JRPG Review

Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World – Review

Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World is a DRPG that was originally released in Japan for the PSP in 2011. Now, over ten years later, it has received its first English release. The PC release of Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World means that the entire Dungeon Travelers series can now be played in English on PC, following the releases of Dungeon Travelers 2 and Dungeon Travelers 2-2 last year.

After I played and reviewed Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal last year, I was excited to hear that the first game was coming west. I went into the game expecting a solid DRPG with some quirky, fun characters. Did it manage to live up to that expectation, or perhaps even exceed it?

Dungeon Travelers - Ma-ryan Introduction

In Another World With My Harem

The story of Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World begins with our protagonist, Takaaki, waking up in a strange fantasy world, where he is greeted by his friends Tamaki and Konomi. Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that the cast of Dungeon Travelers is made up of characters from Leaf’s 2004 visual novel, To Heart 2. I’ll talk a bit more about these characters and how they’re introduced and developed in Dungeon Travelers later in the review, but I want to say upfront that you don’t need to have played To Heart 2 to understand and enjoy Dungeon Travelers. Experience with To Heart 2 may well enhance your experience with Dungeon Travelers, but inexperience won’t meaningfully hamper it.

Back to our recently isekai’d protagonist, Takaaki is naturally confused by his new environment. We get a flashback to the cast in a high school clubroom, where they’re talked into testing out a new immersive VR game for Ma-ryan, a high-energy girl perhaps best described as an odd duck. This event being the last thing Takaaki and company can recall the conclusion is obvious, they must be inside Ma-ryan’s game. There’s a problem though: there’s no way to logout, and the three friends discover that this world doesn’t appear to function as the game was intended.

Dungeon Travelers - Konomi and Tamaki CG

The party only has one path forward, they must explore a mysterious dungeon with the hope of finding Ma-ryan and getting to the bottom of this whole mess. They set off with Tamaki and Konomi fighting through the monster girl dungeon denizens, with the martially inept Takaaki commanding from behind. The story then progresses in a relatively straightforward way, with the party working their way through each floor of the dungeon, picking up their fellow isekai victims along the way.

To be frank, I found the story of Dungeon Travelers to be pretty frivolous. There’s not really a narrative arc, and the stakes are so low that I can’t imagine anyone becoming seriously invested. That said, I liked it. Dungeon Travelers revels in frivolity, with a consistent comedic tone and a commitment to silly, off-the-wall hijinks. It provides just enough of a narrative context for dungeon crawling, so as to not feel wholly pointless, and then just lets its characters goof around on a lighthearted adventure.

Dungeon Travelers - Eye Candy

Dating Sim Meets DRPG

As I mentioned, the cast of Dungeon Travelers is made up of characters from To Heart 2. It’s quite unique in a way, as it effectively transplants characters first written for a dating sim into a DRPG. I have not played To Heart 2, and I don’t feel this hurt my experience with Dungeon Travelers, but I will note some minor problems for players coming from that same perspective. First of all, the game’s introduction is nigh on incomprehensible for those unfamiliar with To Heart 2, as it blazes through dialogue between a whole game’s worth of characters. The game definitely presumes some knowledge of the personalities of, and relationships between, characters too.

Luckily, these issues don’t persist and they’re easy to get past. Once the game begins proper, and you’re exploring the dungeon with Takaaki, Tamaki, and Konomi, the pace eases up and you get to know the characters individually through dialogue that tends to be pretty light and enjoyable. From then on you’ll meet new characters one at a time for the most part, giving you the chance to get to know them entirely within the context of Dungeon Travelers, not having to rely on any prior knowledge.

And the characters are worth getting to know. With the lighthearted nature of Dungeon Travelers’ story, there isn’t really any serious character development or exploration, but there are plenty of fun character interactions, quirky group dynamics, and also a spoonful of fanservice. I came to enjoy Dungeon Travelers’ characters, which also enhanced the gameplay side of things, motivating me to use a wider variety of characters in my parties. It helps that there is some great character design work on display, with every character having a variety of delightful class-based costumes to enhance the original design work of Leaf back in the day.

Monster Girls VS (Mostly) Human Girls

Most of your time in Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World will be spent exploring the dungeon, fighting the resident monster girls, and overcoming boss battles. Combat itself is fairly standard for DRPGs. Characters take turns in an order determined by their speed, and there’s a helpful turn order bar to help you track the progression of the fight. You have access to your standard attack, skills, guarding, and items. All very typical.

