Review: Dungeons of Dredmor (PC)

A Roguelike for the Rest of Us

I’ve long wanted to develop an interest in roguelikes. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, roguelikes get their name from a game called Rogue (go figure) from 1980 featuring ASCII-based graphics, randomized environments/items/quests, and permanent death. Nowadays, these dungeon crawls have developed beyond their humble origins with tile graphics, usable interfaces, and even options to save and continue after death.

Despite these and other updates bringing this RPG sub-genre into the modern age, my repeated efforts towards actually enjoying one of the seemingly thousands of options out there have all failed. Roguelikes, for all their advances, are still a game for a hardcore set beyond my gaming resume. That is, until I played Dungeons of Dredmor, the new graphical roguelike by indie developer Gaslamp Games.

To explain how the game works to the uninitiated, you control a wonderfully hand-drawn character who can be customized with choices from dozens of skillsets, tasked with exploring massive dungeons, killing monsters, collecting loot, selling said loot, and then doing all that over and over and over. It may sound a bit like Diablo or similar loot-based dungeon crawls, only with one massive difference: this is turn-based, baby!

Oh, turn-based gaming, how I love thee so! You let me casually dip my chips in salsa while I contemplate my next move without any worry for the swarm of monsters just ahead. You let me sip my drink in peace like a gentleman, and idly chat about the wretched state of the economy without a thought given to the pause button. Truly, the biggest loss to RPGs is the demise of the turn-based combat system. Don’t like turn-based games? Think they’re too slow for your modern action-packed gaming senses? Never fear, as it is so well implemented, you will never even really notice. Essentially, the turn-based system operates as such: Every action you take, be it moving from one space to the next, swinging a sword, or picking up loot each take up one turn. This allows the gamer to move at the pace most comfortable for them, and essentially pauses the game when you stop performing actions. Thus, the combat is fast-paced and exciting, the dungeon crawl feels more like a dungeon run, and the game retains a wildly addictive formula that will see you losing long hours of your evenings.

Beyond the gameplay itself, Dungeons of Dredmor is dripping with personality and hilarious writing. The skills are all clever and fun, including magical skill trees in mathematics and existentialism (to name a few). The dungeons have all sorts of neat little features, like posters demanding the capture of our hero or encouraging the monsters to join the armies of the great evil boss monster (whatever he was called). Most everything has randomized names and descriptions (a trademark of roguelikes) producing names like The Aesthetically Pleasing Casino of Codpieces and Zoojocra, the Pitiful Guacamole (actually a cat). Your character will even pull out a handheld gaming system and start playing if you leave him waiting around too long, reminding me of the old Sonic games when a frustrated Sonic would tap his foot and give you nasty looks because you weren’t moving him around (that hedgehog had such an attitude!). I also really enjoyed the character portrait at the bottom of the screen, which would get progressively more beat-up looking as you take damage, a throwback to the Wolfenstein and Doom games, shifty eyes and all.

When all is said and done, Dungeons of Dredmor is really a fantastic game, but considering the ridiculously low price of $5 on Steam ($4.49 while on sale!), any gamer worth their salt would be doing themselves a great disservice by not picking it up as soon as possible. This is a game that will easily appeal to both fans of roguelikes and newcomers alike. It has the option to turn off the permanent death feature for those of us who don’t want to play the first two dungeons over and over again. It includes an easy-to-follow and entertaining tutorial that will teach you the basics while instilling a healthy hatred of all diggles (ugly bird creatures that run rampant in the dungeons). And considering the addicting nature of the game, the cost to hours-of-fun ratio is completely unbalanced in favor of the consumer. With 20 hours of play time thus far, I feel like I’ve hardly begun to work this gem out of my system.

2 Responses to “Review: Dungeons of Dredmor (PC)”
  1. Chad M. says:

    I like the looks of this. Putting it on my Steam wishlist.

  2. Gregg B says:

    You use pixel smoothing! The shame! 😉 I used smoothing at first but found it just muddies the lovely crisp pixel art.

    So far I can’t heap enough praise on this game, it’s accessible, charming, (very) tough if you want it to be, tactical, tense (with permadeath on), and thanks to all the levels being procedurally generated (as is customary with Rogue-likes) there’s a ton of replay value here, especially with all the different skills on top.

    By the way, which skill focuses on existentialism?

    “Oh, turn-based gaming, how I love thee so!”

    Solium Infernum AND Frozen Synapse are turn-based *wink wink*

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