Available through Steam and playable on both PC and Mac, Dungeons of Dredmor from Gaslamp Games is an addictive and accessible entry in the dungeon-crawling Roguelike genre that features many player customization options, a robust crafting system, high replay value and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.
In Dungeons of Dredmor you play as a hero with abnormally large eyebrows summoned by the king to defeat the evil Lord Dredmor, who is freeing himself after being bound in the depths of the earth long ago and must be stopped before he can destroy the world.
When you start Dungeons of Dredmor, you are allotted seven skill points to customize your character with and can choose from 34 different skills such as weapon and magic proficiencies, vampirism, master of arms and fungal arts, to name a few. You can also have the game randomly assign skill points to your character or choose the skill set you started the previous game with.
Once you’ve created your character, you are dropped into a dungeon that is randomly generated from a pool of pre-made room layouts every time you start a new game.
For those unfamiliar with Roguelikes, the basic premise is that when your character moves or performs an attack action, every monster in the dungeon will make a move or attack as well. It’s part turn-based, part real time and often requires strategic thinking.
There are ten floors in Dungeons of Dredmor, each littered with monsters, traps, chests and loot like weapons, potions and armour. Each floor is quite large: it took me over three hours just to fully map the first one, though multiple staircases allow you to move on whenever you feel your character is strong enough. Floors often have side quests that can be triggered by praying to a statue as well, though your primary goal is to simply survive until you meet Lord Dredmor.
Of course, to survive you need weaponry and Dungeons of Dredmor has a large variety that includes axes, swords and wands, as well as less traditional weapons like softballs and IEDs. Your character can generally use any weapon he finds, though bonuses and passive skills come with using equipment geared towards his proficiency.
Armour is also a must and you can outfit the hero in a number of items like helmets, greaves and rings of all kinds. If you don’t find what you’re after while traversing the dungeons, you can always try to make it yourself.
What sets Dungeons of Dredmor apart is a robust crafting system that allows for alchemy, distilling, smelting and refining of metals, blacksmithing and tinkering. Using equipment that you either find or begin the game with based on your chosen skills and recipes, you can craft weapons, armour, potions and stronger raw materials.
Should you find yourself over-encumbered, you can visit a merchant to unload your unwanted goods and bank some zorkmids, the in-game currency. The merchant will often have better weapons and armour than what you currently have, so it’s advisable to explore each floor and locate the shops, which also act as safe zones.
Roguelikes are often quite challenging and Dungeons of Dredmor certainly can be as well, though some difficulty options allow for accessible experience. By default, the game has a “permadeath” feature that does not allow you to reload your game session and character when you die.
With this turned off, you have more freedom to explore and can get the jump on (or avoid) a room full of enemies that may have dispatched you before; provided you remember to save often. For a truly hardcore experience, you can play on the “Going Rogue” difficulty with permadeath turned on.
You can control Dungeons of Dredmor with a mouse alone, or use your keyboard for hotkeys and quick use of inventory items. The left side of the screen holds a “belt menu” and you will find your spells and skills on the right hand side. You can expand the size of the map or move your main inventory around, but these settings are not saved after you quit a game session.
Dungeons of Dredmor looks like a PC game from the Windows 95 era or something put together with RPG Maker. The tile-based graphics aren’t much to look at, but everything is drawn with great detail, information is clearly displayed and the game has a certain old school charm to it. Status effects are displayed in the upper left of the screen, along with a turn by turn recount of the action. There is a smooth scaling option, but I prefer to play with it off.
A great deal of charm can also be found in the humour of Dungeons of Dredmor and it’s clear it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game over screen reads “Congratulatons, You Died!”, enemies will taunt you as they approach, each area is named in a silly manner and items are named things like “Togzar, the Exultation of Foes”, which happens to be one of the worst items in the game.
Dungeons of Dredmor has some great, catchy music in it that ranges from fantasy-esque to loungy jazz and thumping industrial beats. The squishing and screaming of enemies dying can be a bit grating, and there is also a crude-sounding announcer that tells you when you’ve scored a critical hit or your health is low.
There are a few kinks in the presentation and gameplay of Dungeons of Dredmor, but these usually amount to no more than a small nuisance. For example: your character’s pathfinding isn’t perfect, which leads to some inadvertent trap triggering. The door system creates an odd void of space that you can’t walk on, but enemies can and golems that you can summon often behave erratically, get in your way or stop following you all together.
It should also be noted that even though you can play the game on PC or Mac, it does not make use of the Steam Cloud save game feature, so you can’t just swap devices at will without having to start a new game.
Problems aside, Dungeons of Dredmor is a shining example in its genre that can be both beginner-friendly and an extremely hardcore gaming experience. It should take most players at least 20 hours to complete the game on the medium difficulty and thanks to randomly generated floors and the extreme variation found in the skill tree, it can be replayed multiple times and represents excellent value at a mere five dollars.