Where Dungeon Travelers stands out is its mastery of the fundamentals. Combat is carefully balanced to provide a consistent challenge, whilst giving the player a high degree of freedom in how they approach any given encounter. Encounters never become a chore, as every fight demands a high level of thought from the player. Even once you’ve mastered certain encounters and enemy types, bad luck can force you into a situation where you’re forced to adapt on the fly, and the need to preserve TP for boss fights incentivizes you to continue optimizing your play.

Dungeon Travelers - Battle

The nature of Dungeon Travelers’ balance can make the game feel unfairly difficult at times. And whilst I think it’s fair to say it’s a difficult game, it isn’t really unfair. The game wants to push you to engage with its systems, to switch up your party, to try out new skills and classes, and to exploit enemy weaknesses. And when you’re able to overcome a difficult fight through ingenuity, as opposed to grinding, it feels incredibly rewarding. I was able to defeat the boss of a dungeon where my party was about four levels below the average regular encounter enemy by changing up my formation and making use of buffing skills that negated much of the boss’ damage output. Defeating that boss felt great, and I love that Dungeon Travelers pushes the player to outmaneuver rather than overpower.

Dungeon Travelers also rewards information gathering in a way that impressed me. At first, you won’t have any information about enemies. Not their stats, resistances, or even their level. To get this information, you have to capture enemies by weakening them and then using an item, a codex, to capture them. You’re rewarded with the enemy information, but also with the sealed monster. You can equip sealed monsters in character’s accessory slots, providing benefits like flat stat buffs, or more useful abilities like status immunities or element resistances.

Dungeon Travelers - Skill Screen

A Class In Customization

I mentioned player freedom, and now I want to expand on that a bit. There is a wealth of customization options available with regard to your character builds and party setups. Dungeon Travelers has four base classes: fighters, scouts, magic users, and maids. These classes (aside from the maid) might sound rather typical, but where things get fun is with advanced classes. Every base class branches into two intermediate classes, which can then branch out into one of three advanced classes. So really there are 24 classes. That’s not all though, as your character retains access to the skill trees of their previous classes, meaning each character can have three active skill trees, offering a huge amount of customization options.

Playing around with different combinations of characters and classes is a lot of fun, and as I mentioned it’s incredibly useful as well. Each character has a unique skill too, which adds even more variety outside of classes and skills. Far and away my favorite class branch is the maid. They’re wonderfully versatile support characters that can grow to have the ability to heal HP and TP, buff your party, and debuff enemies. TP is a scarce and important resource for dungeon exploration, and with two maids in your party with the right skill investment you can effectively turn it into an infinite resource. And having two maids doesn’t detract from your combat abilities either, as you can focus one on buffs and one on debuffs, creating a maid super duo. I love maids, in Dungeon Travelers and in general.

I Want To Break Free

There are some unfortunate restrictions on the player in Dungeon Travelers that do somewhat hamper that deep customization. First off, you can’t easily respec your characters. The only way to redistribute skill points is to reset their level, which is obviously frustrating. It isn’t too bad as you can reset them to any level that’s a multiple of 15, so you don’t have to go right back to square one.

The bigger issue is equipment. Equipment is quite important to your survival in Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World. The general stat buffs you’d expect from equipment are important of course, but equipment can also offer a range of really useful buffs that can make or break a setup. There’s equipment that allows you to nullify certain types of damage, or inflict status effects, or restore HP and TP; all of this is really useful, but it’s random.

Equipment drops from enemies and chests, and then you run it to the shop for identification. Once identified you’ll get a random piece of equipment from a pool, and then it will have a random effect (or no effect at all). It can be really frustrating trying to gear up to an appropriate level when you keep rolling useless drops, or drops for classes that don’t fit your setup. Some kind of ability to craft or modify equipment would be a godsend, but unfortunately there is none to be found. The monster capture system somewhat helps alleviate this issue, with the ability to seek out enemies that offer specific buffs if you are facing a particular challenge, but overall it’s not quite enough.

Dungeon Travelers - Dungeon Map

Into The Dungeon, Then Out, Then In Again…

My biggest issue with Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World is dungeon design. Things aren’t too bad at first, with dungeons being largely inoffensive in layout. Nothing exciting, but nothing truly abysmal. As you progress though, the dungeons increase in complexity, adding all manner of traps, gimmicks, and hidden paths. It gets exhausting fast, especially when you’re just trying to route to a boss and you’re having to wind through the entire dungeon.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it felt as though the complexity added to the gameplay, but it doesn’t offer any serious challenge. It is a lot of rote progression and trial-by-error navigation. I’m never really excited to see what’s on the next floor, there are no interesting exploration mechanics or puzzles, it’s just tedium. One ray of light, I suppose, is automapping. So, at the very least the game will log dungeon information for you, rather than having to draw up your own maps or engage with an annoying mapping mechanic. I know some people are fond of making their own maps for DRPGs and, whilst I love and appreciate you, I don’t understand that impulse.

