Corpse Party

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dungeons of Dredmor: Review

Don't you just know that situation, when you see what seems like a good deal yet you're not completely convinced you'll have an actual use for the product? Even worse, when you learn about how exciting said thing seems to be, and you regret not taking a closer look before? Well, that describes my first encounter with Dungeons of Dredmor.
Thanks to the Steam Holiday Sale and the accompanying event, I got to play the game for the first time - and got addicted.

To my defence - DoD got released on the same day as Cthulhu Saves the World, which was an instant-buy for me. Thus, my indie-needs were satisfied for the time being, and I moved on, laughing about mighty Cthulhu and his groupie.
In hindsight, I shouldn't have disregarded the Dungeons of Dredmor, which the over 6 hours I've put into the game since Tuesday evening have clearly proven.

What is Dungeons of Dredmor about?
Long ago, the Dark Lord Dredmor was bound in the darkest dungeons beneath the earth by great and mighty heroes. Centuries later, the magical bonds that hold him in place are loosening and his power grows ever stronger. The land cries out for a new hero, a powerful warrior or a mystic wizard like those spoken of in the prophecies of yore.

What they have, unfortunately, is you...

The above is basically your setting. As the chosen Hero (or Heroine), you enter the Dungeons of Dredmor, on an epic Quest to beat the evil lord Dredmor back to sleep.
While the setting itself may appear rather simple and sidelined, there is no need for any more storytelling.
You don't want to die, you can't run away, so you have to pull it through. A clear task.

It's the Gameplay that counts!
That's right guys and girls! Dungeons of Dredmor is a game that relies more on the ways of playing the game and offering you a challenging yet fun experience than epic cinematics, a grand plot with a myriad of twists, dozens of characters and tragic losses.
While the gameplay may appear fairly simple on the first look, don't be mistaken: It is not.
There are so many different things to explore, find and use, it'll be hard to keep track of which mushrooms are gonna heal you, and which might lead to your certain death, just to name an easy example.

Dungeons of Dredmor is what you call a "roguelike" game. As you might know, thats a sub-genre of roleplaying games. In most cases this type of game features randomized worlds, encounters and hardships such as permanent deaths, forcing you to restart the whole playthrough.

What would be more fitting of such a gameplay style than good-ol' dungeon crawlers?
Blizzard's Diablo 2 might be a good example of a mainstream game close to roguelike standards - mostly randomized areas, a lot of loot, enemies and difficulty settings.
Dungeons of Dredmor however is a turn based game. Don't worry, there's no need to end turns or anything, but the world only moves when you do! Take your time, think about how to approach enemies, manage your inventory in peace.. No issues here. You shouldn't need to die out of acting too slowly or being distracted - that'd be unnecessarily painful!

You start DoD with a rather blank Hero, pick your difficulty settings (permanent death can be turned on/off!) and then proceed to picking your skills.
There's a large range of different skills to pick from - common weapon-type masteries, different magic approaches, crafting and the wicked stuff like Vampirism, Archeology, Necronomiconomics or Emomancy. There's a setup for every player, you choose how to play the game.
The end of your character's creation marks the decision what name's gonna be written onto his gravestone.

Once you're done with that the game throws you right into the dungeon. You'll walk around the halls, open chests, gather items, compare equipment and slay enemies. Typical Hero-stuff.
I won't spoil you the experience, just so much: The Dungeons are full of weird creeps, and you will learn how to tackle them via trying & dying. Luckily the game is so addicting, you'll get straight back to play some more without getting overly frustrated, but put your experience to good use instead.

What about the whole other stuff?
While DoD may be punishing (if you choose to make it so), surviving and exploring will lead you to quite a many laughs - from humorous item descriptions, allusions to other games to simple absurdity and comedical brilliance.

So what if I ate that Mushroom...
The Controls are rather simple - WASD, the number keys for skill/item-picking, your mouse, some shortcuts for inventory, characterscreen etc - the usual rpg elements. In the options menu you can turn a few tweaks on and off to make the controls more comfortable.
Judging the user interface gets a bit harder, though, since it is rather small, and scaling has been a more recent addition. From 1600px width you can easily enable the large UI, which makes the game much more accessible on HD screens, and overall more changes, additions and improvements have already been announced.

Overall the game looks Retro. Simple 2D designs make Dungeons of Dredmor a classical Roguelike not only in spirit but also visually. Tile-based 2D dungeons worked well back in the days, and they still work well today, spitting the graphics whores into their eyes.
There are a lot of different sprites in DoD, and I haven't found a single one that looked really out of place - not even vendor machines or angry robots. The whole game is presented in a consistent way, staying true to itself.

One more thing I quite liked about the game was the Music - the tracks are catchy, adding the little extra flavor to the crawling. Sounds are rather simplistic, with hardly any voices but a lot of weapon-clashing. Simple yet effective.

Pricing & Additional Notes
Since the game is so damn cheap as it is (the standard price being mere $4.99), you can easily afford the DLC "Realm of the Diggle Gods" ($2.99) and call it a day.
The DLC adds a few skilltrees, more enemies, more variations and items, more ways to die. It's a package full of win.

I haven't even encountered any bugs so far - the game runs flawlessly for me, and the steady support is impressive, to say the least. Community ideas and requests are being considered and often implemented, interaction with the fanbase is a given.
This makes spending money on Dungeons of Dredmor even more satisfying - knowing that Gaslamp Games genuinely care about their game. There's a lot more to come, almost visible on the horizon.

I won't give Dungeons of Dredmor a rating.
It is a fun game, entertaining til the very last death and feels highly rewarding.
If you ever enjoyed dungeon crawling, this is a game you should dive right into. Should you still be worrying about the graphics - don't bother, this game's not for you.
One thing however is absolutely clear: Dungeons of Dredmor is an excellent throwback to the old times and delivers longtime motivation. Don't let the low budget pricing pull the wrong strings for you - this game does not disappoint.

Dungeons of Dredmor Website
Dungeons of Dredmor on Steam

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