Explore the dungeons of Steam Next Fest’s biggest hit



Dungeonbor­ne came out of nowhere to be the surprise hit of Steam Next Fest. A medieval fantasy extraction dungeon crawler that is effectivel­y Escape From Tarkov but with swords and skeletons, it is difficult not to love. It also isn’t difficult to figure out where its inspiratio­n came from.

You’d easily be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen Dungeonbor­ne in action before. Despite only breaking cover as Steam Next Fest kicked off, it will feel instantly familiar to anyone who is aware of Dark and Darker, the similar game that blew up last year only to be bogged down by legal battles. From the setting to visual style and of course, the main gameplay loop, almost everything in Dungeonbor­ne feels like it has been taken straight out of Dark and Darker and dropped into a version that is on Steam with not all that much else to differenti­ate itself.

But, when the core idea of running into a spooky place, whacking some enemies with a big sword or lighting them up with magic, stealing their loot and running away, is so instantly enjoyable there isn’t much that needs to be expanded on. This was proven by the fact that Dungeonbor­ne topped the Steam Next Fest charts for the entire duration of the event, despite the barebones demo that was available with just a couple of maps and not all that much to do in terms of an overarchin­g meta-game other than build your bank balance.

For the most part, games where you have to extract from the map in order to keep whatever you find and not lose whatever you took in are punishingl­y hard, and building that bank balance can take hours. But I found Dungeonbor­ne to be the exact opposite—providing you keep your wits about you. With massive maps, a very generous timer on the battle royale-style closing circle of death, and not much in the way of storage space, it is very easy to get in, fill your pockets with decent loot and get out without ever seeing another player.

As someone who will happily stick to the outskirts of a Tarkov map so there is less chance of running into another player and losing my loot, it was a refreshing change at first. After just a couple of runs, it became obvious that a lot of players die early on to basic mobs, and with the big maps available in the beta—one of which was for solos and another for teams—you can dodge fights pretty easily. Within a couple of hours, I’d survived almost all of the time, and built up a very healthy bank balance by grabbing all the valuable trinkets I could find and selling them to the

merchant once I was out.


But this quickly grew tiresome. Once you start to learn the maps, or even one section of a map given it always seemed to spawn me in one of about four locations despite there being 16 players spawning in at different places, you realise everything is exactly the same during every run. The same enemies spawn in the same locations, and with very basic patrol patterns you can easily learn how to aggro just one of a group to make fights easier or just run past them to get to the next set of loot.

Loose loot around the world and not in chests always spawns in the same locations, and there is so much of it that even if there is some RNG involved it’s difficult to tell because of the lack of variation between items. Loot in chests and found on dead AI monsters fares a little better in terms of offering exciting items, but it isn’t uncommon to find exactly the same item multiple times. If decisions about what to drop or keep were more regular there would be a lot more thought that goes into your looting, but

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Dungeonbor­ne goes from wide open spaces to claustroph­obic corridors very quickly.

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