Dungeon Travelers - Silfa Stuck CG

Beyond The Dungeon

Dungeon Travelers’ main story is relatively short. I managed to clear it in about 18 hours, though I think this could be done a lot faster with better play than I was capable of. The game doesn’t end there though, not even close. Dungeon Travelers has a wealth of post-game content that ramps up the difficulty further. There are additional floors of the dungeon, as well as new areas outside of the dungeon for your party to clear.

I appreciate this wealth of additional gameplay. I’m looking forward to working my way through it, at the moment I’m only really scratching the surface as I adapt to the increasing difficulty but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played so far. Dungeon Travelers’ gameplay is its strongest element, so cutting the story short in favor of providing a banquet of challenging, engaging fights strikes me as a smart decision.

The post-game content also provides the player with the perfect opportunity to continue developing your characters, experimenting with more classes, and collecting that ever-elusive equipment. As I said earlier, the customization element of Dungeon Travelers’ gameplay is a ton of fun, so more opportunities to engage with that is a welcome treat.

PSPretty

Visually, Dungeon Travelers is quite delightful in most aspects. As with many DRPGs, the dungeons themselves are a little rough. There’s a nice amount of thematic variety between floors in the dungeon, but the 3D textures are typically quite muddy. The dungeons, visually, are at best serviceable.

Enemy design was a little disappointing for me, but I can’t really hold it against the game. Many of the sprites used are also used in Dungeon Travelers 2, so there was no real novelty for me there. I don’t think it would be terribly fair to knock the first game in the series for having its assets reused in sequels though. So, my thoughts on enemy designs align 1:1 with my thoughts on those in Dungeon Travelers 2, they’re fun, a little bit typical, and occasionally racy. I like them.

Now onto praise without caveats. Dungeon Travelers is packed full of some wonderful art, most notably in character designs and CGs. I mentioned it earlier in this review, but it deserves mentioning again that the variety of costumes for characters according to their class is incredible. To be honest, I was sometimes more excited about changing classes to see new outfits than for the gameplay enhancements. The CGs that appear throughout the story and beyond, whilst they exist almost entirely as a fanservice vehicle, are a real treat. My favorite CG was Harumi’s (pictured below). Take a look at that cake, that’s worth stomping through a dungeon for.

Dungeon Travelers - Harumi Cake CG

Dancing In The Dungeon

Dungeon Travelers’s soundtrack surprised me, although it perhaps shouldn’t have given Dungeon Travelers 2 also had a pretty good OST. I think Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World is a bit better though. The music stands out particularly well in the visual novel scenes during the story, where the narrative’s goofy tone is matched with equally goofy music. There are a host of bouncy, energetic tracks that add a lot of personality to scenes. I was reminded often of the music from the old James Pond games, if anyone else remembers those odd little games. That is a compliment to Dungeon Travelers by the way, James Pond had some bangers. And the music of Dungeon Travelers is certainly quite a significant step up in quality. It’s more of a vibe that led me to the connection. The music has a kind of circus quality to it. Again, I promise that is supposed to be a compliment.

The game also features full Japanese voice acting, including the rare voiced protagonist. I’m a great fan of voiced protagonists, and I appreciated it a lot here. The original cast of To Heart 2 reprise their roles in Dungeon Travelers, and perhaps as a result of their familiarity with the role the voice acting performances are universally solid. The only thing I did notice is that the quality of the voices, and the mix, is a little rough. Some voices sound far too quiet against the music, and there seems to be some variance in recording quality. In terms of standout performances, I can’t say there were any that really blew me away, but the overall quality is high so I don’t see that as such a bad thing.

Dungeon Travelers - Townperson A

Verdict

I had a lot of fun with Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World. The story, frivolous though it may be, is appropriately lighthearted and funny. Its characters grew on me over time, and I loved the variety in their designs. The gameplay holds everything together here. Despite some issues with inflexibility, RNG, and some frustrating dungeon design, the high level of player freedom, the wealth of customization options, and the tight balance of combat make Dungeon Travelers one of the most engaging DRPGs I’ve played.

DUNGEON TRAVELERS: TO HEART 2 IN ANOTHER WORLD IS RECOMMENDED

Platforms: PC

If you are looking for another JRPG, you should check out our review of Persona 3 Reload or Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal.

Thanks to Shiravune for providing a Steam review code for Dungeon Travelers: To Heart 2 in Another World.

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