Imagine a cross between Diablo and Pokemon and you're some way to understanding what student game Soulbound is all about.

A team of 13 students at the Hogeschool Rotterdam University in The Netherlands, calling themselves Too Many Developers, are putting together Soulbound as part of their final year course. The plan is to continue building the game to completion once they graduate.

Development appears to be going pretty well so far. While Soulbound look like yet another dark hack 'n' slash dungeon-crawler, there's a pretty great twist involved -- the protagonist is pretty weak, and must survive by taming the dangerous creatures he meets and tethering them to his soul.

"The idea of the game arose because we always thought that enemies in games often looked cooler than the protagonist," lead designer Ralph Amian tells me. "We imagined that it would be awesome if we could actually catch and use the enemy, against the enemy."

The Too Many Developers team too inspiration from games like Diablo, Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, mixed it with a dash of Pokemon, and ended up with a slasher that feels more along the lines of Dungeon Keeper.

Players can tether up to four creatures, and direct each one separately to best benefit from their various skills and weakness. Creatures will level up and become stronger, but if one dies, you've lost them forever. You can currently download an alpha build and give it a try yourself.

There's more to this creature-catching too, thanks to upcoming plans for a crafting system. You'll be able to catch beasts, harvest them for their specific body parts, and then craft the parts together to create larger, more ridiculous creatures.

But Amian says that the team still has a long way to go if they hope to make a good idea great.

"We want to implement a system in which you use the positioning of your beasts to create 'Spellzones'" he explains. Spells can be activated within these spellzones to affect enemy creatures, he explains, and the spell cast depends on the creatures current in your roster.

"If you create a zone and cast a spell with three Salamanders, you will cause the inside of said zone to become a fiery pit, causing fire damage to all enemies standing in the zone," he notes. "But if you cast a spell within a zone consisting of 2 Spiders and 1 Salamander, you not only damage your enemies a bit, but also slow them down a great deal (webbing makes for sticky floors!)"

And while current levels implemented in the game are specifically designed, the Soulbound team plans to introduce large, sprawling, randomly-generated maps, allowing players to lose themselves in holding back the hordes.

You can download the alpha build of Soulbound now.

[Mike Rose wrote this article for sister site Gamasutra]