Dungeons of Hinterberg is about a holiday – which is why everything feels so important

Dungeons of Hinterberg is about a holiday - which is why everything feels so important

What’s at stake? In Dungeons of Hinterberg, refreshingly little. But the more I played of this strange and lovely combination of dungeon diver and life sim, the more I realised that wasn’t quite the case. Sure, in terms of the stakes of a lot of video games, Hinterberg’s are definitely quite low. You’re on holiday and your job, in essence, is to relax. But sometimes just getting away and having a break is really pretty important. A few hours in, I realised that I wanted to do it properly.

Dungeons of Hinterberg

Publisher: Curve Games
Developer: Microbird Games
Platform: Played on PC
Availability: Out 18th of July on PC and Xbox X/S. The game will be on Game Pass.

Dungeons of Hinterberg is a game about Luisa, who’s training to be a lawyer and is young and thoroughly burned out. She’s come to Hinterberg, which is a sweet Alpine town touched by magic, to do what all tourists here do. They stroll and eat cakes and sit by the lake, certainly. But they also descend into a range of dungeons to whack enemies around with swords and magic.

The dungeons I’ve played so far are delightful, combining puzzles and combat in a way that feels like you’re playing a really good Zelda shrine. Dungeons often have their own gimmicks – one is about manipulating jelly-like platforms that pop in and out of the walls allowing you to access specific areas. Another is all about mine carts, with puzzles that involve switching the tracks around and opening gates.

Here’s the announcement trailer for Dungeons of Hinterberg.Watch on YouTube

There’s a lovely flow. You’ll puzzle around, find a hidden treasure chest, solve something that’s stumped you and then smack a few baddies in. If there’s a weak spot – and I’m early in, mind – it’s the combat itself. It’s fine, even good on paper, with a dodge and a shiftable lock-on and a light and heavy attack. But I was about five hours in and enjoying the game immensely and I spied some enemies up ahead and realised that my heart had sunk just everso slightly. I guess what I’d say is that the combat is decent, but it’s not what I’m here for.

Combat can be threaded together with magic attacks and specials, but the magical stuff feels much more fun in the puzzles so far. Early on I had two abilities: one would allow me to summon and then detonate a huge mine, while another let me fling out a grappling hook and then pull it back, perfect for manipulating distant mechanisms. I could take both of these things into fights, but, as with the recent Zeldas, I found them more fun to mess around with just out in the world itself. Early days, though; perhaps I’ll get more into the battling.

Luisa rides a minecart through a dungeon in Dungeons of Hinterberg

Luisa stands outside a neat village smithy in Dungeons of Hinterberg.

Dungeons of Hinterberg. | Image credit: Microbird Games/Curve Games

Even with that caveat Dungeons of Hinterberg is already deeply special. The art style is fascinating: thin-lined Cel-shading, but with a hint of half-tone. My soul, I love half-tone. And it works beautifully to create shade and nuance in the beautiful Alpine setting. There are hubs and areas to explore dotted with fast travel, but while I love uncovering treasure chests and new dungeons, there’s a pleasure found purely in the fiction of where you are. Yesterday I climbed a hill and found a little restaurant at the top. It meant far more to me than any RPG trinket would. I took lots of screenshots and felt like I was on holiday, like I was exploring a place that I wouldn’t get to stay in long term, and so I had to make the most of it. Wonderful stuff.

This ties into the other half of the game. You venture into dungeons and complete them and get a stamp in your journal, but then you have the rest of the day to spend as you wish, chatting to people, building up your relationships, learning more story, and slowly eating away at Luisa’s stress and burnout. This stuff often rewards you with things that help in the RPG, but Dungeons of Hinterberg’s done such stellar work at making me care about the world of the game that I’d be doing these things without a reward. Recently, I was off to find a dungeon in the morning but found a picnic bench instead. The game asked if I wanted to spend the day there, taking in the lake rather than puzzling and fighting baddies. I did. It was weird and great and very much the kind of thing that this odd game excels at.

I can’t wait to play the full version. I’m looking forward to the RPG stuff and new dungeons, and I suspect at some point the combat will click too and it will turn out I’ve just been a bit thick about it. But more than anything I’ll be looking forward to the moments that remind me of those spots in Lonely Mountains: Downhill, the mountain biking game that was similarly in love with nature and being out in the world. Your job was to bike downhill and beat the clock, but occasionally you found a spot where you could just sit on a rock and take it all in for a while. That, like Dungeons of Hinterberg, turned out to be very special.

Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/dungeons-of-hinterberg-is-about-a-holiday-which-is-why-everything-feels-so-important


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