You might only know The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos as that weird comedy RPG with the long name, and that would be a completely understandable identification! First released on PC in September of 2020, a console release is now upon us, and it’s got its share of problems.
Fans of the long-running fantasy property that the title is based on will undoubtedly find parts to like, but on Nintendo Switch, the experience is mired by messy controls and frustrating bugs. While a patch may be in order on or around the release date, as it stands right now, this title is a bit of a mess.
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos is available now on Steam and Epic Games Store. It will release on PlayStation 4 on June 29th, Xbox One on June 23rd and Nintendo Switch on June 24, 2021, for your regional pricing.
STORY – SOPHOMORICALLY SIMPLE
The story of Naheulbeuk comes from John Lang’s French audio series, first created in 2001. Over the course of two decades, the property has been adapted to novels, a role-playing game, and a series of graphic novels, and now it makes its way to video games. A parody of traditional Dungeons & Dragons games, much of the humor comes from the ineptitude of the main band of protagonists.
Each character in the party is referred to only as their archetype (The Ranger, The Elf, The Ogre, etc.), and they are all consistently poking fun at each other. In this game, the group is tasked with entering the mysterious Dungeon of Naheulbeuk and recovering a lost statuette. Hijinks ensue, and a lengthy adventure begins.
The characters are foul-mouthed and grate against what you’d typically see in a fantasy setting. Most sentences have some sort of swear word in them, and it seems like the writers were trying to scream, “Look! This makes fun of fantasy games!” Mostly, it’s tiring. I can understand the market for this type of humor, but with the amount of dialogue found in this title, it got old fast.
The art of parody requires an extremely careful act of balance. Take the source material too seriously, and the jokes won’t be evident. Fire too loosely, and it seems like you’re going for easy laughs. Naheulbeuk falls into the latter category. From The Rolling Stones references to constant scatological jokes, the comedy feels like the first draft of an abandoned Family Guy adaptation. The writing team seems to have gone for the most amount of jokes, regardless of quality.
Early on in the title, I opened a chest to find a junk item that was literally called pornography. The almost shock value that this title is going for just ends up feeling crass and juvenile, rather than an actual critique of the genre. I ultimately felt disappointed in the entire experience.
The story didn’t resonate with me, and that’s fine! But typically, if the writing bothered me in a game, I’d just turn my attention to the gameplay and hope that was strong enough to carry me through. But the flavor dialogue that pops up during combat and the extremely long cutscene conversations sapped so much of my time that this title felt like an interactive book rather than an actual video game.
GAMEPLAY – IT BREAKS, BADLY
If the story didn’t grab you, it’s not likely that the gameplay will land any better. The actual combat is much like we saw in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: turn-based, tactical elements with world traversal between encounters. The problem is that even menu navigation is marred by the technical issues that infect the entire game.
There are so many characters running around on-screen at once that the visuals slow down to make up for the many moving parts, resulting in dropped frames. The actual game audio will frequently just cut out completely, which actually caused me to fear that my Nintendo Switch Lite was failing. The audio issues remained even when playing on a different Nintendo Switch, confirming that it was just Naheulbeuk that was thrust into silence.
On top of that, the game will struggle to navigate menus, and above all, I spent most of my time looking at loading screens. The upside was that the art was fantastic, but there’s only so much time I can spend staring at my console without actually playing it. Again, this was a problem exclusive to Naheulbeuk; all of my other titles work fine.
That’s not to say there aren’t cool things to be found here. Each character has a decent-sized skill tree with abilities that not only unlock combat options but also certain ways to interact with the world. For example, The Ogre can eventually break down blocked doors, allowing the discovery of secret areas, and The Thief can disarm traps that could harm the party.
But secret rooms can only get you so far when your audio cuts out, and your game crashes. Considering the price and substantial content touted (the console release includes the DLC), one would hope that these glitches would be resolved quickly, perhaps even before the official release. That, of course, remains to be seen, as I’m not sure if the build I was given is final. Considering the timing and the way the Nintendo eShop works, I feel pretty confident in saying that what I played is an accurate representation of what you’ll see on launch day.
GRAPHICS/AUDIO – LOOKING GOOD
I don’t really have any gripes with the quality of the graphics or the art style here. I like the look the team is going for, it feels cartoonish without being exaggerated, and the tone of the game wouldn’t match realism, anyway. I didn’t encounter any graphical bugs, either, which was a nice change of pace from the headaches of the gameplay. The characters generally contrasted well against the environment but not so much against each other. There were times when I would get confused about which unit I was controlling, especially if there were similar enemies on the map.
Most of the confusion was due to the cumbersome camera controls. Everything looked great when I zoomed in on the action, but then my field of view was so small, combat was impossible. From a high vantage point, I could see all of my units, but everything was muddled together. It was an extremely disappointing problem to deal with.
Let’s set aside the audio bugs I encountered. When I could hear the audio, it fit the game well. The music was atmospheric, and the characters were fully voiced and well-acted. There’s a whole lot of vocal work in this title, and I can’t fault the cast for their performances. Clearly, the history of this property as a work of audio fiction has transferred over to this game. Now, the audio didn’t always match up properly with what I saw on screen due to the frame drops and slowdown I regularly encountered. But in the end, I could identify what they were going for.
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos was reviewed for Nintendo Switch. A key was provided by Future Friends Games.