Has a unique premise ever drawn you into a game? It has for me. A few weeks back I found myself drawn to the newly released Boyfriend Dungeon because it was touted as a dating sim where you date your weapons. That’s just weird enough to be novel, so I thought I’d give it a spin. Having finished the game, I have a few different thoughts on it so without any further adieu let’s dive in.
Developer: Kitfox Games
Publisher: Kitfox Games
Release Date: August 11th, 2020
Available on: Literally Everything
Boyfriend Dungeon presents itself as a genre blend of dating sims and dungeon crawlers. The big selling point is that the player is able to date their weapons, but this is somewhat misleading. Rather, each of the dateable candidates in the game can turn into a weapon, for no apparent reason, and the player can make use of them in combat. In this way you’ll be both slashing and smooching as you work your way through the game. Outside of that it’s pretty standard fair with common mechanics you’d expect from both represented genres such as gift giving, hack and slash combat, and an obligatory swimsuit scene.
The game wastes no time establishing itself as a powerhouse regarding character writing. Each of the cast members expresses their hopes, desires, and problems in a natural way throughout your interactions with them. It often feels like they have a lot of their own stuff going on and you’re only ever getting glimpses into it. This really helps to add a layer of depth and authenticity to the characters across the whole of Boyfriend Dungeon. They don’t feel like caricatures or stereotypes who only exist for the player, rather they feel like genuine beings who continue to live beyond the scope of your semi-regular interactions.
This is further accentuated by how text based interactions are handled. You’ll spend a portion of the game talking to everyone via SMS and a great deal of attention has gone into accurately portraying each character in this way. For example, Isaac is overly formal, always punctuates properly, and never uses emojis which strongly conveys his rigid personality. By contrast, Valeria’s casual and sometimes incomplete texts demonstrating her free-spirited nature. Having extra bits of characterization drip fed through your phone conversations adds that extra flourish to already great character writing.
Unfortunately, there are a few tiny blemishes in the otherwise excellent writing of Boyfriend Dungeon. It was my observation that the non-binary characters got the short end of the stick. One of them comes across as a child who lacks basic life skills in a game that otherwise features adult relationships, which felt wrong on so many levels. The other is extremely odd which felt a bit like it reinforced an existing negative stereotype. It’s great that the representation is there, but it’d have been even better if every character hit the same highs across the board.
The story’s pacing also leaves a bit to be desired. The main plot progresses such that it is set to finish as soon as you max out your relationship with a single member of the cast. Unfortunately, this meant that I finished the majority of the story and unlocked the final confrontation less than halfway through my total playtime. It strikes me as a bit odd to push players forward in a game where, presumably, they want to see the majority of the relationships through to the end, especially given Boyfriend Dungeon allows for platonic options. It’d have been nice if the main story mirrored my progress through Boyfriend Dungeon rather than shotgunning right to the end.
Speaking of, yes you read that correctly: you have platonic options with every character. This is a nice change of pace from a genre otherwise dominated with forcing players to pursue a single option or several in order to see the vast majority of the content on offer. Regardless of the chosen path players can see each character’s full story, though few concessions are made in the writing so sometimes the stories don’t always make as much sense when a platonic route is chosen.
Some of you will notice that I haven’t mentioned the dungeon part of Boyfriend Dungeon yet and there is a reason for that: it’s not great. These elements were added to help Boyfriend Dungeon stand apart from its peers, but in reality the experience might have been better without it. It’s actively bad enough that it takes away from the experience rather than adding to it.
The biggest factor contributing to my overwhelming negative opinion is the combat. Most of your time in dungeons will be spent fighting hordes of brainless enemies. Attacks are stiff and lack any sense of weight which makes them feel wholly unsatisfying, especially with the larger two handed weapons. Dodging is even worse with there being a visible delay between when you input the action and when it happens onscreen. I think it’s generally bad taste to compare games, but it is really hard to not look at Boyfriend Dungeon’s combat as completely underwhelming by its own merits and an abject failure when compared to other games on the market.
Clunkiness aside, the combat is also insipidly shallow. While most weapons have a handful of simple combos there isn’t any reason to use them. Players are able to best the overwhelming majority of situations and combat encounters through simply mashing the light attack on repeat. This swift attack has a three hit combo on most weapons and said combo also destroys projectiles while briefly staggering all standard enemies. As a result, players can simply hack through wave after wave of braindead foes while slowly trudging through the dunj.
The dungeons also have a light crafting element. As you explore you’ll collect materials and blueprints which you can turn into gifts and a variety of cosmetic items. I actually preferred this over simply buying all of the gifts I would give to the different cast members as a means to win them over. This also made the dungeon crawling feel rewarding when you happened to find a blueprint for a new gift. Plus new cosmetics are always fun.
Overall I don’t know where I stand on Boyfriend Dungeon. As a dating sim it has some genuinely great moments thanks to excellent character writing. In fact, played almost strictly as a dating sim I’d say it is one well worth your time if you’re a fan of the genre. The dungeon crawling aspects however really hold the entire title down and actively make a fairly good game a lot worse. If you’re someone who only needs a good story to play through a game then give Boyfriend Dungeon a go, but if poorly executed gameplay will ruin an entire game for you then this is a title to steer clear of.
I’ve heard a lot about this game just because of the interesting concept. But if it saddles you with lousy, tedious combat, I’d have to pass it up, yeah. If you’re going to make a proper dungeon crawler, do it properly, and if you don’t want to do that or can’t and prefer to focus on the story, then just make a visual novel. I feel like there’s still this idea that you can’t just make a plain old VN because some people will be put off by that.
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It does kind of feel like that honestly. I think also the concept of the genre meld was meant to help with word of mouth advertisement, but it backfires a bit when the game in question would have worked better as a VN. Though I’m not sure how well a VN would do on the consoles. I know steam has a fairly big market for them, but I don’t know if the same is true in controller land.
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