Kairosoft doesn't so much make games as habits. Back in late 2010, Game Dev Story became something of an obsession among games critics, and not just because it focused on the industry we all know and love. If nothing this prolific publisher has released since has had quite the same impact, it's partly because people have sworn not to get hooked again. Some of us actually want to get some work done every now and again.
The localisation team has deviously tried to disguise it with a different name, but Dungeon Village is actually the latest in the increasingly long line of Story games. That it was titled RPG Story in Japan should give you a fair idea of what to expect. Your job is to build a town capable of attracting, clothing, feeding, arming and eventually housing adventurers. It's a little like Final Fantasy spin-off My Life As A King, with a bit of SimCity thrown in for good measure. But naturally it most resembles its publisher's previous works.
Like those games, it's built around a set of satisfying little feedback loops. Adventurers take on quests, killing monsters and finding treasure, and you get to invest the spoils into developing your village to attract new dungeoneers. Build a café next to an inn and you can increase the inn's rates. Lob a bakery next to the armoury and adventurers will find the smell of fresh bread that much more appealing. You can spend the money you earn on developing the village or giving adventurers presents to keep them happy and improve their monster-slaying prowess. Either way, it's win-win.
This is a game of a thousand tiny victories, where there's a constant sense of achievement or discovery, whether it's new treasures, weapons, monsters or buildings. The insidiously catchy looped music is broken by little chimes and fanfares for the most mundane of achievements, while greater victories are more loudly trumpeted; complete a quest, and you don't just get a cute, celebratory swords-aloft animation, but a newspaper report that lauds your success. Kairosoft is a master of ego massage. You're rarely doing anything significant, but you're forever reassured that you're doing a great job.
It's smartly written, too. Instructions are refreshingly basic where other games might aim for something more flowery; instead, the personal touches arrive in snippets of dialogue, those quest reports and even character names. It amused me far more than perhaps it should that my first successful quest was completed by Clown Stripe, Fluffie Kiss and generic adventurer John Dungeon.
Like all Kairosoft games, Dungeon Village's appeal is finite. Once you've completely levelled up your village there's little else to do but to start again, and the challenge is minimal. It's possibly not quite up there with Oh! Edo Towns and Grand Prix Story as the publisher's very best work. But nevertheless, this is another dangerously compulsive game from a company already responsible for more than its fair share of extended loo breaks and sleepless nights.
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