Dungeon Encounters - With Mistress Square Enix

So, did anyone else pick up the new Square Enix game Dungeon Encounters? It was announced only a few weeks ago during a Nintendo Direct, I think:

It’s a super stripped down experience, but it has development pedigree as the first project led by Hiroyuki Ito who famously created the Active Time Battle system for Final Fantasy 4 and had director credits on that game, 6, 9 and 12.

Who knows what the politics are, but he managed to squeeze a tiny budget out of someone at SE for this game which exists almost entirely as an abstract grid-paper labyrinth where almost everything is represented as nothing more than numbered tiles. For example, a number 6 on a square is a healing fountain. You just have to start learning that stuff.

Combat is likewise extremely abstracted. The game uses a refinement of the ATB system with a number of interesting twists. Enemies and party members alike are just a tiny portrait next to a block of stats.

Obviously this isn’t a game you’re coming to for the presentation, luckily has a bunch of interesting ideas in the gameplay. First off, all enemies have both a pool of physical defense and a pool of magic defense. You have to bust through one, or both, before you can actually damage their HP. The characters in your party can each equip two different weapons, usually one physical and one magical.

Each battle has you trying to determine the most efficient way to break through defenses in order to damage the actual HP based on what the enemy stats are, and what your party has equipped. Enemies might also be flying, meaning regular physical weapons can’t hit them, only bows or guns. Or they might have a reflect status making them immune to magic attacks.

Your equipment will dictate a lot of what you can do. You’ll be choosing between physical weapons that do a fixed amount of damage to a single target, ones that do random damage, ones that hit only a single target, or ones that hit all enemies. The same spread of combinations exist for magic attacks as well. And you have a limit on what you can equip. Weapons, armor and accessories all have an equipment point value so you have to balance the strength of your armor against physical AND magical attacks with what your attacks will be.

The other really interesting choice is this game has no potions/antidotes/etc to allow you to heal or recover outside of combat. If you get poisoned you stay poisoned until you can find a #7 square on the map with a purification pool. Dead characters are revived by a #5 square. If a party member gets petrified you can’t even move with them in your party! You have to kick them out, find the Gorgon Alter (#8) somewhere and plug in the coordinates of the space where you had to leave them to cure the condition. And since characters will stay put once you’ve kicked them out of the current party, to get them back you will have to travel all the way back to that exact square in order to add them back in!

I’m really only scratching the surface, here. Is anyone else playing?

That sounds tedious as hell.

It sounds very cool as a rough draft but i wouldn’t pay the asking price. It’s too barebones. I like the idea in theory but i would like the game to be fleshed out a little more.

Yeah that description sounds like an internal POC trying to get greenlit, not an actual thing I’m going to spend money on.

I wasn’t aware of its existence, but the thread title intrigued me (I guess I am a bit horny), and after reading your description, I checked some impression in a foreign language. This looks like a dream come true: JRPG grind with a cool little combat system, without all the insufferable cutscenes and storytelling? Sold, grabbing it!

Steam caught my eye with a review that said “JRPG meets spreadsheets. And I love spreadsheets!” I also love spreadsheets. I’m intrigued.

I just spent two hours playing it. It’s so barebone, it made me smile at first, but then I noticed that attention to little things that was so typical in Japanese games of old, like the discrete story elements slighting hidden from sight.
The combat system is also quite smarter than I thought it would be. Fumbling can happen because of it, too, which is quite (painfully) funny.
There is no fast travel and I’m quite happy, as this makes deciding to go back to town a chore, and deciding to push forward stress a tension.
There is no map, but no need yet to really draw one. The levels are large and twisted, but the stairs being on the longest opposite route, it feels pretty organic to just find your way around. I could see it becoming needed though.
Some mechanics aren’t told, but are easy to infer if you observe, which I also liked.

Also worth mentionning is the 3 music tracks, all arrange of overused classical pieces. Thankfully, most of the game is just ambiance sounds.

This is the anti-tom-chick game: it’s got no consideration for the player’s time, and stuff that should be obviously shown past 1985 in games are blatantly hidden. I like it! … until I game over, then I think I may hate it forever. I’ll see.

I poked around with this a little bit last night and I like it! I’m a little disappointed that the dungeon layout is visible (within the constraints of the screen) and not revealed as you go, but it scratches that dungeon crawling itch, and I could easily see this being a go-to game when I’ve got 10-30 minutes of idle time.

