Please Shut Up

HIGH Great tactics and an interesting dungeon.

LOW Every moment of dialogue.

WTF Seriously, who thought this script was funny?

The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a perfect example of why humor in videogames is tough. Being funny (in general) is more structured and nuanced than one might think, and there’s more to successful humor than coming up with a couple of random jokes or using profanity. It’s also tough because poor humor can be more harmful to a game than a script that’s average or forgettable. Some might disagree, but it’s a safer bet to skip the laughs and focus on mechanics or art unless there’s some absolutely killer material on deck.

Dungeon of Naheulbeuk offers isometric turn-based strategy and tactics set in the titular dungeon, although to be honest it’s more of a giant castle. The entire player’s party goes with them at all times, and the action is seen from a top-down view in battlefields that are divided up into grids. Each character can do one action and one movement in any order, and there are many mitigating factors such as affinity between characters, flanking, backstabbing, and so forth.

This gameplay, while not revolutionary, is pleasantly solid. The tactics are interesting and give much consideration to positioning. Adding a nice wrinkle, characters can’t go crazy with skills since they have to manage MP and each skill has a cooldown, so magic and abilities must be used judiciously, especially with healing. If a character gets into trouble, it’s not possible to spam them back to full health

The dungeon itself is an interesting change of pace. Rather than the traditional underground cave-like area full of monsters and traps (although those are certainly here), it’s a castle with an elevator and stairs and multiple floors, and there are amenities within its walls. Players can explore a far corner, get into a battle, collect loot, and then retreat to a lower floor to refresh themselves before moving ahead. There are also many little nooks and crannies to find, and areas that become unlocked as the party’s skills expand.

Speaking of the party…

Naheulbeuk‘s cast is composed of several genre archetypes — the big, dumb barbarian, the sexy elf archer, the sneaky-but-not-brave thief, the alcoholic dwarf with a Scottish accent, and so on. They all fulfill the standard roles that one would expect based on appearance. However, the skill trees available are fairly deep, with a good mix of active and passive skills. There’s also quite a bit of leeway in enhancing relationships between characters to make them more effective in battle — for example, if the magician has the right perks and stays close to the party’s ogre, then they both get buffs based on friendship.

If I could end my review here, I would say that I had an enjoyable time in The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk and would probably recommend it to players looking for turn-based tactics. However, a large focus of the game is on its script, and this was a catastrophic error because the material on deck here is not killer.

Between battles there are usually a couple of lengthy dialogues to get through, and they’re all full of bad jokes throwaway lines, cheesy references, juvenile double entendres and so on. None of it funny, the characters are irritating, the excessive use of profanity feels inappropriate, and there’s just too much goddamn talking. These characters never shut up, and everything they say is like nails on chalkboard.

After an hour of having my ears sandpapered with this abrasive stuff, I started skipping the cutscenes and dialogue — this content is so bad, in fact, that there’s literally an option in the menu to permanently mute two of the worst offenders, the dwarf and the elf. That helped, but it still wasn’t enough. After I started avoiding the writing, I soon lost track of what was happening, what the story was about, or what quest I was on. Detaching from the narrative was absolutely necessary for the sake of my sanity, but it also meant that this loss of narrative motivation killed my desire to keep playing — a shame, because the gameplay is good. I just could not stomach the writing.

The campaign offers a good mix of classic characters, the location in which the adventure happens is unusual, the tactics are rich and the gameplay is enjoyable — if the script and voiceovers didn’t dump a bucket of hog slop all over everything, we’d be in business. Unfortunately, the narrative aspect of Naheulbeuk is truly abysmal and it ruins everything else the game gets right. In this case, a boring by-the-numbers ‘save the world’ questline would have been far, far preferable to what we actually got.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Artefacts Studio and published by Dear Villagers. It is currently available on PS/XB/Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. No time was spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes and Violence. The official description reads as follows: This is a tactical role-playing game in which players control heroes as that explore dungeons, search for artifacts, and complete quests/missions. From a top-down perspective, players follow a storyline while engaging in turn-based battles with fantastical enemies (e.g., zombies, vampires, trolls). Characters use swords, axes, clubs, and magic spells to defeat enemies. One location depicts torture machines/instruments (e.g., rack, iron maiden, stocks) and several large splatters of blood on devices, walls, and the floor. A female character is depicted with bouncing breasts and deep cleavage; the dialogue contains some suggestive material (e.g., “No, she’s not gonna take off her clothes when you use that skill”; “Talk about a ménage-à -trois”; “Not everyone gets the dizzies in front of a pair of knockers, you lecherous old bat!”). The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: There no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue comes with text and there are no audio cues necessary for gameplay. The text cannot be altered or resized. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

Brad Gallaway
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