While much of the gaming world is firmly focused on Baldur’s Gate 3 or Starfield right now, the indie action-adventure RPG game Dungeons of Hinterberg is the one that really grabbed my attention at Gamescom 2023. Set in a vibrant alpine village that blends elements of the Austrian Alps, everything about my time with the game is nothing short of promising.
Found within Xbox’s business sector of the largest games event in the world, Dungeons of Hinterberg is all about slaying monsters, scavenging for loot, solving puzzles, and developing friendships with the locals. Its charming design and cool cel-shaded art style ooze charm from every pixel, which is even more impressive considering the small studio behind it. I immediately wanted to explore every corner, speak to every NPC, and take in every vista.
No time for that, though. My 30-minute hands-on demo was split into three sectors: a mountain pass biome, a dungeon, and the main town of Hinterbeg itself. Sprinting up the hills as protagonist Luisa, a law trainee now taking a much-needed break from the corporate world, I was quickly surrounded by a group of tiny monsters who sport witches’ hats ready to tear me limb from limb. Combat is a mix of hack-and-slash sword attacks, special abilities, and magic, with dodging playing a key part. Rolling from left to right while whittling down the little goons’ health meters, I became accustomed to the control scheme within minutes, before confidently charging into battle.
Magic was my main strategy, conjuring up either a giant boulder that would explode when prompted or throwing a grapple-like weapon to knock back enemies. Once depleted, I turned to special moves – one of which had Luisa leap into the air and strike all opponents with a crushing blow. Very satisfying. As I gradually encountered stronger foes, it became clear how mastery of these moves is crucial to success, yet the methods used to dispatch these enemies are left completely up to me.
Once defeated, I made my way further up the mountain, speaking with locals and taking part in small puzzles that required either the use of the bomb and/or the grapple ability. These are relatively simple, such as placing a bomb on a scale before raising it up with the grapple. Moving forward to the first of the game’s 25 dungeons, another puzzle has three-floor switches that require pressure to open the two gates in front, with seemingly only one minecart in the vicinity to push into place. A couple of minutes pass and the realization hits: the second is stuck in some icky sludge in the ceiling. Again, simple but effective. A lot of games today overcomplicate puzzles for the sake of it, so this back-to-basics approach is much more than effective in my books.
What I love is how the art style pops around every corner. Take the dungeon as an example, which in theory is a dark, dingy environment. Here, it’s a mix of bold blues and perky purples that kept my eyes locked with minerals jutting out of the odd crevice. Getting lost down here is a treat, not a task.
A thrilling minecart ride through one of the caverns leads to Hinterberg. Split into multiple portions, the loading is seamless as I venture from bustling streets to the city center. I’m told by Microbird founder and design director Philip Seifried that the town itself is more directly influenced by the small town of Hallstatt, known for its pastel-colored houses and winding cobblestone streets. Gorgeous. One special touch I notice is how among the numerous NPCs wandering about, the ones in the far distance turn to a faint grey scale, not a million miles away from a-ha’s music video for Take on Me. An inventive idea that adds to the art style.
At the heart of it, Dungeons of Hinterberg is a relaxing experience, a descriptor I never thought I’d use for an action game. There’s also a progress-based day system, which either ends when a major task is completed or when you opt to take a break. The vibe of this roughly 20-hour adventure is one of calmness alongside themes of finding yourself, and I can’t wait to dive in.
Dungeons of Hinterberg is currently scheduled to launch on Steam and Xbox Series X/S – including PC Game Pass – in spring 2024. Seifried remains coy about sharing a firm date, naturally keen to make sure the game releases in its best possible state. Regardless if it slips until later in the year, it certainly seems worth the wait.
In the meantime, check out the best indie games on PC in 2023, from a horror fishing game to a Zelda-meets-Dark Souls action-adventure and everything in between. We’ve also got lists of the upcoming PC games and the best new PC games if you’re looking for something fresh to play.