Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and the Monster Seal is a game that, were it not for a certain writer from a certain publication branding it as a “creepy, porn-lite dungeon crawler” prior to its Japanese release, would probably have passed by a lot of people unnoticed.
Thankfully, the (probably unintentional) attention that this quasi-Puritanical reaction elicited from the writer in question convinced a lot of Vita owners to pick it up — particularly when Atlus and NIS America brought it to the west. And, as it happened, the game turned out to not only be more than a “creepy, porn-lite dungeon crawler”, but actually one of the PlayStation Vita’s best games.
Here’s why you should pick up a copy of this astonishingly good game immediately if you haven’t already.
It’s disappeared from the PSN store
Yes, sadly the most immediately pressing reason for acquiring a copy of this game if you don’t have one already is that at some point in the last week, it was quietly delisted from the North American and European PlayStation Store for Vita, meaning that you can no longer purchase a digital copy. Interestingly, though, its single piece of DLC is still available.
The specific reasons for this are, at the time of writing, unknown, but it’s not the first game that involved Atlus and NIS America to disappear from the PlayStation Store. A while back the Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth visual novels were also delisted, with western publisher Atlus citing the expiration of the IP rights from original Japanese publisher Aquaplus as the reason. The more recent Utawarerumono: ZAN and Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen, meanwhile, are published in the west by NIS America and are still available for digital download.
Dungeon Travelers 2 is also an Aquaplus title in its native Japan, so it’s likely that something similar has happened here — and with it being a Vita title from several years back, it’s possible that neither Atlus nor NIS America saw renewing their publishing rights for it as a priority, what with the PlayStation Vita online store closing down in a few months.
Whatever the reasons, it doesn’t really matter; the fact is, if you want this game now, you need to pick up a physical copy. And I recommend doing so before prices go through the roof — because they most certainly will.
It’s by Sting
Sting is a Japanese game development studio that has been around since 1989, and over the years they have put out a variety of excellent games, most of which are primarily known for their in-depth and highly creative game mechanics coupled with strong worldbuilding and excellent characterisation.
Great examples from over the years include the peculiar roguelike Baroque (which had several rereleases over the years, including for Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Wii), Dreamcast dungeon crawler Evolution, role-playing virtual board game Dokapon Kingdom, the legendary Dept. Heaven series (which includes Riviera, Yggdra Union, Knights in the Nightmare and Gungnir), Neptunia strategy RPG Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart — and the aforementioned Utawarerumono games.
Sting makes great games, and Dungeon Travelers 2 is one of their finest.
It has an interesting history
Dungeon Travelers 2 has a colourful heritage. The first Dungeon Travelers game, which never came west, was a spinoff from Aquaplus’ popular eroge To Heart 2, and was actually an expanded version of Final Dragon Chronicle: Guilty Requiem, a dungeon-crawling minigame from To Heart 2’s fandisc Manaka de Ikuno!! Dungeon Travelers featured To Heart 2 protagonist Takaki Kouno in the leading role, and many of the girls from To Heart 2 appeared as both playable characters and boss enemies.
Dungeon Travelers 2, meanwhile, does not require any knowledge of To Heart 2 or the previous Dungeon Travelers game to enjoy as it has an all-new cast of characters and a completely new setting; it simply follows the same game format. The aforementioned DLC does allow you to add 20 characters from To Heart 2 into your party, but honestly with the size of the playable squad in Dungeon Travelers 2 already, it’s not really necessary unless you’re particularly attached to those lovely ladies.
Given that history, it’s kind of strange we got this in the west at all, particularly given that there’s a lot of text in the game and it probably would have been a considerable undertaking to localise. It’s a good thing we did, though!
It has solid, complex character progression
As you might expect from a game by Sting, Dungeon Travelers 2 is rock solid from a mechanical perspective. The game offers a highly flexible party-based dungeon crawling system allowing you to do battle as you see fit, and each character is enormously customisable.
Dungeon Travelers 2 draws considerable influence from venerable role-playing classic — and longstanding favourite of Japanese players — Wizardry, in that it allows characters to be “promoted” to more advanced classes at various level boundaries — in this case, level 15 and 30. Characters each start with a base class that has an obvious role in the party, but each new advanced class allows them to specialise further — and in some cases completely change their role, or even fulfil multiple functions.
The interesting thing is that rather than swapping your class to one of the new ones, you instead add it to your existing lineup of abilities, meaning that your characters effectively become custom hybrids as you take them through the game, since you can add skill points to any of the available skills with each level up.
And if you’re really dedicated to the grind, you can “crown” them by levelling them to 99, resetting them back to level 1 in exchange for a permanent stat bonus, and repeat the process until they’re insanely powerful.
It has a deep equipment system
Dungeon crawlers are all about equipment, and Dungeon Travelers 2 is no exception to this. Rather than completely bombarding you with loot, Dungeon Travelers 2 instead adopts an approach where you can upgrade and customise your equipment in various ways. This all ties in with the protagonist Fried’s ability to create “Sealbooks” from monsters after the party has defeated nine of them.
