System Prisma's charming little classic dungeon series is back with a brand new third title after more than five years since the previous one. However, does the simplistic dungeon-based action RPG gameplay hold up in 2017?
Cladun Returns follows the familiar formula for anyone who has played either of the first two games. For the uninitiated, all you do is traverse brief dungeons while fighting off monsters. In between dungeons, you can play around in the hub area (known as Arcanus Cella) where you can upgrade your character in various ways. It's a simplistic setup indeed but it's also one that can be rather addictive in short bursts. Working through incrementally challenging dungeons in the main campaign and taking on bonus dungeons while gradually turning your character into a monster-slaying machine is quite satisfying. Considering the gameplay primarily revolves around overhead combat where you attack, jump, dash, slide, and hold a button to raise your shield; it's a very easy game to pick up and play for a few minutes here and there. After all, that's all the time you'll need to make it through a couple of the miniature dungeons.
As I've already mentioned, you can upgrade your character between trips to the dungeons. Doing so can be surprisingly involving but that all depends on your willingness to tend to a handful of different components. Obviously, your character levels up and you can equip the best available weapons and armour but there's much more to it than that. The Magic Circle system has you create other warriors from scratch and allows you to equip them to aid you in battle by providing boosts and absorbing some of the damage. These fellows level up, too, and you can equip them with objects that give you slight enhancements. On top of this, you can fortify the hub via a carpenter to grant additional bonuses, assign traits to weapons via the blacksmith, and take on a handful of quests that award you with goodies, gold, and fame. There's so much to do that becoming more powerful is a very rewarding endeavor.
The main campaign consists of 10 story chapters that include 5 dungeons in each. It'll take hours to work through seeing as you'll likely have to grind from time to time in order to defeat some of the bosses. Additionally, there are 10 extra stages with five dungeons in each to master. These are very similar to what you'll see in the story campaign although they tend to be much trickier to beat. Finally, there are two randomly generated dungeons (Ran-geon) known as Neo-geon and Tri-geon. The former has 99 floors and the latter incorporates three types of Ran-geon (Normal, Chaos, and Heaven). As you can see, there's a ton of content to work through so you'll have to be a dungeon master to complete the entirety of what Cladun Returns has to offer.
Fun fact: What does Cladun mean?
Cladun gets its name from the first three letters of the words Classic Dungeon which is the series' official title in Japan. This third game's Japanese name is simply "Classic Dungeon Sengoku" which means it's one of the rare games with an English title that is more complex than its Japanese one.
Unfortunately, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! can occasionally test your patience. The most prominent aspect that contributes to this is the fact that the gameplay is extremely repetitive. It's definitely a game that's best played in short sessions. That being said, the hub area is excessively convoluted which means that picking it up after not playing for a while may result in you not remembering where to go in order to accomplish certain tasks. There is a quick travel option but not every destination is listed.
Finally, I came across many irritating situations that made me feel like just giving up on Cladun Returns altogether. The most annoying event occurred on multiple occasions as I got trapped between two enemies. Sure, you can usually hack and slash your way out of this but enemies that you can only hurt from behind and skeletons that leave a solid mound of bones that regenerate after they perish will block your path. Therefore, I had to quit and retry multiple times. Another big frustrating feature is that some traps are far too powerful as they might end your life in one or two seconds. Meanwhile, damage from enemies just chips away at your health.
Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! is a fun and basic dungeon-crawling action RPG that's best enjoyed in short sessions. The repetitive gameplay and frequent annoyances hinder the experience but it's still an overall rewarding adventure.
- + Simple bite-sized dungeon gameplay
- + Satisfying character progression
- + Tons of content to work through
- - Gameplay is a bit too repetitive
- - Hub can be tricky to navigate
- - Many annoying moments will surely test your patience