If you’ve played at least one dungeon-crawler in your life, you’ll probably be able to guess what Dungeons of Dredmor is all about without ever actually having to play the game. The evil Lord Dredmor is a pretty nasty guy who’s taken up residence in a deep dungeon and it’s up to you to dispatch this malevolent bastard and be recognized as the most foppish dandy in all the land. Unfortunately, this is all a pipe dream. You’ll never reach Lord Dredmor alive (we sure as hell didn’t). You see, DoD is a roguelike – a turn-based RPG that maintains the frenetic atmosphere of modern dungeon-crawlers while also including a sadistic focus on permanent death. Put simply, the real goal is to see just how far you can venture into this monster-packed trap-riddled hellhole before you kick the bucket. It’s like turn-based Diablo for masochists.
Above: Get used to seeing this screen
Developer Gaslamp Games has been marketing this ri-donk-ulously cheap game as a “casual” dungeon-crawler, which will probably confuse some as the gameplay is anything but casual. On the contrary, both dungeon exploration and combat are incredibly tense and require a great deal of strategic thought on the player’s part. “Casual” must be referring to the simplicity of the game’s character creator. You don’t waste time designating your hero’s gender, race, class, birthsign, physical features, favorite television show, whether they’re on Team Edward or Team Jacob, etc. Creating a new character is a simple matter of allotting a couple points into a surprisingly varied skill pool. Want to be a mace-wielding tank who can brew potions and summon mustache golems? Go for it. This fast approach to character creation manages to remove some of the sting from your multiple deaths thanks to all the new abilities and character builds to check out. Funnily enough, dying actually makes creating a new character an enjoyable and intuitive process as you gradually figure out which abilities supplement others.
Unlike its real-time cousins, DoD is a turn-based affair. The game features a slew of tutorial scenarios that explain the ins and outs of the game and we highly recommend you check those out before actually starting a game. Every action you take will prompt all the monsters in the dungeon to take their own actions. Since nothing in the dungeon will move until you do, feel free to just sit still and carefully consider your next plan of attack if you find yourself suddenly smack dab in the middle of a swarm of enemies. Be careful, though. One wrong move can leave your bushy-browed adventurer eviscerated, liquefied, eaten, blown up, etc.; at which point, the game will inscribe your character’s name on a tombstone alongside a score based on your performance and take you right back to the start menu. Our first run through DoD lasted about seven minutes before we were mobbed by a bunch of midget-duck things called “Diggles.” Our overall score was 12 points.
Above: Those eyebrows are… inexplicable
[This paragraph has been clarified to explain the inventory issues]
The only real issue we have with the game is how it handles inventory management. Like we said before, you’ll be coming across a ton of loot; however, the tutorial, which throws a lot of information at you at once, mentions off-hand how you can circumvent the default looting system, which is: instead of simply being able to click on whatever spoils fell to the dungeon floor and have it automatically go to your inventory, you have to manually click on the item, open your inventory tab and then drag it inside the window. The shortcut workaround is to hold Shift while clicking on items, but if you miss that little line in the tutorial, you could end up spending a ton of time fiddling with loot. Likewise, for all of the goofy crap you pick up and strap to your body, you never get to see any changes to your hero’s physical appearance. If we equip a magical road cone as a helmet, we want to see a road cone wobbling around on our head as we fight monsters, dammit!
Basically, Gaslamp Games has produced an incredibly competent roguelike with everything you’d expect from the genre – a diverse selection of monsters to kill (or get killed by), copious amounts of loot and a seemingly countless number of ingredients you can use to craft your own weapons, armor and potions. However, what really differentiates DoD from other games of the same genre is its clever and often hilarious sense of humor. Everything from the enemies to the item descriptions is dripping with satire that lovingly pokes fun at just about every aspect of the Dungeons and Dragons inspired gaming niche. Our favorite instance of this would have to be praying at the Statue of Inconsequentia – the goddess of pointless side-quests.
This game is arguably the best attempt made by an indie developer to bring the roguelike genre into the mainstream thus far. Inventory management may be an absolute chore, but you’ll be willing to forgive that thanks to the intense, strategic combat and sharp humor. It also bears mentioning that if you’re a little turned off by the thought of permanently dying and losing all of your progress, the game does enable players to turn off the permanent death feature (although, we think you’re kind of missing the point if you do that). For those who aren’t afraid of a little self-punishment, Dungeons of Dredmor promises hours of enjoyment and frustration at a stupidly cheap bargain bin price ($5 on Steam).
Aug 4, 2011