I wanted a catchy catchphrase for when I review a new game, but the fact of the matter is, that happens so seldom that I just picked “New Game +” and left it at that. You’re only going to see it once in a blue moon, so don’t let the lack of originality keep you up at night.
First of all, let me invite you to watch the trailer for the game here:
If you don’t get what’s going on in the end, go watch 2001 Space Odyssey, or at least the end of it.
Anyway, nuff said.
So, there’s a lot of stuff I want to cover about the game. First off, it is a ROGUELIKE. For the uninitiated, there was this one game a long while back called “Rogue,” and it was cool and people have been imitating it since then.
The qualities of Roguelikes are varied, but they do have some in common:
1. You die a lot. Hooray.
2. You learn stuff by dying, or otherwise accomplish objectives that aren’t undone by your death.
3. You have to start from the beginning when you die.
4. The levels are procedurally generated, meaning you never go through the same dungeon twice.
People have called Dwarf Fortress a “roguelike,” but certainly games like The Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy (making a named tip of the hat), and the free Spelunky all fall into that category. If you play any of these games, you will see that the qualities that make a roguelike in no way dictate the qualities of the gameplay, story, or difficulty of the game.
Having said that, most of the time they’re pretty flippin’ hard. See rule #1.
Desktop Dungeons is a roguelike, through and through. You enjoy small trysts in procedurally generated tile-based dungeons in a delightfully old-school setting. And you die.
Over and over and over.
Having said this, the gold you collect by your successes (and the lesser of your failures) can be used to buy upgrades in equipment, character classes and other devillishly delightful things. That is the essence of the game. Simple to learn, difficult to master.
There are also puzzle challenges that test your efficiency with different obstacles, equipment and powers. I should mention that I seriously like this bit, because the only way to beat these difficult problems is to use said equipment in the “proper” way. This means that it’s an underhanded education (underhanded because you DIE SO MUCH) in the finer mechanics of the game.
Having said that, the game is exceedingly difficult, and here’s why. It plays like a much faster game. There aren’t many animations, and damage appears to be dealt and healed instantly. However… revealing tiles restores health (yours and the enemy’s), you can destroy spells for permanent racial stat boosts, and health/mana potions are extremely limited. If you’re a gamer and you’re putting the pieces together, you should have this next bit figured out.
It’s a puzzle game.
Sorry to disappoint. The fast-paced action-y aspect of it is really cool, but as you get past the first levels, you’ll find that “preparing for a boss fight” doesn’t mean killing enemies until you’re strong enough, it means squeezing every last experience point, item, healing point and special ability out of the randomized level so that you have enough resources to take this guy on. It’s one huge puzzle, and unfortunately it takes a while before you can see if you’ll be able to solve it. It’s a well-constructed game, but I feel like it was marketed as something other than it is. This is particularly ironic because, well… it’s a lot more similar to “Rogue” than most of the roguelikes out there. I guess I’ve been spoiled.
But alas. It does mention that you die a lot.
It’s worth mentioning that the game is fantastically sarcastic. Goats, banking vampires and other ironic dungeon denizens abound, and the biting (literally with the vampires) humor makes it enjoyable, even when you die. The retro graphics and nifty soundtrack keep it from getting boring, and even though it IS a puzzle game, eventually you begin running into the same situation enough that the pace of the action begins to increase as you get ahead of the (steep) learning curve.
It’s fifteen bucks, and in the experience I’ve had so far (which is really, really just the tip of the iceberg), I’m gonna say that it’s worth it.
But don’t trust me! Play a (rather awesome) demo on their website! (Unity’s required but hey, that’s free too!)
Let me know if you folks cave and buy it! Other than that, see you Monday!