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Xbox RPG Dungeons Of Hinterberg blends Zelda-style dungeons with a charming social sim

Xbox RPG Dungeons Of Hinterberg blends Zelda-style dungeons with a charming social sim

What's the wurst that could happen?

I’m a simple man. I like colourful games. I like it when Xbox tries new things. I love The Legend Of Zelda. And I can’t get enough of social sims with charming, well-written characters.

What luck, then, that the best thing I saw at Summer Game Fest was the Xbox indie Dungeons Of Hinterberg, an action-RPG inspired by Austrian folklore that blends Zelda-style dungeons and puzzle solving with a vibrant social sim. Xbox has long proven itself to be willing to back some of the most adventurous indies out there, so it’s hard not to be super stoked for developer Microbird Games’ delightful new release.

Take a look at the announcement trailer below!

During a behind-closed-doors session for Dungeons Of Hinterberg we got a feel for what the game is really all about, the core gameplay loop, and a glimpse at some of the cool enemies we’ll be fighting throughout the game.

The majority of the game is set in and around the titular Hinterberg, a new tourist hotspot in the Austrian Alps. But where small European villages usually attract tourists because of their food, architecture, or for the opportunities they afford girls to take photos of themselves leading their partners by the hand towards idyllic sights, Hinterberg is notable for its dungeons. Not those kinds of dungeons though, get your mind out of the gutter.

Yes, some time ago a number of portals to bizarre dungeons appeared in the woods and wilds around Hinterberg, which inspired would-be adventurers around the world to take up arms and explore. This, in turn, results in something of a tourism boom for Hinterberg (though evidently not everyone who lives in town is thrilled about it).

We play as a tourist called Luisa, “a burnt-out law trainee taking a break from her fast-paced corporate life to conquer the Dungeons of Hinterberg”. We’re told there are four unique open biomes to explore outside of town, each with their own unique dungeons, mechanics, and enemies.

There's also Hinterberg itself, of course, which is where the majority of the game’s social sim aspects come into play.

Dungeons Of Hinterberg /
Xbox Game Studios

During our demo we saw two dungeons, the town, and one of the surrounding areas. What immediately struck me about Dungeons Of Hinterberg is that it’s utterly gorgeous. In an age where some developers are pushing for increasingly realistic graphics that will inevitably have aged like milk in the next 10 years, it’s refreshing to see a team like Microbird do their own thing. The game’s hand drawn postcard aesthetic is beautiful to look at, whether you’re strolling through the town or adventuring out in the wilds.

Dungeons Of Hinterberg’s core loop is simple enough, but promises to be very hard to pull away from. Luisa will spend her days exploring the areas outside of town hunting for dungeons. Sometimes these dungeons are well-hidden, other times they might be right in front of you. You’ll then step through the portal to challenge the dungeon, complete whatever objectives may be in there, and then return to your hotel room to rest up. It’s back in Hinterberg that you can hang out with the town’s various residents and fellow visitors, unlocking key backstory (and new upgrades for yourself) by increasing your friendship levels. Then it’s straight back to the dungeons for more action!

The two dungeons we saw really put the focus on the level of variety we can expect to see in the game. The first was more of an open-ended realm that saw Luisa tearing it up on a magic snowboard, gliding across the ground and grinding along rails while taking on groups of enemies. The other was a more linear affair secluded in the middle of the woods, and had Luisa making use of her unique powers to clear away rubble and climb towards her destination - the dungeon’s exit portal.

Microbird explained that each of the game’s four areas give Luisa a different set of powers. In the woodland area she can’t produce her slick magic board, for example, but she can control the wind. We saw Luisa use this power to push and pull various items, and to create a mini tornado that she could hop on to travel safely over hazardous terrain. No doubt there’ll be other inventive uses to those powers as we explore more dungeons.

Dungeons Of Hinterberg /
Xbox Game Studios

Combat puts the focus on fun hack-and-slash action, where well-timed dodges and sword strikes are the order of the day. Each of the enemies Luisa faces are inspired by creatures from Alpine mythology, so expect to see some surprising critters. In one encounter our hero had to fend off a massive Krampus, capable of devastating attacks that demanded top evasive manoeuvres.

But where the game’s core combat could get a little boring if rinsed and repeated constantly, Luisa’s range of powers become an essential part of each encounter. In the woodland area she can use her wind abilities to keep enemies at a distance when needed, and even avoid them altogether by using the vortex to take the high ground. Obi-Wan would be proud. You’ll also be able to unlock powerful new moves and combat-specific abilities by hanging out with friends back in Hinterberg, making that social aspect all the more important.

Of course any game with a heavy emphasis on chatting to people and getting to know their lives depends on good writing. After all, we want to find out about these characters because we genuinely want to, not because the game is forcing us to so we can unlock a new gizmo or doodad.

Fortunately Dungeons Of Hinterberg seems like it’s more than up to the challenge. While we didn’t get to see too much of the game’s social aspect, what we did see left us feeling reassured. A brief conversation between Luisa and a journalist who reluctantly came out to Hinterberg to write about the dungeons was full of plenty of warmth, humour, and genuine heart. If that quality persists through the entire game and its many social interactions, then Dungeons Of Hinterberg could very well be one of 2024’s best surprises, and yet another jewel in Xbox’s glowing indie crown.

Featured Image Credit: Xbox Game Studios

Topics: Xbox, Indie Games