Comedy in video games is always tough, but The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk nails the silly adventures of a D&D group, and has super crunchy tactical combat as well!
- Title: The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos
- Release Date: June 24, 2021
- Price: $39.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated M for Mature by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation, Xbox, GOG, Steam
- Recommended for fans of: Dumb Jokes, Tactical Gameplay, dark Fire Emblem clines, and Silly TTRPGs
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
My quest to find the perfect indie tile game continues with The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos. While this game was originally released a few years ago, the campaign is still being expanded through paid DLC, most recently a huge campaign called Back to the Futon. With that release, I got a chance to check out the whole package.
And oh what a meaty package it is.
Dungeons and Dragons and Jokes
If you’ve not come across it before, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a turn-based tactics game that draws heavy inspiration from the sillier aspects of getting together with a load of friends to consume irresponsible amounts of caffeine and make each other laugh. You control a party of adventurers who are only identified by their race or class. The Rogue is the de facto leader of the party and brings a sword and bow into combat. The Elf is a sharpshooter who is constantly trading barbs with the Dwarf. It’s an extremely generic group of heroes, but the game does a good job of characterizing them both in dialog and combat so that each one feels unique and worthy of attention.
The game kicks off with the party entering a dungeon on a fairly routine quest: a shady figure in a tavern sent them somewhere dangerous to collect something valuable. Misfortune befalls the party soon after they arrive when one member of the team gets whisked away by a magical whatsit, and that’s when you get to find out what makes this titular dungeon unique.
‘Tis a Silly Place
The multi-level dungeon in The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk descends far underground and is full of all sorts of nasty monsters for the party to contend with. However, the dungeon actually has an upstairs as well, where it seems like more of a tourist destination. There’s a well-stocked kitchen, a full-service bar, and even a VIP room. You see, there used to be a master who oversaw the dungeon, but ever since control was handed over to a coop board, the tone has shifted.
The NPCs you meet in the dungeon do a great job of filling out the world and painting a very fun, goofy picture of the silly direction that most tabletop campaigns seem to go. Between your characters quipping amongst each other, quests to recover a very particular cheese, and a semi-omniscient janitor who shows up throughout the adventure, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk captures the lightheartedness of imaginary adventures and then snaps you back into focus with a fierce combat system.
The combat in The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is insanely crunchy. Combat takes place on a square grid, and each character and enemy has two action points to take on their turn. Take that basic concept and pour on every little bit of nuance you can think of, and you’ll start to see how this game plays out.
Positioning is crucial, with your character being able to face in eight directions on their tile. They can also use melee attacks to swing in any of those eight directions. Attacking an enemy from behind gives you a backstab bonus, and an attack from the opposite side of an ally gives you a flanking bonus. Direction is also important, because moving through the three tiles that a character is facing triggers an opportunity attack.
Of course, on top of basic attacks, there are also special abilities. These use up a stamina system separate from character health, but generally, most characters can use a special ability every few turns. Each character has their own special skills that they unlock on their own unique skill tree, along with a full set of passive skills that give them bonuses or immunities and develop synchronicity between characters.
So, on a turn you might have your Barbarian charge up to attack an enemy, then have your Dwarf hit them with a crippling strike, then have your Orc belly bump them to push them backward, triggering an attack of opportunity from the whole squad.
And I haven’t even touched on ranged attacks, magic, healing, or overwatch abilities. Other than a weapon triangle, this game has just about every tactics system I’ve ever seen all rolled up in one.
I really love both the tone and mechanics of The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, but there are a few issues that hold it back. First of all, all of those combat systems make the controls very convoluted. To do a full turn you need to use your analog stick to choose a position, press A, use the stick again to choose a direction, then hit A again, press the right shoulder button to activate the action bar, go over to the attack you want to use, press the right or left trigger buttons to cycle through targets, then hit A again to attack, then hold Y to end the units turn. Everything works and the interface is pretty well labeled, so if you are playing consistently it’s not too bad. However, taking a break from this game makes it very tough to relearn how to play.
The other issues I have are more significant on the Switch than on the Xbox version, which I was able to play a bit of thanks to GamePass. First off, this game suffers from the weird fuzziness that plagues so many Switch ports. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it detracts a lot from the otherwise great art style.
Secondly, the load times are awful. This is a game where after you choose to continue from the main menu, you may as well put the controller down and go pour yourself a drink because it’s going to load for a while. Thankfully, most of the loading happens upfront, so once you are playing that isn’t too much of an issue. On the downside, the game does seem to “think” a lot about enemy actions. This is an issue on both Switch and Xbox, where the enemy units seem to take just as much time deliberating about their moves as I do, rather than just acting immediately. All of that slowness makes it feel like the game is wasting my time in a really frustrating way.
Still, outside of those few issues I really like The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos. It’s got a really fun sense of humor and a fantastically crunchy combat system. It really pulls together my favorite things about TTRPGs in a pretty masterful way. On top of that, both DLCs that have been released seem to be canonical additions to the end of the storyline, meaning that this is a long game with a lot of content that all fits together, as opposed to a release that just throws a bunch of DLC at new players when they boot it up.
If it weren’t for the issues with the loading times, this would be up there as a favorite tactics game on the Switch. Unfortunately, with how often I hop from one game to another, having to wait to start playing really kills the experience for me.
But hey, I guess that’s what the GamePass version is for, right?