Atlus's newest release, Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and the Monster Seal, is the third title the publisher has released from developer Aquaplus. The first game was fighting game AquaPazza, followed by strategy RPG Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord. Changing things up, Dungeon Travelers 2 is a dungeon RPG. The PlayStation Vita has become known for this type of genre in particular, but often times there's a healthy dose of fan service thrown into the mix. With this being also present in Dungeon Travelers 2, does it cause the core gameplay to suffer like it has in other games of that ilk?
Dungeon Travelers 2's story is like most dungeon RPGs, straight and to the point. 104 years ago, humanity rose together to defeat the Demon God and her army. The Royal Library was founded sometime after and took up the mantle of keeping the monster population at bay. In Dungeon Travelers 2's world, this is done by specialized researchers known as Libras sealing the monster inside a special tome called a Sealbook. You take the role of Fried, who's worked hard to study and become a Libra. Just around the time of his first job, there's an unusual monster uprising and he's sent to the nearby cave to investigate it.
Of course, things don't go according to plan and he ends up trapped inside the cave when the wall behind him falls in from an earthquake's after effects. After exploring in the cave for a little bit, he ends up coming across two of his female childhood friends who recently graduated from the Royal Library's military wing. This scene in particular is where the fan service in Dungeon Travelers 2 makes itself known, as the game cuts away to a still cutscene where both women tripped face first and just so happen to be showing off some skin.
Thankfully, though, the lewder scenes in the game aren't overused like some other dungeon RPGs released on the Vita. Generally, the game follows a specific routine where these scenes are shown following the dungeon boss's defeat, and when returning to the Royal Library following said boss's defeat. There's some other minor instances inside the dungeons, but they're generally rare. The monster designs also tend to show off some skin, but they're usually done in a tasteful manner where it's titillating, but not exceptionally lewd.
Dungeon Travelers 2 has most of your standard dungeon RPG mechanics you'd expect from the genre. Dungeons are traversed in a first-person perspective with dead-ends, dead-ends filled with treasure, and dead-ends filled with the ever-lovable trap, with the latter becoming more prevalent in frequency and potency further in the game. Weapons have their own speed criteria, so one weapon might be more powerful but on the other hand forces the character to attack last during the turn, thus becoming a balance of speed versus power.
The characters and their base classes are preset instead of being a create-your-character type of game, but you do have the option of picking from 2-3 intermediate classes once you reach a certain level. These intermediate classes can be further improved into more advanced classes once you reach a higher level as well. One nice touch is that many of these classes, or through the equipment you can equip to them, have ways to easily gradually refill your HP and magic points. This removes the common issue of hoarding all your spell points for the boss and lets players test out different skills without feeling like they're wasting points doing so.
One aspect I liked, which is also present in other games such as Atlus's own Etrian Odyssey series, is that you can re-allocate your character's skill points and also change their class if the synergy between your team members isn't quite there, although you have to reset to specifically defined levels. Even so, it's still better than some of the other more hardcore dungeon RPGs where you're require to re-roll an entirely new character if things don't work out how you planned, and thus is much more newcomer friendly.
Speaking of those characters, there's an eventual 16 different characters that can make up your up to five-person party. Considering the fan service mentioned prior, you might think each of these characters are built entirely on clichÃ©s and given the introductory scene between Fried and his two childhood friends, it's probably to be expected. But as I played further into Dungeon Travelers 2, there was some surprising depth to them that I didn't expect early on into my playthrough. If you've played last year's Tears to Tiara II, it's pretty closely on par with that game as far as characterization goes. Sadly the overarching story doesn't get quite the same treatment, but one doesn't usually play this type of game for its narrative, so it's not that much of a detractor to the overall package.
Outside of the story scenes, Dungeon Travelers 2 helps build the characters by occasional moments where Friend and the characters or just the female characters themselves talking amongst each other. Sometimes this is to give hints indirectly to the player about how to proceed inside the dungeons, while other times it's just regular character building. This all is accompanied by full Japanese voiceovers for the cast, which thankfully isn't the high-pitched voices one might expect from a PlayStation Vita dungeon RPG (you can turn off voices entirely or individually in pieces if you wish, however). There's no English dub option, but the original Japanese dub option holds up great.
Going back to the dungeon mechanics, there's a couple things special to this title that are worth mentioning. There's a hidden "motivation" mechanic, which is measured by a character's portrait in battle. The higher their motivation, the better they'll do in battle and the more likely chance they'll pull off a powerful joint attack with a fellow party member. This is done by making sure they're well-fed, which generally is plentiful either through food items dropped from monsters or a chef who starts to roam the dungeon a few hours into the game.
There's also an interesting mechanic tied around the Sealbook item mentioned earlier. By default, an enemy's stats and level are displayed with question marks. After defeating nine of a single type of enemy you can create a Sealbook, which can be equipped to characters granting them bonuses such as increased defense, offense, evasiveness, etc. In addition, the Sealbook creation also unveils their stats in battle to see at any time. It's an interesting mechanic that gives a reason for the monster EXP/Gold grinding common to the genre and was something I really enjoyed doing during my time playing through the game.
There's also a slight difference in how Dungeon Travelers 2 handles spells. Unlike other games where spells are cast immediately or on the next turn, spells in Dungeon Travelers 2 works under a charge system where the more powerful the spell, the longer the charge time. The catch, which applies to both your party and the enemy, is that landing a well-timed critical hit forces them to restart. Enemies can and will try to target your mages and healers when they're charging, so proper strategy becomes paramount.
Graphically, the character and enemy designs are exceptionally striking, which considering the developers and their pedigree is to be expected. Of course, like mentioned before, there is a healthy dose of fan service present, so it's understandable that some people won't play the game simply based on that and it's easily game you wouldn't want to play in a public setting. The dungeons occasionally feel flat in terms of depth and feel like they had less work put into them than the rest of the art, but they're easy to navigate your way through which is the important thing.
Like many who weren't acquainted with this series, I went into this review wondering why Atlus had picked up what appeared to be yet another PlayStation Vita dungeon RPG that pandered to the fan service crowd. But after diving into the game, I came across a game which turned that line of thinking on its head and delivered a game which is sensual but not overly sexual in appearance and also takes proven dungeon RPG mechanics and adds its own unique touches to the formula. It goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover, or in this case its seal.
|The core dungeon RPG mechanics are here, along with some new welcome touches.|
|The characters have some depth to them, instead of being walking tropes.|
|With some caveats, it's easier to re-spec your characters here compared to other dungeon RPGs.|
|The overall story isn't as detailed as the characters are.|
|Some will be entirely turned off to this game based on the fan service aspects alone.|
|The dungeons aren't as detailed as the character and enemy designs are.|