Saturday, August 13, 2011

PC: Dungeons of Dredmor

I suppose it hasn’t slipped by anyone that Indie-games are seeing a potential upcoming golden era these days. Consisting of, but certainly not limited to, we’ve been blessed with such great titles as Minecraft, Magicka and Terraria. And now, the latest addition to my collection is Dungeons of Dredmor (DOD)
I’ve had my eye on this game for some time but didn’t buy it till someone specifically recommended it. Being the cheapskate I am, the mere 5 Euros in the STEAM-store was more or less manageable, which is another reason why I’m so fond of Indies.
 The best way to describe DOD is to imagine the lovechild between the board games Munchkin and Order of the Stick. Now imagine this child with a severe case of borderline personality disorder, meaning one minute it cuddles up to you with big, appealing eyes and the next it slits your throat with a concealed dagger while laughing manically.
This is pretty much DOD.
If you haven’t got any experience with any of the former (which is kind of sad, at least compared to Munchkin and Order of the Stick) you could potentially relate to the game’s origin in the ‘Rogue-genre’. If you’re like me, however, you’re pretty much oblivious to what I’m talking about here.
Apparently this genre originated in the old game ‘Rogue’ (not a surprise). A game characterized by being very ugly and very unforgiving, often involving permadeath and strict requirements of tactical sense and intelligence from the players’ part. Additionally, you weren’t really able to rely purely on memory to aid you in your travels, as the dungeons were randomly generated.
About to Cheap Shot the Dragon it seems.
In other words, you pretty much knew that you would eventually get splattered. The real surprise was whether it’d be to a devious trap, a toxic potion or simply a wandering monster.
I try to think of this as the masochist’s Diablo. But then again, I’m just relaying information here. This genre seems to have been way before my time (which is a thing I sadly get to say less and less) so I really should be gracious for initiatives like this.
DOD pretty much manages to do the very same, just looking a lot better. Well, maybe not a lot, but it certainly is more manageable and joyful to our modern, graphically spoiled eyes. As is the hallmark of many Indie-games you shouldn’t really go into this expecting Witcher 2-graphics, but nonetheless DOD does feel light and colorful, which have always been great features in my book. The icons, scenery and monsters are delightfully comical and cartoonish, and it certainly helps bringing your thoughts to formerly mentioned board games.

You generate your character from a wide serious of interesting skills of which you can either chose seven or simply randomize it. In addition it’s up to you whether you prefer a truly hardcore style, with the possibility of permadeath, or go for the “Elves just wanna have fun” easy option. Make no mistake however, even though the lower difficulty will ensure you safe passage through the initial levels, this is a mere delay of death. You will die. Eventually. You're actually congratulated when it happens.
The Skill-system consists of many interesting choices.
The game doesn’t take itself serious in any way.. As you may know from Munchkin and OOTS, you wander in armed with wooden swords, plastic bolts and an impromptu helmet made from a traffic cone. You receive side-quests from the Goddess of Sidequests, you get your very own Horadric fish-cube (that turns things into…fish) and the references are countless. If you live long enough to level up, you get to chose from an array of skills such as “It belongs in a museum!” and the final talent in the dual-wielding tree is “Not Drizzt!”. The game is full of these wonderful jokes that will make you smile and also think about how extremely nerdy you actually are.
If you find it too hard to advance this far, you can go the Gauntlet-way and make sure to eat food to restore health and drink alcohol to regain mana. Luckily for you, the evil Lord Dredmor has placed vending machines at various places in the dungeon, which will happily fulfill your hunger. If you’re lucky you might also wander into random stores run by demons in which you’re able to purchase various items for hard earned gold. Otherwise you might take your luck with the myriad of potions presented in the game, of which not all are truly beneficial.  Some buff you, some heal you, some help you explore.
And exploration is in the high seat since the levels are huge and of course always random. There is a certain bliss wandering aimlessly around, taking everything as it comes or be downright suicidal when wandering into a random teleporter. Names such as “The Theater of Apologies” and “Manse of Loathing” are just examples of the exciting places you will encounter in your journeys, as you dodge traps and battle sinister (and quite weird) monsters. Just like the items these are not to be taken especially seriously, consisting of small beaked golems, puddles of slime, tiny grim reapers and plenty of other nasty stuff.

Make no mistake though. These guys are more than capable of accelerating your unfortunate demise. Luckily, you’re not without means of your own. Among your disposal are formerly mentioned weapons if you’re the brutish type, or potent magical spells such as animated silverware and meat-shields (it’s exactly what it says). You also get to summon living moustaches to aid you, or utilize the game’s crafting system to build traps. Of course this requires you to investigate the dungeon for recipes.

A lot of DOD’s appeal comes from its element of exploration. There is always something to see, experience and try out. It doesn’t really matter if you die, as you’re set for a whole new experience the next time you play, especially if you randomize your skills. For the very same reason, it’s pretty hard to actually say anything more about DOD, except that it’s a pretty decent game. I like to think of it as the nerd’s Solitaire. It’s great for passing time and since there is barely any commitment involved you certainly have a charming little game that you will love for what it is.
Compared to other Indie-games, such as Magicka, I had a great time playing DOD. I still do, of course, and despite my many, many deaths I still love to fire it up for half an hour every day. I assure you there is a lot to see and plenty of ways to die. It’d be such a shame if you missed out on them.
Verdict: 7/10

1 comment:

  1. Big fan of roguelikes myself, permadeath always makes for an intense and sometimes silly experience. I once spent three days building a cabin, hunting game, fishing, smoking foodstuffs and preparing traps for the winter in the Finnish survival-roguelike Unreal World RPG only to die from a combo of eating a badly cooked mushroom stew and a common cold.