We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Dungeonborne is like a bleak, hardcore Skyrim, and you can play today

Skyrim and Dark and Darker rule the bleak RPG world, but there’s a new challenger, and the maker of Dungeonborne speaks to PCGN exclusively.

Dungeonborne Steam RPG: A fire-breathing dragon from Steam RPG Dungeonborne

You forget sometimes just how cruel and nasty the world of Skyrim can be. On the surface, it’s an idyllic, snow-capped paradise, replete with traveling bards, fortifying broths, and roaring fireplaces. But descend into its dungeons, and hell awaits. Dark and Darker takes the grimdark dungeon-crawling experience to new heights, a first-person RPG where every battle is hard won – and defeat is swift and crushing. Somewhere in The Elder Scrolls and DaD lies Dungeonborne. Playable right now thanks to a new beta, its creator talks exclusively to PCGamesN about balancing the bleak with the magical.

Here’s the deal. In Dungeonborne, you begin by choosing from one of seven character classes: Fighter, Priest, Rogue, Swordmaster, Pyromancer, Cryomancer, or Death Knight. Playing solo or alongside two friends, your quest is to clear the monster, demon, and who-knows-what-else-infested corridors of Clouseau Castle, a decaying aristocratic stronghold ripped right from the pages of Bram Stoker. Get in, slay your way through the hordes, get whatever you can, and get out. This is a grueling, nasty RPG combined with an extraction shooter. Developed by Mithril Interactive, though Skyrim and Dark and Darker serve as close comparisons, Dungeonborne has its own identity.

YouTube Thumbnail

“Skyrim and Dark and Darker are remarkable games in their own right” producer and head of development ‘Elvis’ tells PCGamesN, “but Dungeonborne sets itself apart by focusing on a completely different core experience. We’ve taken the foundation of dungeon crawlers and infused it with the best elements from extraction looters, MOBAs, and fighting games to create a unique combat experience you won’t find in other games.”

Combat in Dungeonborne is weighty, robust, and gratifyingly complex. Whether you’re using spells or plain brawn, every maneuver takes planning and guile – if you drop your shield at the wrong moment, or wade in when you should have stepped back, it can easily spell your doom. Nevertheless, Mithril wants to find a balance. Gritty and punishing bring their own perverse satisfactions, but there’s another side to the fantasy genre that the developer doesn’t want to neglect.

Dungeonborne Steam RPG playtest: A battle in Steam RPG Dungeonborne

“Dungeonborne’s atmosphere is definitely dark and gritty, which is essential for a dungeon crawler,” Elvis says. “We are meticulous about maintaining this tone to ensure it stays authentic. However, to balance out the intensity, we’ve added more magical elements and RPG combat mechanics. So while the game is undeniably dark and brutal, it also has a mid-level fantasy feel that keeps it from becoming overwhelmingly grim.

“Although we’ve incorporated some soulslike elements, Dungeonborne offers an entirely different style of gameplay. Based on our team’s expertise and passion, we’ve chosen to focus on our combat design; it blends the tension of survival extraction, the immersion of first-person melee, and the depth of team-based dynamics to create a multifaceted, one-of-a-kind combat experience. The challenge lies in fine-tuning each mechanic to ensure they are compatible and cohesive, creating a seamless loop that achieves our desired effect.”

Dungeonborne Steam playtest new: Fantasy warriors in Steam RPG Dungeonborne

Across various playtests and demos, Mithril has gradually collected feedback from its community and tweaked and transformed Dungeonborne in kind. Visually it’s very impressive and the tone, so far, successfully hits that sweet spot between grimdark ‘realism’ and accessible fantasy game fun.

Especially notable is the first-person spellcasting. As compared to some other RPGs, where deploying magic might feel simplified, light, and spammy, in Dungeonborne, there is a tangible sense of exertion and power behind every spell – a magic-infused flick of the wrist feels just as damaging as an overhead slash with a longsword.

“When we first started developing Dungeonborne, our goal was to create an experience that would really resonate with hardcore gamers,” Elvis says. “Based on the feedback from our previous playtest during Steam Next Fest, I believe we’ve achieved that. But we don’t just implement player requests at face value. Instead, we thoroughly comprehend and empathize with the core needs and concerns of players, then align those with our design goals to find the right solutions.

Dungeonborne Steam RPG: A low sunset in Steam RPG Dungeonborne

“Players won’t stop playing because you didn’t follow their feedback—they’ll stop if they don’t enjoy the game. We can absolutely choose not to adopt their specific suggestions while still creating something they find fun and engaging.”

The new Dungeonborne playtest is available from today, Wednesday July 3, and will run for 7 to 14 days. There is no limit and the demo is open to everybody. If you want to join, just head right here.

Otherwise, check out some of the other best upcoming PC games on their way to you, or maybe the best multiplayer games ever made.

You can also follow us on Google News for daily PC games news, reviews, and guides, or grab our PCGN deals tracker to net yourself some bargains.