Dungeonland hands-on preview

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Paradox seems to be cornering the cutesy fantasy market; first Magicka, then A Game of Dwarves, now Dungeonland. Dungeonland's premise is simple; an evil lord, tired of heroes rampaging through his dungeon, takes a loan from the Evil Overlord Foundation and creates a kingdom especially for heroes to destroy, chockful of powerful monsters and magic tat.

Developed by Brazil-based Critical Studio, Dungeon Land is half Left4Dead, half Diablo, half Overlord and totally not about maths. A team of three intrepid adventurers (that's you!) take the archetypes of rogue, wizard and warrior and fight their way through an long open level, battling varieties of minions. Each character has access to a limited variety of weapons, which change their abilities and function. For example, the warrior's sword and shield allows him to block attacks and knock back enemies, but can be swapped for a two-handed hammer.

The level we attempted was about an hour long and was a soft parody of Dungeons & Dragons and Disneyland, complete with endless gift shops and costumed characters to battle. Combat is simple, and works best with gamepads; we ran around frantically bashing enemies, looting crap, and fending off the massed hordes.

Each player had three potions, which enabled a super-attack, and a limited number of friend-resurrections before permadeath kicked in. The feel was very close to Torchlight, with enemies dying very quickly, and abilities more being used for crowd control and survival in a giant melee.

Intriguingly, the Dungeon Lord himself can be either a fourth player or controlled by the AI. With the AI, he behaves like Left4Dead's director, spawning enemies, treasure and minibosses at critical moments. It's not clear how the fourth player will handle it, but we do know they'll have direct control of any bosses.

Like the Elder Dragon (an old dragon wearing a hat and glasses) and Mind Flayer (a giant illithid, D&D fans) we encountered, bosses are huge and normally surrounded by minions. Like all bosses after World of Warcraft, they're big, cartoony and signal their attacks waaay in advance.

There are just three levels planned at the moment, giving the game about three hours linear playtime; it remains to be seen if the Dungeon Master AI will give it greater replay value. Dungeonland is due for release in 2012. You can watch the most recent Dungonland trailer here .