Like oooold dungeon crawlers, it also got silly puzzles, and it’s got secrets it doesn’t tell you about.
What a charming game.

Does anyone know if there’s an actual ending to this? Or does it just keep going forever?

Despite its appearance, I’m pretty sure the dungeon is hand-drawn and the same for everyone, and I even have an idea of how many floors there may be.

Awesome. I’d enjoy it regardless, but I do like knowing there’s a fixed end to eventually reach.

I got my first party wipe (around dungeon level 30, I had to try something!), and the game handled it like I hoped: the old school way of dispatching a rescuer, or even a rescue party (although the logistics are complicated). It made me appreciate some of the… things the game offers anew.
I’m enjoying how each enemy type is different, although their attacks are undocumented. You fight a bunch of stronger version of some, although the change in numbers make them very distinct. The unique weapons you find also truly are unique, and start to shine where I am, while they felt useless early on.
The interface doesn’t lend itself very well to weapon switching, although it definitely is becoming a thing.
I’d love to discuss more, but that’s spoiler territory, as I think the game is itself an expansive light puzzle to crack open on one’s own.

In handheld mode on the Switch, the game is a bit hard to read for me if I turn on the expanded view ability, while that same ability makes the framerate stutter a bit in docked mode.
I learned while playing handheld that holding B+direction is the way to move in the game. There is also quite a nice “intuitive” feel to it, given how convoluted some areas are. Ah yes, areas are distinct in their architecture, very much so, which is something you wouldn’t expect from looking at the drab screenies!

Could you expand on this a bit? For me, if I get this game, I imagine playing it almost exclusively in 30–60-minute sessions on handheld, so that’s a bit concerning. For reference, I didn’t have much trouble with the text in Fire Emblem in handheld and I remember that being an issue for some.

The game isn’t hard to read at all. But the things get small, and there is another aspect, a huge aspect of the game actually that wasn’t discussed (dare I say, revealed!) in the thread yet which is tied to it.
Here, look at those screenies:

As you can see, everything is getting a bit smaller on the zoomed out view.
Which leads to the aspect I was mentionning earlier, the map.
The map is all laid out in front of you, but walking those barren corridors would be boring, and pay little respect to the mapping process of CRPGs of old. So the game asks you to colour every single tile with your own colour. Like the Skweek game of old!
There are some catches to it, which I won’t discuss because of not wanting to spoil the discoveries that the game got, although they may be few.
In any case, it’s a very rewarding process, at least for me, and absolute fills in the need to map. But the low contrast of the tile, associated to the zoomed out view and the small screen can make things a bit tough to see. It’s rare though. Mostly, it’s just don’t let you appreciate the esthetics (I’m not joking) of the game’s maps properly.

That doesn’t look too bad, but I see what you mean.

This is looking like a strong candidate to be the game I spend an inordinate amount of time with over the winter holidays.

EG likes it. It’s been bubbling at the top of my ‘itching to play something new’ list.

I’m about 30 hours in and the game is really good, but a word of warning: the level 2 and 3 (they are split into three difficulty levels) numerical riddles are absolutely insane.
I looked up one that seemed super easy, yet couldn’t solve, and it turns out I didn’t even understand the explanation of the solution. So I looked at a couple of others I couldn’t make sense of, and they are so nearly impossible to solve it is hilarious.

It’s a bit sad that those enigmas are so much into “have to be in the writer’s brain to solve it” category, because everything else is very good. The game… got surprises, to say the least. It’s quite a fun beast!

Oh boy, this music is not great.

Enjoying my early dabbling with this otherwise though.

I turned the music off almost immediately, but I do that is nearly all thinky-type games as I find it distracting.

I only got to third floor, but yeah - this is kind of compelling. I’m liking it.

I like the stripped-back focus. How everything is listed in logs. Exploring a layout to try fill bestiary a bit before triggering any encounters. How the combat/stat interactions are simple and you have a choice between known fixed damage, or higher random damage. The two shield bars are neat, with no resistance percentages or anything like that to think about. I like how the shields regenerate between battles for the player. but hp doesn’t. It hits me with a slow drip-feed to the dopamine.

Early map design is nice in the way it gates you through the mechanics, though I spent an age wandering that first level before the stairs down seemed to appear.

The thing I’m wishing for is a way to quickly zoom right out, to more easily see the location of somewhere you’ve been and path there. As pathing somewhere is basically busy work (so far).

Seeing @Left_Empty’s spoiler screenshot above, seems there is some kind of zooming made available, possibly as an ability you can equip.