Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Aquaplus
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

If you’ve heard anything about Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal, it’s likely that what  you’ve heard has had little to do with how the game plays, or what the game even is. Instead, most of the controversy has circled around the art, and the relatively minor cuts that publisher Atlus had to make in order to bring the game down to an M rating from an AO.

While it’s worth touching on those points in this review, it’s also worth talking about the mechanics in Dungeon Travelers 2, which I’ve found to be pretty solid. It’s a first-person dungeon crawler, very much in the vein of something like the Etrian Odyssey series, minus the map-building mechanic. But in lieu of that. Dungeon Travelers 2 does offer up a wide variety of classes and subclasses across the various characters you’ll encounter, with a large number of skills and loot to sift through and customize your party with.

DT2 (8)It’s also pretty well balanced, difficulty-wise. The first group of initial dungeons you can explore start off small, and then introduce other concepts slowly. Multiple levels, trap tiles, random food shops, portals, and other things help to liven up your trip through these expanding dungeons. Along with that, most enemies aren’t pushovers, and it’s not too uncommon to encounter a few game over screens early on. I certainly had to make ample use of the save system, which thankfully you can access both on the field and at home base.

Dungeon Travelers 2 also does a good job of rewarding grinding, but not so much that you’ll feel required to do it. When battling and then defeating a monster, your party absorbs the creature. If you absorb enough of any one creature, you can then create a Seal Book, which can then be equipped to a party member to enhance your skills, with effects like Enmity Up, or Physical Defense Up. Also, creating a Seal Book allows you to then see more information about that monster in a battle, including its strengths, weaknesses, and enemy level. And of course there’s all the experience you’ll earn to level up, along with gold and item drops that can lead to valuable loot.

DT2 (9)Combat has a decent amount of strategy involved as well. Both your party and the monsters you encounter have two rows to position characters in. Back row characters are harder to hit with melee attacks, are generally better defended, and serve as the primary position for magic users. Front row characters will consist of your fighter/tank style characters, who are able to absorb a bit more damage than most. While magic attacks are remarkably powerful, even early on, they’re a bit slower to execute than a normal attack, and can be interrupted if the caster takes a hard enough hit. As you progress, you’ll gain passive combat skills in addition to special attacks and other abilities, which really helps to keep most encounters interesting. And provided you haven’t overleveled too much, you’ll need to stay on your toes for most fights, especially the much tougher boss battles against mutants.

DT2 (7)So obviously Dungeon Travelers 2 has a lot of great things going for it. Engaging combat, character and class variety, dungeon design and complexity, and a decent soundtrack to boot. But you can’t ignore the elephant in the room with this game, and that’s the hyper-sexualized imagery on display. Most monsters consist of scantily clad girls (with a handful of cutesy, non-humanoid monsters), which in and of itself isn’t particularly awful. Your party characters, including some of the other NPC’s, fit this mold as well, dressed in either revealing outfits or ridiculously proportioned to near Rob Liefeld levels of exaggeration. Again, if you’ve played a number of similar games on the Vita or other platforms, this isn’t too much to take. The biggest, and worst offender, comes from the scenes that depict either your party members interacting with the single male group leader in, uh, very awkward yet supposedly innocent ways, or from the post-battle depictions of mutant bosses.

These scenes get to be a bit much, and I imagine they’ll be the biggest turn off for the average person that wants to give this a shot. They’re unavoidable, and even tucked into an art gallery so you could peruse them separate from the story at any time. I don’t necessarily think of myself as a prude, but clearly this artwork is not my fetish. It also makes it virtually impossible to play this game in any sort of public space, not without garnering some really questionable glances.

DT2 (15)Provided you can get past the fan service, I think you’ll still really enjoy Dungeon Travelers 2 as an engaging, challenging take on the first-person dungeon crawling formula. The sheer number of jobs, skills, loot, and actual dungeons here are commendable, and this is an adventure that will take some serious time to complete. Personally, I enjoyed the game enough to keep going, despite my problems with some of the images, and I’d love to see certain mechanics implemented in a game that’s a little less sexually juvenile somewhere down the road. I can certainly understand that Dungeon Travelers 2 will not be for everyone, but if you’re willing to give it a shot, I think you’ll find an enjoyable RPG buried underneath all the panty shots and boobs.

Grade: B+