Dungeons of Dredmor

If you recall from my Skyrim post, I enjoy difficult games. Merciless ones that make you cry and toss the controller aside not because of a fault in the design of the game, but due to your own (possibly vast) incompetence.

An example of the kinds of shenanigans to expect from Dungeons of Dredmor.

Enter Dungeons of Dredmor, the ridiculously fun, simplistic, and difficult game by Gaslamp Games. Currently a bonus prize if you buy the Humble Indie Bundle at above the average donation rate (currently $4.09), Dungeons of Dredmor is worth every penny (and probably more than 409 pennies).

Dungeons of Dredmor is a “roguelike” videogame. Roguelike videogames are characterised by randomization (think Diablo, Diablo II) which results in replayability, permanent death (think Baldur’s Gate, or hardcore mode in Diablo II), and, in some instances, turn-based movement. Due to their deadly nature, roguelike games are difficult but (designed to be) fun. Whereas in some RPGs where you can spend an hour just making your character, your DoD guy is ready to go in just a few short minutes. Coupled with the short character creation time is a short lifespan: don’t expect to last too long.

You basically dungeon crawl, and it is a ton of fun. It isn’t a cakewalk, though. It wasn’t until I had my seventh guy that I was able to last longer than twenty minutes (I’m reckless, whatever — it took twenty minutes to get through seven guys, anyway), a guy appropriately named Thuglor VII. The character creation process is simple enough: you pick seven skills and that guides your character progression. Kill dudes and smash things heroically to get experience points. Level up, get tougher, fight tougher guys. If you overreach or open a room filled with monsters because the game hates you and wants you to die, expect to make another character (unless you’re some wuss who turned off permadeath). The game is tile and turn based, which means that walking “one square”, opening a chest, drinking a potion, or swinging a sword all take up one turn. In that time your enemies get a turn, too, which they may spend chasing you or running away or attacking you.

My Dungeons of Dredmor high score list

Either I'm not qualified as a dungeon delver or Thuglor is a cursed name.

A nice touch is the pure hilarity of the game; almost every item or monster has a joke concealed in it (including a spot of fungus on a wall that had me laugh on the mouseover when it revealed that the pungent stench of mildew emanates from the wet dungeon walls). It’s hard not to laugh when a Sickly Diggler is clawing you apart, you hit the ground dead and are met with the message “Congratulations! You have died.”

Skill selection screen of Dungeons of Dredmor

If it didn't work last time, why will it work this time?

What I love the most though is the pure simplicity of the game which is itself pure brilliance. You pick seven skills and that’s it — those define your character. There are no restrictions on the abilities you can pick, so even shifting one skill here or there can drastically affect your character. It’s not a class based system but a skill based system, which is awesome. You can play this game with just a mouse, if you really wanted to (though I feel weird playing computer games and not using WASD). Shift-click lets you pick up things right to your inventory (very handy), while rightclicking an ability or item (like a crossbow bolt, hint) allows you to use it. Clicking, as you might expect, makes you attack. My only gripe with the game has to do with its simplicity, however: the graphics. While I think the graphics do a good enough job of depicting what’s going on, your character image remains static and most abilities and spells look just austere at best. On the other hand, though, the game is insanely fun so you can easily look past the graphics.

Dungeons of Dredmore is a tough, but very rewarding game. You need to think on your feet and act carefully if you want to make it through (or you can dumb down the difficulty or even just turn off permadeath). To be perfectly honest, I’ve only scratched the surface of the game (making a rogue-like character…) and haven’t even bothered with the dozens of other options. I’m going to do that now, instead of playing Skyrim.

I read LW’s review over at Transylvanilla after I picked up the Humble Indie Bundle. It’s very good and worth a read as well.

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