UnDungeon – Review
Follow Genre: Roguelike, ARPG
Developer: Laughing Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

UnDungeon – Review

Site Score
Good: Jaw dropping pixel art visuals
Bad: Unfair difficulty spikes
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

As we can’t avoid the elephant in the room: today we’re looking at a bit of a controversial title in the form of UnDungeon. The game launched on PC and Xbox a year ago and has now arrived on Switch and PlayStation. Introduced to the world through a Kickstarter campaign back in 2017, much of the controversy surrounding the game has to do with how the final product ended up being very different from the original pitch -not to mention the time it took before UnDungeon made it into the hands of the public. We’re not going to delve into the Kickstarter drama in our review -there’s a subreddit for that- but instead, we’re looking at the game as it is presented to players as a finished product. So, how does UnDungeon hold up?


The least we can say about UnDungeon’s story is that it is ambitious. In the opening cinematic, a narrator starts by explaining that the game is set in a multiverse rather than a single universe. During a cataclysm, known as the Shift, the membrane that separated seven different versions of Earth broke, and they merged together as a result. Coinciding with the Shift, entities known as Heralds were born from different parts of each version of Earth. Players take on the role of the Void, one of these Heralds, and are tasked with traveling to the city of Arkhaban, the root of all Creation. Along the way, they must gather the seals of the other six Heralds, in order to either mend the multiverse or bring about the end of existence. It’s an ambitious premise and UnDungeon isn’t afraid to ask philosophical and religious questions as the rich and deep narrative unfolds, although the sheer amount of expository dialogue can feel overwhelming. At times, the game throws so much lore and worldbuilding at you that things can start to feel convoluted, but the base premise remains easy enough to follow, fortunately.


We’ve seen plenty of modern games make use of pixel art visuals to the point that we feel like it’s overdone. UnDungeon is one of the rare exceptions that is able to not just pull off pixel art but take it to a jaw-dropping level. This is an absolutely gorgeous title, not in the least due to the dramatic art direction which emphasizes the scale of the story without overtaking it. Because UnDungeon’s visuals are ultimately still fairly simplistic, the performance is fantastic too. The only thing we didn’t like about the game’s visuals is perhaps that the interface and on-screen text feel too sleek and modern compared to the pixelated visuals. It would have been better to see these rendered in a pixelated style, if only for visual consistency. The interface also felt cluttered at times, especially given the relatively simple core mechanics of the game.


Strange isn’t it?”. As soon as we heard these words through our headphones, we were immediately drawn into the world of UnDungeon, as the narrator of the opening cinematic does a fantastic job of setting the tone. Unfortunately, the rest of the game -which is very text-heavy- lacks any kind of voice acting, which felt like a huge miss. Thankfully, the atmospheric soundtrack and sound effects make up for the lack of voice work. The music feels fitting for the post-apocalyptic sci-fi atmosphere, feeling ethereal at certain times and suitably adrenaline-pumping at others.


As a narrative-driven roguelike ARPG, UnDungeon relies perhaps a bit too much on its storytelling and worldbuilding to keep players engaged rather than presenting players with balanced gameplay. The game’s main objective is tied to the story of course and involves tracking down six Heralds and obtaining their seals, but there is a heavy focus on exploration and side missions as well. You’ll travel between the various dimensions that make up post-Shift Earth, encountering a wide variety of enemies and NPCs, some of which will join you on your travels. The main storyline is fairly short, clocking in at an estimated five hours, but completionists can easily triple that -if they can stomach just how tedious and repetitive some of the side missions are. There is a lot of backtracking involved with these, and escort missions in particular can be needlessly frustrating as the NPC that you are escorting is often very prone to dying.

Of course, side missions are completely optional but the rewards are simply too good to ignore: the Void is a character that is very customizable, not just in terms of weapons loadout but also when it comes to actual stats. As a being made up of parts of different dimensions, you can alter specific body parts to gain permanent bonuses. Of course, doing so requires you to gather the necessary experience points as well as runes and nodes, and gathering these typically involves putting in some work to do so, of course. The dynamic combat system is perhaps UnDungeon’s standout gameplay feature. The core mechanics are fairly simple and easy to get to grips with, but thanks to a wide array of options, ranging from claw slashes to throwable bombs, there is plenty of variety present in your arsenal. Controls are responsive and combat itself is satisfying, although we did feel like there were major balance issues that required excessive grinding. For example, when traveling between areas, you might feel like enemies are underpowered, but the next area will present you with enemies that will rip you apart in seconds.

Granted, this is partially because of UnDungeon’s semi-open world approach, as high-level enemies can be found early on and you’ll need to avoid these rather than face them directly in combat -something that felt reminiscent of the Xenoblade series. That being said, we felt like the baseline of enemy power also felt off occasionally. This is especially true for the boss battles, although here the sudden jump in difficulty was easier to understand than when a random crab suddenly hit us with the force of a speeding truck. It is these seemingly random difficulty spikes that are likely going to frustrate many players. We don’t expect every game to be a breeze of course, but this is a case where the game simply feels unfair at times. When you die, you also return to the hub area, so the frustration is amplified due to the huge amount of backtracking involved after you meet your demise at the hands of an enemy you weren’t prepared to face.

To make matters worse, there are actually mechanics in play that punish you even further if you’re performing poorly: as you start to take damage, the edges of the screen start to crack and darken, limiting your field of vision. And remember what we said about the Void being a customizable character? You can upgrade yourself with spare body parts, which act as extra health bars, but these can become temporarily disabled from taking damage, until you return to the hub or reach a save point. While these are disabled, you’re actually less effective at healing yourself. The result is a game where the more damage you take, the harder it becomes to plow through. If you’re a glutton for punishment, then UnDungeon might be up your alley, but if you’re a more casual player, then taking on this game might mean biting off more than you can chew.

That said, UnDungeon isn’t a bad game and there is nothing fundamentally broken here. It just feels like developer Laughing Machines tried to cram in as much of their original ideas as possible without keeping in mind how these would interact with one another, and a less-is-more philosophy would have definitely helped here, as the game could have done with more focus and streamlining. The core experience is fantastic and there are so many good ideas here but they’re all competing with one another rather than cooperating. Despite the wide array of options and amount of information that is thrown at you, the game never feels overwhelming in terms of gameplay, but it simply feels like the developer never bothered to actually try and see how different mechanics meshed together. This becomes painstakingly clear when you have to escort an NPC through an area filled with enemies that neither you nor the NPC can handle. If you think of UnDungeon as a dish, then it’s probably easier to explain what went wrong here: no matter how high the quality of your individual ingredients, if they don’t fit together then the end result isn’t going to taste good.


It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer ambition that Laughing Machines shows with UnDungeon: the amount of effort that went into worldbuilding alone is mind-boggling. Likewise, UnDungeon absolutely nails its pixel art visuals. Where things start to come apart, however, is when it comes to the gameplay. Don’t get us wrong; the core mechanics are solid, but the game suffers from difficulty spikes, tedious side missions, and an unhealthy amount of backtracking. If you enjoy a tough-as-nails challenge, then you might find UnDungeon enjoyable, but if you’re easily frustrated by an unfair gameplay experience, then you might want to look for your next game in a different part of the multiverse.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
UnDungeon - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.