Dungeons of Hinterberg’s announcement at Summer Game Fest 2023 didn’t garner a ton of fanfare amid massive games like Starfield, Fable, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, and Forza Motorsport, but it highlighted more promising indies. During the Xbox Games Showcase. That same week, I watched a behind-closed-doors demo that showed off a gameplay loop and some pretty cool visuals, so when I got the chance to play this unique hybrid action/RPG this week, I jumped at the chance.
Dungeons of Hinterberg puts you in the shoes of Louisa as she travels to a new tourist hotspot in the Austrian Alps. People from all over the world are fascinated by Hinterberg’s many magical dungeons filled with mystical and dangerous creatures. Luisa’s goal is to explore all 25 dungeons across the region’s 4 biomes, but along the way, she develops relationships with the inhabitants of a mountain town.
My time begins in the overworld of the Mountain Biome. In this introductory section, I’ll get into the exploration and combat experience. Matches play out in a familiar manner with Louisa having light and heavy attacks as well as the ability to dodge. However, spells add extra layers of depth to combat. On top of the biome-specific spells you can use to solve puzzles (in this instance, a ball that grabs and pulls objects and a giant exploding wrecking ball that weighs down chains and switches), Louisa also has combat-specific access. Spells are mapped to face buttons. In the build I have in my demo, my spells include a slam area-of-effect attack that rains meteors down on enemies and a swing attack where Louisa raises her swords.
After dispatching a few groups of enemies, I found the entrance to the titular dungeon. I enjoy the combat, which is present throughout the dungeons, but my favorite part of my time with Dungeons of Hinterberg was the puzzles. In this case, the primary puzzles are themed around minecarts. In some instances, it’s as simple as resetting tracks to make sure I’m heading in the right direction, while others involve complex track changes that must be made in sequence to reach the desired destination. Not only that, some kart rides require you to lean in certain directions to avoid obstacles and progress.
The dungeon I played was a strong mix of action and puzzle-solving, with the final task coming in the form of a warlock that can projectile attacks and summon some minions. None of the battles were particularly difficult, but it felt like an early dungeon, and the developers lowered the difficulty so that a new player would have a little time jump into the game.
My demo ends in the town of Hinterberg. Each evening after you’ve completed your dungeon exploration for the day, you can wander around the town and meet the various residents. Borrowing some social simulation mechanics from the Persona series, you can choose to spend time with the townspeople. Doing so not only increases your relationship with them, but also grants additional stats such as entertainment, rest, fame, and familiarity. Certain quests require you to be at a certain level for certain stats, so it’s in your best interest to stay organized.
While I could hang out at the bar with reporter Travis, I decided to find Albert, who studies mythology. He makes a good point that all the creatures in the dungeons appear to be wearing the masks of creatures in local mythology, suggesting some further connection to the area beyond just the dungeons’ geographic location.
There is so much more to explore in Dungeons of Hinterberg, but this small taste of the game whetted my appetite. If the combat continues to evolve in meaningful ways, and the puzzle-solving throughout the adventure is as clever as the Mincart-based dungeons I played, we could be in for a real treat. Dungeons of Hinterberg will arrive on Xbox Series X/S and PC in 2024.