Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master – Review
Follow Genre: Management sim
Developer: Artefacts Studio
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Platforms: PC
Tested on: PC

Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master – Review

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Good: Genuinely funny satire
Bad: Gameplay lacks depth
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If you were around in the ‘90s, you may remember a little game called Dungeon Keeper, which saw players strap on their villainous boots and run a dungeon of their own. At the time, the game was revolutionary, and over the last few decades, it has often been imitated but never surpassed. Rather than take another shot at Dungeon Keeper’s top spot, developer Artefacts Studio decided to create a parody instead of a serious dungeon management game. Is poking fun at dungeon management the magical key that prevents a Dungeon Keeper-like from fading into obscurity?


Storywise, Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master acts as a prequel to The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos. If you’ve played that previous title, there are a ton of inside jokes and references here that newcomers won’t necessarily understand, but even if this is your first venture into the Naheulbeuk universe, you won’t feel lost here. The core premise is simple but it does pose an interesting question: if you’ve played any fantasy RPG ever, you’ve ventured into dungeons, but have you ever wondered how these dungeons came to be? Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master aims to answer that question by putting players in charge of building and managing their own dungeon. Granted you aren’t the Dungeon Master yourself. That title goes to the wizard Zangdar. Instead, you’re Reivax, a goblinoid creature hired by the wizard to manage this arduous task.

The satirical writing is definitely one of the highlights here. Just like the previous Naheulbeuk game, this is a parody of the Dungeons & Dragons series, although this time around, the writers take a stab at lampooning bureaucracy as well. Political correctness is thrown out the window: your elf minions might go on strike for racist reasons like there being too many dwarves in the dungeon, for example. Fortunately, the game is extremely self-aware, and issues like this are handled in a very light-hearted manner. You’re playing as the bad guys after all! Whether it was having to deal with the orcish equivalent of the homeowners association or simply rubber-stamping the forms related to another adventurer incursion, the situations that the game threw at us never failed to elicit a chuckle from us.


There are a lot of positives to be said about Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master’s art direction, which builds on the foundations of The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk’s designs. Unfortunately, that same art direction doesn’t really come into its own in the actual game. There are no cutscenes, with characters talking to one another as floating heads in crystal balls. It’s not that the game looks bad, but just like with the gameplay, there simply is a ton of untapped potential here. That said, we should point out that the game still looks good, but it won’t blow anyone away with jaw-dropping visuals. The clever decision to set the game in a tower rather than underground means that there is a more interesting backdrop here than just rocks and dirt, which helps with visual appeal, as the interior of the dungeon and the NPC character models don’t really pop out.


We’ve already lauded Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master’s writing, but some of the jokes are elevated to another level by the fantastic voice work. The cast does a stellar job, with deliberately hammy and over-the-top performances. Likewise, the music is catchy and befitting of the atmosphere. We’re not entirely sure whether the themes heard here make a return from The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, but even if they did, what’s present here does tie together the audioscape nicely.


Although Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master is set in the same universe as The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, the two games are vastly different when it comes to gameplay. Where The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk was a turn-based RPG, Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master is more akin to a management sim. Your aim here is to create the perfect dungeon, at the behest of the titular Dungeon Master. You are the dungeon’s steward after all, and probably the only competent member of staff. You’ll have to deal with everything from minions going on strike to parties of adventurers that come in to raid the dungeon you’ve so carefully built up. The game is built around a lengthy campaign, and you’ve definitely got your work cut out for you if you’re going to see this adventure to the end. However, the more time you spend with the game, the more clear it becomes that the gameplay aspect lacks depth. Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master tries to overcome its shortcomings through humor, and to a certain degree the game achieves this, but we couldn’t help but feel like the gameplay could use more fleshing out.

As is typically the case with management sims, you only start out with the bare minimum. In this case, you’ll start with a kitchen and tavern in the Dungeon Master’s castle. You’ll need to set up ways to generate income, which you can then spend on expanding the dungeon with additional rooms or upgrading the ones you already built. You have an ever-expanding force of minions of various fantasy races at your disposal, and you’ll need to appease them because a happy worker is a hard worker. They all need to have their basic needs met: a place to sleep, a steady flow of food, and getting paid for their hard work. However, the more experience and efficiency your minions gain, the more demanding they become. As your dungeon grows, you’ll also need to set up traps and other ways to deal with adventuring parties, who would otherwise raid your treasuries. The core gameplay loop definitely gets things right, but the devil is in the details.

The biggest issue with Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master is how inconsequential your choices seem. Once you’ve set up your tavern to generate enough gold, and you’ve got a steadily flowing income, everything the game challenges you with turns into a menial task. Your minions go on strike? Well, there’s no reason to meet their demands. You can simply get rid of them (in various humorous ways) and hire new ones. Your high-ranking guards quit in frustration because they have to queue up too long for their salaries? The net sum of a horde of new mooks should be enough to offset this inconvenience. Once you get past a certain threshold, the game practically runs itself, and you’re left with more incoming resources than you can practically spend, removing the actual managing aspect as well as any semblance of challenge altogether.

We were hoping that some of these issues wouldn’t be as prevalent in the game’s sandbox mode, and that you’d be able to spice things up in terms of difficulty there, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. The frustrating part about this is that all the elements for a far more interesting game are sitting right there, but Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master never capitalizes on its true gameplay potential, instead cracking another joke about how stingy Zangdar really is. The various elements that are present here never come together, resulting in a game that feels like a loose collection of good ideas that ultimately overstays its welcome.


Although our initial impressions of Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master were good, more and more cracks began to show as we got past the -admittedly excellent- parody angle of the game. Strip this away and you’re left with a barebones dungeon management game where your actions feel inconsequential. It’s a shame because we really did like those early hours. There definitely is something worthwhile to be found in Naheulbeuk’s Dungeon Master but the game doesn’t fully realize its potential, making this one difficult to truly recommend.

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