Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Preview: Dungeons of Dredmor

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 23, 2011

I have died dozens of times now.  Many times in the first or second room of the dungeon. I’m not so much rolling up new characters as creating the latest incarnation of my last dead character. But those bird-like Diggles who taunt with the creativity of the French knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail have been having a field day at my expense. I feel like the world’s worst dungeon delver.

Yet I keep coming back for more punishment. And laughs.

I’m playing the beta of the upcoming indie graphical roguelike Dungeons of Dredmor.  It’s a game with its tongue in its cheek that takes advantage of its randomness with amusing word combinations and general silliness. The 2D art and animations, the descriptions, the objects, many of the feats (“Fleshsmithing,” “Necronomiconomics,” and “Fungal Arts”), and so forth are filled with humor and silliness that all seems to say, “Don’t take this game too seriously!”

But it wraps a set of mechanics that belong in a pretty serious roguelike. The player must explore a randomly generated series of dungeon levels filled with traps, treasures, and monsters. Everything is turn-based, though an extended lack of input will cause your character to whip out a mobile gaming device and amuse himself. At least at medium difficulty – it doesn’t hold your hand to keep your initial forays in any way easy… or even balanced. In one dungeon, I opened the one and only door leading out of the first room to get swarmed by Diggles with no real hope of victory. Fortunately, that bit of bad luck has proven to be an exception, but the pile of corpses I’ve left in the dungeons are a testament that “survivable” doesn’t mean “easy.” But after leveling a couple of times and picking up some halfway decent gear (and potions), things tend to go more smoothly.

Dungeons of Dredmor lacks the complicated key-chords and ASCII graphics of its kin. In addition, it (currently) does not nuke your save game when your character dies, making it far more “soft-core” than your run-of-the-mill roguelike. In fact, while not exactly user-friendly, its interface is downright tame and should seem fairly familiar to experienced RPG fans. There are certainly places that have been streamlined from some roguelikes I’ve played in the past, but I don’t feel it’s been significantly “dumbed down.” The learning curve is still pretty steep, but the more straightforward mouse-driven interface means that just learning how to move my character and pick up items isn’t a significant part of the challenge.

Part of the appeal of roguelikes for me is the ability to find opportunity in complexity.  Those games don’t tend to reward the brute-force approach of many mainstream RPGs, but rather a cautious approach, sometimes employing the kind of cheap tactics that might have gotten your account banned on some MMORPGs. Dredmor has this, and goes a step further with a deep crafting system. The game is littered with crafting materials and crafting stations for adventurers to build their own gear.

To give the money earned (“zorkmids” – that sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?) some use, shops can be found throughout the dungeon offering a very limited trading options. Those with the archeologist skill line also gain the ability to send artifacts back to a museum (or shadowy government warehouse, according to the skill description) to directly gain experience from the value of the item.

Characters are created not by rolling up stats (though the stats are there) and choosing a class, but rather by picking a combination of skills (or actually, skill lines).  You can build your own perfect class this way. As you gain levels, you gain points where you can advance any of your skill lines to give your character new and improved abilities.

There’s just a lot to the game, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I don’t know if Dungeons of Dredmor is exactly a gateway drug to roguelikes, but it’s married the genre with the conventions of more mainstream RPGs in what for me feels like a great combination. I don’t play the game and think, “roguelike.” I think, “role-playing game.” But it’s an RPG with most of the advantages of roguelikes and few of the disadvantages, filled with plenty of humor.

For roguelike fans and RPG fans alike, this is a game to keep an eye on as it nears release.

Filed Under: Game Announcements, Impressions - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • McTeddy said,

    “Congratulations! You have died!”

    That actually makes me smile.

    While the whole “Dying in first room”, doesn’t appeal to me… I do rather like my roguelikes and this one seems like it could be quite a bit of fun.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Sounds and looks pretty cool. I used to play a lot of Rogue-likes back in the day, but pretty much abandoned them when graphical RPGs started to make more of an appearance.

    The complexity of Rogue-likes was always hampered by the use of ASCII in my opinion. The more complex and rewarding they became, the harder they became to play. Playing some of the more advanced Rogue-likes was akin to having to learn and remember the controls of a fighter jet.

    I tried to get into Dwarf Fortress, but couldn’t do it. I spent a whole weekend, 8 hours a day, just reading guides and experimenting, trying to learn how to play, but it was too complex for me. There was no way for me to remember what all the symbols meant, what I was supposed to press or do, etc. A shame really.

    Dungeons of Dredmor is doing something I’ve always wondered why more people aren’t doing – making Rogue-likes using modern interfaces and actual graphics. Diablo sort of was a rogue-like and was graphical, but since then, I’ve seen few of them. Mainly just tileset mods for ASCII rogue-likes, which do nothing to help the interface problem.

    Heck, my first big programming project was to create a randomly generated dungeon map using 3D tile pieces and randomly populate it with traps and treasures while insuring that there was only one entrance and exit. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it certainly wasn’t so hard that a first year programmer like myself couldn’t pull it off in a couple of months.

    Don’t worry, Jay – Dungeons of Dredmor may have comedy, but it doesn’t have the witty banter of Frayed Knights! You should totally add party-wipe conversations to your game – how funny would it be to have the gang bemoaning becoming ghosts and blaming each other? Or “looking for the light” and it only being a torch? Grousing that another adventurer party is going to loot all their stuff off their corpses?

    Your beta-testers and the public agree – more banter!! ;P

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Working on the banter part. 🙂 There’s a crapload of dialog in the game as it is, but not all of it is banter… or even funny. But I’m not too worried about competition from Dredmor. I think people should buy both games. 🙂

    While they are still not that much alike, I’d say Dredmor is closer to the kind of humor that’s in Frayed Knights than Mark Leung’s game.

    As to my own Roguelike experiences… the one I got into the most was around 1991, called Moria. The game *fascinated* me, and I remember thinking what an awesome commercial game it would be if they just added a tileset and animation to the thing and cleaned up the UI. While DoD isn’t Moria, it’s probably closer to what I’d imagined than some other RL-inspired titles (like Diablo).

  • getter77 said,

    Yep, looking forward to my eventual purchase, especially given the price is to be somewhere under $10 upon the latest word. Wish I had more time to spend on the beta, but it is looking like yet another case of depending on the many various random persons other than myself to have more time and presence of mind to poke and prod it until useful feedback drops like candy from a pinata. Granted, a pinata with a drill on the face, but still.

    LateWhiteRabbit: For your Dwarf Fortress experience that just couldn’t quite hit the notes, I recommend Goblin Camp—not quite the same type of game, but rather targeted in your general direction despite being a rather young project.


  • Iamdisappoint said,

    Way too anime-ish for my tastes.

    Hopefully they’ll have different sprite mods.

  • skavenhorde said,

    My favorite monster quote has got to be, “thou art a troll-whoring sheep-buggerer”

    God I love those potty mouthed little buggers 🙂

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