Review: CLADUN: This is an RPG!

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I am just going to warn you in advance … some of the text of this review will make you wonder if I messed up with my ‘Buy It’ rating. No – the rating is correct: CLADUN: This is an RPG! is a game with plenty of flaws … but one that offers a great overall experience in spite of those flaws, and is very much worth buying.

CLADUN is short for Classic Dungeon, which immediately tells you that this is an old-school dungeon crawl game. The game is action-based, with a nod towards classic 8-bit JRPG genre as well as dungeon crawls … and never takes itself too seriously.

Let me start with the problems. The ‘story’ is very thin and does little but set up a scenario; the same is true for the characters – there is some initial promise but we are left with basic stereotypes and cheesy dialogue. The gameplay itself is rather bland and repetitive, and doesn’t lend itself to long sessions. Finally, the game itself is rather short and depends on making extensive use of optional areas to lengthen the play time, yet provides little incentive to do so.

CLADUN has a classic SNES-style graphical feel to it, and everything serves that feeling perfectly. Your character is pixelated, and even the character designer looks like an old 32 x 32 icon designer! But the graphics are perfectly matched for the look and feel the designers intended – as is the music! The soundtrack is classic 8-bit RPG music, which you can change to a more modern feeling background theme … but it is still basically the same. I found it rather annoying after a while and simply muted it, but it serves a clear purpose and brings you back to the RPGs of the late 1980’s.

I mentioned the story and dialogue … but who really cares about that stuff in a dungeon crawler action-RPG? Exactly! It is all about blazing through dungeons, gaining levels, experimenting with equipment, and engaging in challenging battles with unforgiving enemies. And THIS is why you should buy CLADUN.

You have plenty of options creating new characters after a certain point (you start with a fixed character), from the typical name and appearance to your character class. There are five RPG classes available – Warrior, Dragoon, Guardian, Wizard, and Merchant. While most are typical, Merchant seems more like an MMORPG class than something from an action-RPG. That isn’t saying you are going to play a merchant and profiteer your enemies to death – it is because every character you meet around the world can join up with you. Once you have established contact, you can take them in as part of your Magic Circle.

The Magic Circle is just about the coolest thing in the whole game. When you enter a dungeon, you have your own weapons and stats, but you have also built up a ‘meat shield’ of other characters who will defend you as you work your way through a dungeon. They each have health and mana, and can die, but can also take on artifacts you find as you explore. This can raise your attack or defense or give other bonuses. Everyone gains experience and levels together, making it fun to experiment using different characters as the lead and Magic Circle setups.

As you can see, despite starting off quite negative, it is clear that I am highly enamored by CLADUN. The flaws all remain, but as is true for any action-RPG, what matters is plowing through the dungeons. CLADUN provides enough satisfying variety to keep you engaged and coming back for more – but it will typically be in small chunks. For a game with a budget $20 price, CLADUN has loads of fun gameplay to offer.

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Pros:
+ Complex character and class systems built for replayability
+ Magic Circle system provides even more flexibility and replayability
+ Huge dungeons to explore
+ Perfectly designed old-school game

Cons:
– Everything is paper thin
– Doesn’t lend itself to long play sessions
– You have to WANT to explore everything

Game Info:
Platform: PSP via PSN download
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: 10/21/2010
Genre: Action-RPG
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!