A port of a great action RPG that you’ve never heard of because it was released for the PSP

Dungeons, by definition, are not nice places. They’re usually dank and deep. They are equipped with chains and racks and iron maidens — implements that, generally speaking, are not designed to bring pleasure. The dungeon is a place of imprisonment.  When you do something wrong, you’re placed in one as punishment. You’d think that, considering the dark nature of the dungeon, people would be less inclined to visit them.

Yet we can’t get enough. And when I say we, I mean us gamers. I’d say at least 30 percent of the games I play involve dungeons in one way or another. Two games I reviewed recently for Gamezebo — ORC: Vengeance and Dwarg Quest — would have very little left to them if you took out the dungeons. Of the last half dozen games I’ve previewed, it’s a safe bet that about a quarter of them will prominently feature dungeons in one way or the other, especially the one called Pocket Dungeon.

So yeah, it’s pretty clear that we gamers have a cultural affinity to these horrible places.  Which makes sense, I suppose. Dungeons are a perfect symbol.  They embody some of the worst elements of humanity. Gamers are then given the opportunity to overcome these symbols, to become a hero and traverse a dungeon, defeating the evil within and coming out stronger than before. You can’t argue with that, and ClaDun X2 does not try to.

Cladun X2

It too is a dungeon crawler, and it’s a damn good one. Originally a PSP game, it’s been ported to PC. It’s a good port overall, but I’m left wondering if this mobile game really is suited for desktop play.

But first, let me tell you what it does right. ClaDun X2 is a real-time action RPG that plays from a top down view, sort of like a modern Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. ClaDun will satisfy any urge you may have for action-y sword swinging. If the RPG elements were stripped away, it would make a decent action game. The moves at your disposal are surprisingly varied. You can attack, block, jump, dash, slide. You can shoot arrows and spells. Even before you step into the deep end, there’s plenty to master.

When you do step into the deep end, there’s plenty more to master. I barely scratched the surface of ClaDun’s character customization/party system, but I was impressed by what I saw. In ClaDun, every character you add to your party becomes an integral part of your main character, almost in the same way your sword, armor and other equipment are. Your main character has a customization grid with spots for other party members. By assigning other members to those spots, you can buff your main in different ways. Plus, when you gain experience with your main, all associated party members will gain experience as well.

Cladun X2

In ClaDun X2, dungeons are represented as discrete arenas. From the town hub, you have access to gateways that will send you to different dungeons, where you tackle them one floor at a time. Each floor could be compared to a level in a platformer. They’re generally short, their design is fairly focused, and playing them multiple times is part of the fun. Scattered throughout these dungeons are the usual baddies stuffed with gold coins and chests full of weapons and armor. If you like fast-paced dungeon crawlers, this game will make you happy.

But I’m not certain that this translation from PSP game to desktop RPG will satisfy everybody. First of all, playing this game on a keyboard is a hassle. If you’re interested in ClaDun X2, I hope you have a gamepad. The game’s menus were originally designed for a PSP and come off clumsily on the PC. Plus, I couldn’t play the game full-screen without it flickering in a way that made it unplayable — an issue that lots of folks seem to be having.  Besides technical complaints, everything about this game screams mobile. The gameplay, the level length, even the graphics — ClaDun X2 was meant to be taken in small chunks on the go. Having a PC port is nice, but I can’t help but feel I’d enjoy the game better on a PSP. If you want to play a great action RPG though, don’t let that stop you. Really. Buy it.