Microbirds could scarcely have chosen a better place to debut their upcoming adventure Dungeons of Hinterberg than gamescom this week; my time with the first playable demo had me dreaming of sailing up the Rhine to cooler climes for some monster hunting and chill Alpine vibes.
The game is set in and around the eponymous Hinterburg, a tiny town nestled in the Austrian Alps, where magic caves filled with monsters suddenly appeared one day, thrusting the town into the world of adventure tourism. Thrill-seekers, including the game’s heroine, drift in from all over the globe to prove their mettle in battle- something otherwise frowned upon in polite society.
As Dungeons of Hinterberg’s first hands-on showing to the world, we were given a feel for the loop that defines the game: explore and adventure – above and below ground – by day, socialize in the evening, developing skills and acquiring items to support the next time you delve the deep underground.
As playable character Louisa, I set out first to find a dungeon, learning much of what she can do on the way- which is quite a lot! While exploring, the demo showcased two important skills, each mapped to a shoulder button: a tap of LB summons the Wrecking Ball, a massive bomb which, when detonated, clears piles of rubble blocking your path. RB fires a ranged Ball and Chain, which can attach to blobby masses in the overworld and can manipulate certain environmental objects – e.g. pulling down a log to traverse a gap. These came into play frequently, and were even used in concert for some puzzles.
Before arriving at the dungeon entrance, I encountered my first enemies, creepy masked monsters who, according to the developers, trace their inspiration back to real-life Alpine Mythology (think Krampus-esque). Light and Heavy melee attacks charge up bigger and badder magical attacks, such as a destructive leap with AOE effects, or a hail of meteors which drains enemy health bars in a hurry.
Before long, Louisa arrived at one of the dungeons that make Hinterberg famous, where the puzzle solving and battling ramp up to more intense levels, in closer quarters. After exploring, pillaging chests, solving a number of puzzles, dispatching more armadillos and a larger boss, it was time to return to Hinterberg to, y’know, chill for a bit.
Hanging out with NPCs isn’t just a break in the action, it’s crucial to your success – your character will learn new, useful skills by upleveling their social links. After chatting with a few locals, I committed to spending time with the cheerful employee of the local ice cream stand, Marina. This action increased Louisa’s dodge stamina, so that she can dodge more often – something you will definitely want to do. And that’s only at the first of three stars earned with Marina, so I found myself curious what further interactions will lead to.
After that, Louisa went to sleep, resting up for the next day’s adventures.
If this mix of battling and socializing brings titles like the Persona series to mind, know that there is less pressure to maximize every moment in Dungeons of Hinterberg. Indeed, your players can take a full-day break from adventuring if they choose to spend more time with friends; Louisa’s on vacation after all! I can see this tactic coming in handy if your character is having trouble progressing through a dungeon – meet a few more people, level up a few more skills, then try again.
Developer Microbirds shared that there will be approximately 25 dungeons to test in game, and, as beautifully bucolic as the Doberkogel mountains area we explored at gamescom is, I’m excited to see the other three biomes. Chilly glaciers and wetter areas were referenced.
With sunny vibes and the flexibility to battle or just hang out in town to make friends, Dungeons of Hinterberg is shaping up to be a vacation for players, though don’t be surprised if you find yourself pricing out airfare to Austria when you’re done. Dungeons of Hinterberg will be released in 2024 for Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, Cloud, and will be available day one for Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass members.