I haven’t covered a roguelike in CPCG yet, so it’s about time I fix that. Known for being randomly generated and utterly unforgiving, the roguelike genre is not necessarily one that would go down too well with a majority of gamers.
Permadeath, randomised everything (from starting gear to the effect potions have when you drink them) and the general acceptance that you’re not going to complete the game are the three traits that run through the genre.
Dungeons of Dredmor, however, is a roguelike that’s watered down a little for a less masochistic audience. Permadeath is a choice, there are difficulty levels, your character and starting gear aren’t totally random, instead being being based on the skills you choose when creating your adventurer (more on that in a moment), and potions are apparently labelled, so you always know what they are and what they will do.[drop]Whilst creating your adventurer, you choose seven skills from a selection of 33. These can be anything from proficiency with a type of weapon to being a vampire and can affect gameplay massively.
A vampire, for example, can not eat food (the usual way of regaining lost health over time), but will heal a little bit of health every time it kills an enemy. Burglary, however, lets you steal a random item from every vending machine (which are dotted randomly around the dungeon) you come across, which is nice.
These skills can also be upgraded when you level up, with vampire later letting you heal even more by feasting on the corpse of an enemy and burglary letting you magically pull lockpicks out of somewhere so you’ll have no trouble opening doors or chests.
The skill system brings with it a lot of choices in what to do for your build. Deciding on a type of adventurer and choosing skills to complement and enhance that style will get you much further than choosing some things that sound entertaining (not that I disapprove of that approach, of course).
If you’re choosing magic you’ll need a reliable way to regain mana – perhaps blood mage, which enables you to regain mana from kills? Sword and shield? I’d recommend skill in armour, and anything that increases melee damage or chances of critical hits. The possibilities are varied and numerous, and only enhanced by the moddable nature of the game (more later).
Arguably the most useful skills are the crafting skills. Around the dungeons you will find a great many items, from types of food to ores, ingots, weapons and more. Many of these things can be used in some way to craft something more useful, or at least something you can sell for a higher price.
For example; cheese can be made into grated cheese and then used alongside one diggle egg to make a cheese omelette, which has been my favourite source of health for quite a while now due to the convenience of carrying lots of grated cheese (which stacks) instead of many different types of cheese.
This type of inventory management is very much an important and often frustrating part of Dungeons of Dredmor. You’ll be picking up a lot of items that you won’t necessarily be using but could either be of use later or be worth selling. Prioritising the things you pick up will be important before you’re even beyond the first level of the dungeon, as will streamlining them.
The actual gameplay is almost a typical roguelike. Turn based in that you only move a tile at a time, and time won’t pass (and therefore enemies won’t move) unless you’re moving or skipping turns with the space bar. This obviously makes gameplay quite tactical. Demolishing groups of enemies is easy when you know your skills and what’s most effective, especially when combined with the usual use of bottlenecks.[drop2]Speaking of bottlenecks, should you happen to come across a monster zoo, you’ll want to make heavy use of a door way to limit the directions from which you will be attacked. A monster zoo is a large room that is filled with monsters. These monsters will than try to kill you. Oh, it’s not just a few monsters either, there’s more than 50 in there. You’ll get an item as a reward in addition to anything the monsters themselves drop, so it’s obviously worth taking it on. Just be careful.
You’ll also run into commanders, which are normal monsters, but glowing and far more powerful. A little tactical thinking will come in useful here, too – anything with knockback tends to become my best friend. You’ll often get quests to kill these mini-bosses from Statues of Inconsequentia, which is a statue you’ll come across that can give you an optional side quest.
These quests consist of either killing a commander, finding an item or taking an item to a monolith, shrine of eyeballs or a mellow altar. Again, you’ll get a nice reward for completing them, so it’s usually advised that you do so.
Dredmor wraps all of this up in charming pixelly graphics and delivers it with a reference-filled sense of humour that is persistently amusing throughout the game. Enemies shout vaguely insulting comments as they charge at you, usually referring to you as the eyebrowed one due to your generous eyebrow endowment, items (such as the One Sparkling Glove) often reference real life things, from people to TV programmes, and one of the common enemies is called a diggle. A diggle.
Dungeons of Dredmor is a great game. The base game is funny and deep, and the modding community has already added masses of new skills, weapons and other items to expand upon it.
If you want to exercise your looting tendencies somewhere other than an action RPG or a certain FPS I covered previously in CPCG, Dungeons of Dredmor may well scratch that itch. I am still yet to even reach Dredmor, but have sunk a little too many hours into the game – even whilst I was supposed to be writing this very CPCG.
Dungeons of Dredmor is currently £1.39 in the Steam Summer Sale and it an absolute steal. For another 80p you’ll get the expansion pack with it, which will add some items, enemies and skills for you to play around with, too. That’s only £2.19. The prices will go back up (£3.49 for the base game) on the 23rd July, so you might want to hurry up.