian anorak, it's a goblin strumming away on a banjo. Best game ever, surely?

Dungeon Hero is about what a dungeon would actually be like. Not just having a room where demons can punch posts to level up their attack rating - as in Dungeon Keeper - but a convincing simulation of the grubby existences these subterranean minions would live.

"We wanted to create a dungeon that was very believable," says Firefly founder Simon Bradbury. "We wanted to create a world where the enemies wouldn't just stand around next to a chest of gold. Why is the chest of gold there? And why is he just standing next to it waiting for you to kill him? It doesn't make any sense. They would have buggered off with the gold, or at least gone to the toilet. We wanted to make a game where they will go to the toilet."


But you don't play some middle-management overlord, requisitioning funds for the fungal cheese harvest. You're the enemy, barging into this society and messing everything up.

The usual hack, slash, home-for-tea routine is interrupted, though, when the exit is sealed and you're stuck in goblinopolis indefinitely. That's when you grudgingly make peace with the least evil tribe, help them fight off the more evil ones, and see their society up close.

"They'll make stuff," Simon says of the goblins. "They'll collect fungus from the cave walls and take it back to make goblin cheese with it and take that to the goblin market, and you can follow them around while they do it."

Believe it or not, obsessive modelling of goblin life isn't the most exciting thing about Dungeon Hero. What really impressed me about the early demo was the combat. Firefly call it an 'action RPG', but it's very light on the latter: levelling up is limited to learning new moves, and you don't gain new weapons or armour from fallen foes.

"When you kill them," explains lead designer Andrew Parsons, "you don't pick up a nice little bag of gold and some broccoli. And you wouldn't want to pick up their armour, because it's crap. It barely protects them." At heart this is a fighting game, and it's shaping up to be a vicious one.

Dungeon Hero is about the realities of combat: if an enemy's standing on your toes, you simply don't have room to swing a two-metre length of steel. If he's three metres away, no amount of special move fanciness is going to hit him. If enemies surround you, they won't take turns, they'll skewer you from all sides at once.


The solution to most of these problems, as in real life, is to kick people in the face. By holding the 'close combat' button and tweaking the thumbstick on a controller, Andrew booted each of the goblins surrounding him directly on the bonce, keeping all of them at bay.

He then cheated, "because I like cheating", to demonstrate a high-level shield bash. Even at the top of a 300-move skill tree, these supermoves aren't going to hit anything they realistically wouldn't. But when they do hit - well, it was raining broken goblins shortly thereafter.

Even the sound is unpleasantly convincing. No 'doosh!' or 'pow!', just soft, sickly squelches of flesh being cleaved, like a butcher dicing liver. But Andrew is keen to emphasise that Dungeon Hero is about more than just combat.

"The NPCs are not just there to be ignored, or killed," he announces, shortly before he accidentally catches one in the back of the head with a particularly extravagant sword-swing, knocking him flying off his perch to collapse in a bloody heap, stone dead.

Oddly this is the highlight of the demonstration, for me - it shows they're not bluffing about physically simulating combat. If the sharp thing you're swinging around hits someone it shouldn't, it's still going to brain them.