This Cel-Shaded Action-RPG Could Become An Xbox Crown Jewel

Dungeons of Hinterberg is an upcoming action-adventure RPG featuring cel-shaded visuals and dungeon-crawling gameplay, made by a team of just 10 people at developer Microbird Studios. A gorgeous trailer featuring Moebius-inspired visuals and a dreamy Alpine town debuted at the 2023 Xbox Games Showcase, and though it won’t get the kind of buzz that Fable or Starfield will, it’s a clear sign that Microsoft is leaning into indies hard.

Read More: Microsoft Explains Why You’re Waiting So Long For Those Xbox Exclusives

ID@Xbox is a program that lets indie developers self-publish games for Xbox and PC, and in April 2023 Xbox corporate VP Sarah Bond made it very clear that the team is putting a lot more effort into the program. Bond told told IGN’s Rebekah Valentine that, after years of Xbox being associated with hypermasculine games like Gears of War and Halo, the team was hoping to bring in more diverse devs to create more diverse games.

And during a closed-door press conference at the recent Xbox Showcase, Bond pointed again to this shift in focus, saying “we have over 5,000 developers today across 100 countries developing games for Xbox.” She continued:

We launched something called the Developer Acceleration Program out of ID@Xbox. And that is a program designed to support underrepresented creators and underrepresented stories in the gaming Industry. And we’ve already launched 30 games through that program. We’re working with over 250 developers since we incubated it.

Shortly after that conference, I went into a hands-off preview of Dungeon of Hinterberg, and saw a lovely looking indie that’s coming to Xbox and PC next year. It seems like Bond and the ID@Xbox team are ready to show the fruits of their labor.

Image: Microbird Studios / Xbox

The Xbox indie scene

My Dungeons of Hinterberg preview felt, at times, like a Nintendo game was playing out in front of me. It has visual flair, playfulness, and easily digestible gameplay, features so often associated with indie games. It’s set in an Alpine village that has been recently experiencing a tourist boom after magical dungeons appear in the forest, mountains, and mountain pastures surrounding it.

Dungeons of Hinterberg has colorful, cel-shaded visuals, bizarre old folk monsters lurking in geode-filled dungeons, and a social sim aspect that adds another layer of gameplay. Each dungeon (of which there are 25) offers you a mix of combat and puzzles, with some leaning more in one direction than the other—they’ll all take around 30 minutes to complete. And each of the game’s four biomes give its protagonist Luisa a different set of skills, from wind power that lifts her up into a mini tornado to safely carry her over dangerous terrain, or an icy snowboard that she can use to grind rails.

The social sim aspect acts as a sort of skill tree, with different characters giving Luisa different abilities. For instance, if you pursue a relationship with the jaded, cranky journalist (hmm) you can get an extra attack move slot. If you want to pursue relationships with characters you actually like, that’s your choice, but you can also be a bit more calculated with who you chat up if you’re looking for a specific set of skills.

Though I didn’t get to actually play Dungeons of Hinterberg, I can tell this is a game I’ll have a lot of fun with, as it will offer a nice reprieve from screaming at ranked Overwatch 2 matches. It’s due out sometime in 2024 and will be on both Xbox and PC Game Pass from day one.

Kotaku is covering everything Summer Game Fest, from the main show on Thursday to other events happening throughout the next week. Whether you’re into larger-than-life triple-A games or intimate, offbeat indies, you can keep up with all things SGF here.

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