The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos
Developer: Artefacts Studio
Publisher: Dear Villagers, E-Home Entertainment
Genre: RPG, Turn-based Tactics, Comedy
Age Rating: TBD
Release Date: 17/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Based on a French audio series by the same name, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk isn’t a franchise I’ve encountered before – most likely as it hasn’t been formally translated into English. It has its own fervent fanbase, and has split off into comics, novels, and even a band.
The series pokes fun at fantasy tabletop board games, and this game consequently takes the form of a turn-based RPG as you’d expect. Since I’m a huge fan of humorous fantasy, this could go one of two ways – either an easy win, or a gross insult to one of my favourite genres!
It’s impossible to talk about Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos without touching on its tone. A lot of your time playing the game is going to be spent in the company of its characters and sense of humour, whether through the general storyline, the persistent ambient and in-combat banter, or even the item descriptions.
For myself, I had a lot of fun. The consistent bickering is not all that different from my own tabletop RPG groups. And, releasing cages of chickens on my unsuspecting opponents rarely failed to raise a smile.
But it has to be said that if this isn’t your sense of humour, you might want to step away. There’s no escaping it! The game does offer you the ability to decrease and increase the frequency of your allies’ commentary, or even mute the Elf or the Dwarf individually if you prefer. You can also skip most conversations, if you’re fine with missing out on its lengthy storyline!
The Story of Naheulbeuk
It’s not the most complex of tales, but it does have a few twists and turns to make it interesting. As far as I understand from looking into the original audio series, this game covers the general plot of season 1, as the adventurers enter the titular dungeon in search of a statuette in the possession of the dungeon’s master. However, the appearance of a cursed amulet takes them slightly off the path of their original adventure…
Overall, I think the main story does a great job of poking fun at fantasy conventions without making a total mockery of its own plot. It’s full of memorable events and encounters from beginning to end.
That being said, I did feel the game came to a somewhat abrupt finish. A particular spoiler-ridden event that carries over from the original series left me with a slightly sour taste! But other than that, I have very few complaints about the story or tone.
(Well okay, maybe I’ll complain about the two “arrow to the knee” references…)
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a top-down, turn-based roleplaying game. If you’ve played any of the recent Shadowrun games, Divinity: Original Sin, or Baldur’s Gate 3 (read our early access preview here), you’ll know what to expect here. Your party is mostly fixed, though you do get to pick one of three extra teammates. Or, just stick with the original seven characters.
As you explore the titular dungeon’s many floors, you’ll often run into fights. Similar to shooters like Mass Effect, you can usually predict these by looking at the arrangement of cover, traps, and exploding scenery in any given room.
I played the game on the standard difficulty, and felt that fights were tricky enough without outstaying their welcome. Towards the end of the game, with a max-level party and some fancy gear, I did find the game became a whole lot easier. Even the secret boss, who I unlocked through a convoluted bit of riddle-solving, went down without too much trouble, but I suppose this could be remedied by playing on a harder difficulty next time!
As The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos is parodying Dungeons & Dragons conventions, your party largely consists of easily-recognisable class archetypes, such as your elf archer or dwarf warrior, but the talent choices were varied and interesting nonetheless. Many of the options I picked felt meaningful, with a noticeable impact on how much I struggled in any given encounter.
Plenty of synergies between the different characters are available, allowing you to set up combinations that deal huge amounts of damage. One of my favourite moments was inflicting a late-game boss with the Scared status. This forced him to run past all my lined-up melee fighters, who swiftly beat him to death with attacks of opportunity as he went by.
In terms of character customisation, you allocate stats on each level-up, and pick one active and one passive talent. As you’d expect, you don’t get enough points to buy everything, so there’s some incentive to choose wisely! For myself, I tended to grab anything that would stun enemies. I found that certain characters were next-to-useless until I’d given them a boost to their chance to hit too.
You also have the option of resetting your character’s allocated points and talents if you change your mind about anything. This is just as well, since one of the talents allows a character to equip a particular class of weapon that seldom cropped up anywhere. It almost always unperformed compared to the character’s default.
The Roll of the Dice
Being a Dungeons & Dragons-style game, you are very much at the whims of the dice. Even having 143% chance to hit an enemy can be negated by critically failing your attack roll. However, to balance this out slightly, the game offers you the “Randomia Gauge”. This is a bar that fills up with “every unlucky event or failure”.
This gauge gives you access to four extra abilities of increasing power that can mitigate some of the more unfortunate occurrences. For example, you can teleport a party member anywhere on the battle grid, or even heal six random party members all at once. Nice as this feature is, though, it doesn’t always soothe a run of four critical fails in quick succession…
The Amulet of Chaos, unsurprisingly, takes place entirely within the titular Dungeon of Naheulbeuk. This does mean that there isn’t a huge variation in scenery, but each floor has its own strong identity and amusing little features. From the washing lines strung out over one of the dungeon’s wells, to orcs on fairground rides at a beer festival. I also appreciated that you can see past the walls of the dungeon and out over the surrounding forests and plains, rather than being surrounded entirely by darkness.
Outside of combat, your time is generally spent either in conversation with the dungeon’s wacky residents, or seeking out loot and solving puzzles. While I mostly found this gameplay loop to be rewarding and satisfying, there were a couple of minor features that could perhaps have been rethought.
Riddle Me This
A handful of optional doors throughout the game require you to solve a riddle. Some of these can only be solved by handing over the relevant “miscellaneous” item. Over the course of your adventure, you’ll end up with dozens of miscellaneous items. I ended up lugging them all around rather than selling them, just in case I accidentally sold a riddle’s answer. Since you can never upgrade your carry capacity, everything gets so much heavier as the game goes on, and there’s no storage option at the tavern. This ended up with me having to make frequent shopping trips to offload spare gear.
Fortunately, it’s not a problem that’ll afflict me on a replay, now that I know all the riddle answers.
Optional quests are also dotted around the dungeon. However, you need to speak to characters in each new chapter if you want to see if they have any new dialogue or events, as they don’t have markers to show if they have quests available. It’s only a minor quibble, but I felt like I had to run about speaking to everyone in the entire dungeon each time I began a new chapter. This wasn’t the most valuable use of my time. I appreciate not wanting to lead players by the nose too much, but you spend a lot of time hopping between floors as it is.
And that’s without mentioning the optional puzzle to unlock the secret boss, which has you go between almost all the available floors! You’d better hope you get the solution right first time.
In terms of performance, The Amulet of Chaos generally ran very smoothly, though my aging PC didn’t appreciate the aforementioned loading between floors. I did notice a few typos here and there, but given the length of the script that needed to be translated, I think I can let those slide.
As for sound design, the soundtrack was suitably whimsical. I woke up on a few days with the battle themes still running through my head. There were plenty of amusing cartoony sound effects to accompany the outlandish battles. But I could have done without the people-chewing ambience in the taverns!
The voice-acting was largely solid (I particularly liked the Thief). However, some of the side characters didn’t quite seem to match up with their appearances. One elderly wizard sounded more like a student fresh out of university, for example. I feel like I encountered that same actor doing a similar voice for several characters. I did have a theory that this was going to lead into a joke about the non-player characters being voiced by one Game Master, but that never happened…
When I started The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos, I was expecting an average adventure with annoying characters. I was surprised to find myself falling in love with the main cast, and enjoying a robust combat system with a wide range of options. Not only that, but it’s a generously-sized game. It has enough variation, despite its single location, to keep my interest for the duration.
If you’re waiting for Baldur’s Gate 3 to leave early access and need something else in the meantime, give it a whirl!