Guiding the Unruly Peasant Mob of Super Dungeon Run

Peasants don’t belong in dungeons, or at least not the video game kind. The little guys have what can kindly be considered a club but is actually just an overachieving stick, and their tunics aren’t even close to being functional armor. What they lack in power they make up for in volume, though, and maybe if they throw enough of themselves into the dark and monster-infested depths a few might just bring the treasure back home.

Super Dungeon Run recently landed in Early Access and is a game about controlling a mob of enthusiastic, albeit none-too-bright, peasants who have ventured into a dungeon in pursuit of whatever loot they can lay their hands on. Gold is nice, of course, but wood, steel, gems and cloth make excellent crafting items too. A successful run earns experience and resources, and leveling up earns new outfits for the peasants that make them much more useful than the cannon fodder they start as.

No matter how many outfits you earn, the run always starts with a group of peasants. The first outfit, a standard guard-soldier type, is open from the start, with more being made available as you progress. Peasants may not be particularly strong but guards are good, solid all-arounders, taking less and dealing more damage with an average-speed melee attack. Complete a few runs and gain experience and the archer opens up, then sorceress, knight, sniper, etc. Each floor of the dungeon starts with a set of three chests, blue holding potions and red containing costumes, and which kind of each item type you get is, of course, completely random. There’s no point in getting overly fond of a specific character type because there’s no guarantee you’ll be seeing many of them, but whether it’s a guard, knight, or mage, each character class holds its own. Besides, Super Dungeon Run isn’t a strategy game anyway.  -Update-  The newest update to the game lets you pick and choose what character classes will be available.  Want to go all-ranged with archers, mages, grenadiers, and snipers?  A slow but powerful combination of knights and snipers?  It’s yours to customize, although there’s no promise on how many of each class you’ll find.

You don’t so much have an army as a horde, with all the military discipline that word implies. Each member of the horde has its own basic AI dependent on character class, with warriors running into battle and ranged types trying to hang back, but control beyond that is a simple matter of the mob running straight towards the cursor. If there’s an enemy or breakable item in range they’ll automatically attack, but other than that Super Dungeon Run is about pointing a mob in the right direction and hoping for the best. There control is fine enough that you can maneuver a few minions between a pair of traps to get the pile of gold behind them, but for the most part the “Run” in the title is there for a reason. Drag the cursor in the right direction, watch the swarm stream towards it, and don’t get too concerned if the archers get ahead of the knights. They’ll sort themselves out when they get there.

Unless they run straight into a trap, of course. The swarm is good at combat but utterly blind to the certain doom of flamethrowers, fire pits, and spinning blades. They’ll go where you point them, running in a straight line, and if that line is across lava then you get roasted peasant. Basically, they’re cute little guys but not heavy on the smarts. This gets especially tricky when a room filled with enemies has caused them to scatter among the traps, requiring careful positioning to bring the swarm back together without running anyone through the shredder.

As you complete dungeons and gain levels, new options start opening up. More quests become available, offering new rewards in the form of more resources, new costumes and potion types become available, and each level earns a skill point as well. There are four slots to upgrade, increasing the size of the horde, their base level at the dungeon’s start, the size of the quest bonus, and what floor of the dungeon they start on. It’s a lot of fun watching the little group you start with grow to a mob of homicidal peasant mayhem over the course of several upgrades, then upgrading to new classes as they find more costumes scattered throughout the dungeon.

Super Dungeon Run is a fairly simple little game, and you don’t have to be super-perceptive to notice that it was originally designed to be controlled with a single finger on mobile platforms. That doesn’t change that it’s also a lot of fun to guide the horde through the traps and monsters found deep in the earth, mowing down skeletons and mages by sheer strength in numbers.  The mob could stand to be a bit smarter in the path finding to avoid getting caught on corners, and maybe a bit more resistant to walking right into traps, but that can mostly be worked around with a bit of care when herding them past near-certain doom.  Planned upgrades come in the form of more outfits, environments, gorily entertaining peasant deaths, new enemies, and whatever else the developer can cram into the game.  The basic gameplay is already great fun, though, and the peasants are as cute and charming  as a riotous mob can be.  They may have all the survival instinct of jihadist lemmings, but the dungeon is filled with quests and treasure, and what the mob lacks in skill it makes up with numbers and endless enthusiasm.