I've spent over 10 years trying (and failing) to beat this dungeon-crawling roguelike RPG that was made using cellphone internet data in a treehouse in the woods

Legend of Dungeon
(Image credit: RobotLovesKitty)

There's treasure, legend has it, on the 26th basement floor. When I first discovered Legend of Dungeon way back in 2013, its premise sounded straightforward. Make your way down through 26 tiers of procedurally-generated levels, fight a load of fantastical bad guys, grab the gold, and make your way back to the surface unscathed. Easy peasy, right?

As you've likely already gleaned from the headline above: it was not, in any way, easy peasy. As I'd discover the hard way (by dying, again and again and again), there was far more to this cavern-crawling roguelike than I ever could have bargained for. Because while enemies early doors include a genre-familiar foray of bats, zombies, goblins and orcs, later levels introduce everything from Minotaurs to Kitten Wraiths, Grim Reapers, Poison Warlocks, Snake Wizards, Vampires (who flit between humanoid form and swarms of bats), Lich Kings (who summon hordes of skeleton minions), physics-defying Unicorns, the actual Devil itself, and a Giant Skull who's described as "the absolute ultimate in Magical prowess." 

Throw in the fact that no two runs are the same, and the fact that Legend of Dungeon is powered by some brutally unforgiving permadeath mechanics, and, yeah, you quickly find yourself up shit creek without a paddle. So much so that I've spent over a decade on and off trying to beat it, and have never once come close. Me waxing lyrical about a game now over 10 years old could be a feature article in itself I'm sure, but the most interesting part this story isn't how challenging Legend of Dungeon is – it's the fact that its developer, RobotLovesKitty, created the game in a treehouse in the woods using 4G cell phone data.

Night(s) in the woods 

Legend of Dungeon

(Image credit: RobotLovesKitty)

Yes, you read that right. I wrote about development duo Calvin Goble and Alix Stolzer's, let's say, unorthodox, living arrangement-meets-game dev studio for our sister publication PC Gamer several years ago – exploring how the two-person indie outfit traded their Manhattan apartment for a treehouse in the woods in Vermont. In the process, the pair gave up the daily domestic luxuries many of us take for granted (not least instantaneous hot water) for a 350-square foot purpose-built home that sat eight feet off the ground, was powered by homemade solar paneling, within a space shared by very real and very vicious black bears. 

You can read the 2015 interview in full by following the link above, but Goble and Stolzer's decision to up sticks was primarily driven by career goals and efficiency. In 2011, both Goble and Stolzer sought full-time careers in game development, and with friends having already moved into similar, more affordable living conditions, the pair could see the value in living remotely from the outside looking in. A couple of years after the move, a combination of cellular 4G internet and a successful Kickstarter campaign – which asked for $5,000 but received $32,999 – brought Legend of Dungeon into the world; initially via Steam's Greenlight initiative before being released on Valve's digital storefront proper in late 2013. 

Which is when I discovered it. Truth be told, Legend of Dungeon has haunted me ever since. It's brilliant, brutal, heartwarming and heartbreaking; one of the most fantastic games I have downloaded to my Steam library and yet easily one of the most frustrating. I've spent over a decade trying to crack it, but have never once come close to watching the credits roll. 

Legend of Dungeon

(Image credit: RobotLovesKitty)

"And you know what? I love it. Every ill-fated run excites me because what if the next one is *the* one?"

I actually couldn't tell you how many times I've tried to guide the 26th-floor treasure back to the surface, and I can go months at a time without trying – putting each ill-fated pilgrimage to the back of mind in the vague hope that distance will help me return stronger. But it never does. If ever I actually make it all the way down to the final floor (which, admittedly, isn't very often), I'm invariably slaughtered on my ascent by any of the bastard baddie shopping list illustrated above. 

And you know what? I love it. Every ill-fated run excites me because what if the next one is the one? So far, that's never been the case, and I'm not even sure that I ever want it to be. What would then become my go-to game when I'm staring at my hundreds-strong Steam library and can't decide what to play? That's an outcome I want to avoid, more than a thousand Poison Warlocks or a seven-foot tall, 400-pound Vermont forest black bear. If you fancy taking Legend of Dungeon for a spin, you can do so right now. And if you manage to return with the treasure, keep it to yourself because I don't want to know. 

Check out the best roguelikes to play today 

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.