In the world of video games, there are a number of things you can always count on. Each year will bring a new entry to the Call of Duty franchise, FromSoftware games are hard, and there will always be new indie titles attempting to revive the style of various classics. If you’re a fan of the original Elder Scrolls games, then you might want to take a look at Pangeon. Then again, you might not, since it has a few issues.
Developed by Mr Ciastku, Pangeon seeks to emulate those first-person, dungeon crawling days of old. Your objective, should you choose to install it, is to navigate the Pangeon. (I’m assuming that is pronounced similarly to “dungeon” rather than “pan-jee-yon”). This underground labyrinth holds an evil with the potential to destroy the entire planet Earth. Defeat it, and all shall be saved. I guess. None of this, nor any kind of story really, is communicated through the game at all – meaning that the Xbox Store’s description of the game has more story than the game itself. However, this complete lack of a story is not a big deal. You’re in a dungeon with monsters. Go kill ‘em. What it does mean, is that the game doesn’t give the feeling of a specific, heroic quest like the older titles it hopes to emulate.
When it comes to visuals, on the other hand, the game succeeds wonderfully. It feels retro in all the right ways, and levels are laid out thoughtfully enough that getting lost is hard to do. Baddies are visually distinct from one another, attacks are clearly telegraphed, and I was impressed with the lighting in particular.
Speaking of the baddies, though, brings me to the combat. It’s a mixed bag. For starters, you can choose one of four classes before playing: rogue, warrior, archer, or mage. You can cross off the archer and the mage since their respective weapons are worse for killing monsters than a dull butter knife. You can always pick up other weapons, but then you’d have a bunch of spec points put into archery and magic rather than damage or health. The remaining weapons you can find are functionally the same, and differ only in power. Swinging or slashing any of the weapons never feels great, but vanquishing monsters is splendid. Imagine weakly slapping someone who then proceeds to explode. Jarring, maybe, but quite lovely.
Sadly, that is where the list of good things ends. You see, Pangeon has a bit of an identity crisis. It describes itself as a roguelike, but it doesn’t actually know what that is. The layout of levels do not change on any subsequent playthrough, baddies are in the exact same spot every time, and there is no permadeath. In fact, instead of sending you back to the beginning after a death, you are given a very generous checkpoint. Nice as that may sound, it is detrimental due to the game’s roguelike billing and its incredibly short runtime. I completed Pangeon in less than an hour and a half. For a game that costs £11.74, that is absolutely ludicrous, especially considering the complete lack of replayability since the game is most certainly not a roguelike.
Though it is fully released, Pangeon on Xbox One feels more like a demo than a finished game. It has some strong points to be sure; nice visuals, great enemy and level design, and perfectly adequate combat. Yet the horribly brief runtime, useless character classes, and complete lack of replayability make it difficult to recommend. Unless you can feel it really tugging at your nostalgic side, Pangeon is one dungeon you’ll want to leave unexplored.