By combining up to five Sealbooks with an item of equipment, you both buff up the base effectiveness of the equipment and attach up to four different passive abilities to it, with the latter being drawn from the specific Sealbooks you used for the enchantment. These passive abilities can make an absolutely huge impact on your characters’ effectiveness, so experimentation is key; thankfully, it’s easy to correct mistakes, and the gradual progression of the game’s difficulty curve means that you’ll naturally start exploring its mechanics more and more the further you go.
Dungeon Travelers 2 is a big game. Playing through the main story will probably take you about 50-100 hours or so, which is pretty substantial when you consider that the majority of your time in dungeon crawlers tends to be spend engaging with mechanics rather than watching story sequences.
That’s not to say that there are no story sequences, mind; quite the opposite. As well as the events that tell the main narrative of the game, each and every character also has a huge lineup of subevents which occur under very specific conditions, and thus one can reasonably only say they have “mastered” the game if they’ve unlocked all of these subevents.
These aren’t just a matter of getting affection values to a particular level, either; some events trigger based on you ignoring a character for a while, others are based on you defeating a particular number of a type of enemy the party member feels particularly strongly about — positively or negatively — and some are even based on how prone they are to suffering status effects. Uncovering the conditions for these events is practically a game in itself.
The post-game is bigger than the game
And if 50-100 hours of story content isn’t enough, the post-game will send you into fits of ecstasy. Unfolding across as many dungeons as the main game — most of which are way bigger and more challenging than the story dungeons, too — the post-game will easily keep you busy for another hundred hours or more as you buff up your characters, take on the “Evil God” bosses and ultimately attempt to climb the 30-floor Tower of Bogomil.
Dungeon Travelers 2 doesn’t have to end until you’re good and ready for it to be over; while the main story content certainly provides a satisfying conclusion to the main narrative, it’s hard not to get drawn into the postgame content, because by the time you reach it you’ll be thoroughly invested in the party of characters you’ve built up, the game’s beautifully crafted, interlocking mechanics and the amazing variety of challenges on offer.
Complex, beautifully designed dungeons
Besides its core progression mechanics, Dungeon Travelers 2 really shines in terms of dungeon design. There’s a real sense that every square of every dungeon has been intricately crafted to give the player an interesting and challenging journey, and the gradual introduction of new dungeon gimmicks continues on past the end of the main game into the post-game.
Floors of dungeons interact with one another; often to progress you’ll need to keep careful track of your relative position on several floors at once, pay close attention to small and subtle changes in the environment and make good use of spells and items to spot secret passageways. There’s never a moment where you’re mindlessly traversing corridors; there’s always something new to discover.
Nearly every enemy in Dungeon Travelers 2 — barring an odd obsession with fruit — is a monstergirl of some description, with the emphasis tending to be on the “girl” part of that equation. These are girls who look like or are dressed up as monsters, rather than monsters who have feminine characteristics.
That’s not to say that the enemies are called what they are just for the sake of things, however; each monster’s design, pose and outfit is clearly inspired by its source material. “Spider” enemies hang from the ceiling and sport lingerie inspired by webbing patterns; octopus-inspired characters sports outfits with tentacles; a Medusa-inspired enemy has hair made from snakes (and another hiding in her skirt); werewolf enemies are so hairy that they drop their pubic hair as loot when you defeat them.
While there are a number of palette swaps over the course of the game, as is usually the case for dungeon crawlers, there are a decent variety of enemy types that become recognisable as the game progresses, and dealing with them is handled consistently. Plus it’s always a pleasure to discover a new type of enemy and attempt to figure out where they draw their inspiration from.
Let’s not forget that Dungeon Travelers 2 has its roots in the eroge sector. Being a Vita game obviously precludes it from incorporating anything too explicit, but the game does make excellent use of mild erotic imagery to highlight the player-protagonist Fried’s deepening bond with his all-female cast of companions.
Interestingly, Fried is depicted as mostly asexual throughout the game; he certainly doesn’t object to sharing an intimate moment with his closest lady friends, but he doesn’t seek out erotic scenes or act in a perverted manner. This tends to have the effect of making these scenes feel genuinely meaningful when they do happen; they’re a symbol of trust and closeness.
The other area where erotic imagery comes in is after you’ve successfully cleared a boss fight. Your reward in these instances is usually a somewhat suggestive image of your defeated and humiliated opponent, often bound up in some way to prevent them getting up to further mischief. During these scenes, Fried and the vanquished foe talk about things, allowing us the opportunity to learn a little more about the society of that particular monster type when they’re not being driven mad by the Demon King’s influence.
Defeated foes almost always make some sort of pass at Fried during these sequences, too, and become increasingly suggestive as the game goes on. Fried initially appears oblivious to all this, but by the end of the game it’s delightfully amusing to see him cottoning on to what they’re up to and starting to respond with resigned frustration rather than embarrassment.
So there you have it. If you have the slightest interest in top-notch dungeon crawlers, know that Dungeon Travelers 2 is one of the very best — and that with its apparent removal from the PlayStation Store, it’s worth nabbing now before it becomes hard to find or prohibitively expensive.
It’s one of the best dungeon crawlers of all time, and one of the Vita’s strongest games. You won’t regret your time with it.
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