Excave is a rather average name for a rather average game. This new dungeon crawler doesn’t do anything egregiously wrong, but it comes up short in several ways. Genre fans will likely find it suffices, though everyone else may want to give pause.

In the depths of the Imperial City labyrinth, a laboratory research facility has turned into a den of monsters. This plotline plants the seeds of a story, which is mostly nonexistent save for occasional notes. It’s adequate for a game of this nature but nothing more, and certainly not “epic” as claimed.

The levels aren’t randomly generated, but they might as well have been. The designs unfortunately don’t display much evidence of creativity. The mazes are by and large uninteresting, and the constant backtracking gets tedious. The spartan look certainly isn’t the type to capture one’s attention in a positive way. There’s a lack of color, lighting, and 3D – the latter is completely absent, which is quite disappointing! The overall presentation is lackluster.

Excave 3Combat is alright, but there’s much room for improvement. You fight as a male or female character, with different weapons as the only real distinguishing feature. This can create issues as you’re at the mercy of what weapons appear – you can be left with no means of attack through no fault of your own. It’s simply subpar design. The random nature of the weapons seems at odds with set designed levels. One thing I do enjoy however is the number of enemies that can appear on screen. It can be fun trying to weave through hordes of monsters. You can see what floor you’re on at any given time, but strangely the game lacks maps.

Two necessary elements are handled pretty poorly here which is a real shame. One is the randomness of cash, which is usually in short supply anyway. The thrill of amassing wealth, typically a big dungeon crawler staple, isn’t strong here as a result. The other is leveling up, which is basically non existent in the traditional sense. You will get more powerful, but you can’t chart your experience – you’ll simply notice attacks getting stronger in time and such. Part of what makes repetitive games like this enduring is tracking your strength, and playing just ‘one more time’ to level up. The implementation (or lack thereof) hurts this package.

Excave 2Some other concerns are directed at the inventory. It isn’t up to tax for the amount of junk you’ll accumulate. Further, duplicate items each take there own slot. It makes me feel like I’m playing the original Final Fantasy circa 1990. Even the “story” notes take up precious inventory. Thankfully you can keep items in storage, but the whole inventory setup is very dated and will likely be a lingering annoyance.

I dislike this expression, but Excave seems a bit soulless. It feels like a game that had the essential amount of effort put into it, but not a whole lot more. It failed to grab my attention from the outset, and while things did improve the improvements weren’t as substantial as I’d hoped. The game didn’t engage me with consistently addictive gameplay. It does perform well enough for what it is, and has a couple solid points (like boss encounters and music) but it’s a bit underwhelming overall. I find little to praise about it, even at its budget price. An average game at best, I’m not sure Excave will expand its audience beyond big dungeon crawler fans.

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