Xbox Live Arcade doesn't have much in the way of dungeon crawlers, with the possible exception of Gauntlet, which isn't really a dungeon crawler. Enter Arkadian Warriors from Sierra Online and Wanako (Assault Heroes). Arkadian Warriors aims to fill the gap in Xbox Live Arcade's roster. Honestly, we're a little surprised no one jumped on this genre before, as it's really a pretty good fit for Live Arcade. We took the trial version of the game for a spin, read on for some detailed impressions.
Let's get it out of the way, if you've played Baldur's Gate, Diablo, or even Phantasy Star Universe / Online, you know what to expect. You enter a hub village, find a villager and accept a quest, enter a dungeon, complete quest, and repeat. As with most games of this sort, the drive of the game is centered around leveling your characters and acquiring new gear, items, and abilities. The trial version is pretty limited in this respect, but even the brief foray into the game hints at the addictive nature inherent to the genre.
The trial version of Arkadian Warriors gives players access to a single mission and one character class, the Soldier. Said mission is the typical first mission of most dungeon crawlers, i.e. "we're being terrorized by a horde of [small monster X], please slay all of them." The monsters in question here are wild boars and their (strangely bipedal) leader. In an interesting twist, once you accept the quest, a portal to the dungeon immediately opens, saving you the trouble of hoofing it there yourself. Once in the dungeon, you're assaulted by all manner of beasties from giant spiders to crabs to chimeras. It's sort of a weird mishmash of monsters that don't really seem to fit together honestly, but we were too busy slashing and hacking to really care.
Speaking of which, the combat is about as simple as could be. You just mash the A button and that's pretty much it. Magic attacks and special abilities are mapped to the B button. As you fight, you build up your "alter ego" meter. Once the meter is full, pressing the Y button transforms your character into a powerful beast form -- a Dragon, Phoenix, or Lion, depending on your character -- capable of destroying most monsters in one blow. It's a neat little feature and it can save your bacon when surrounded by monsters of every stripe.
Now, for the potentially addictive part. We only managed to find one piece of equipment in the trail version (a helmet), but the full game boasts over 200 items. Not a ton of items, but certainly adequate for a ten dollar XBLA game. The equipment does actually show up on your character when equipped, which is a nice touch. As for abilities, each character has five different abilities that are acquired as you gain levels. The last one is earned at level 14, so we don't expect the game to be terribly long.
As it stands, Arkadian Warriors is a competent, solid dungeon crawler. With three character classes, online and local co-op, and randomly generated dungeons, it seems like a pretty safe 800 MS Point investment. Look at it this way: with luck, it might hold you over until Too Human and Sacred 2 are released.