Dungeons of Dredmor ReviewPublisher: Gaslamp Games
: PC, Mac
UK Price (as reviewed): £3.49 Incl. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $4.99 Excl. Tax
Have you met, Bronsky II? He’s a hero, his big brown bushy eyebrows tell you as much. He’s amazing, really. He’s an archaeologist with a nifty hat, he can summon a mean moustache golem and he can do science and he’s a mathemagician. He is also being dismembered by the first creature he encounters in Dungeons of Dredmor: a Diggle, an adorable egg-hatching dolphin/power-drill hybrid.
'Congratulations, you are dead!
' proclaims Dungeons of Dreadmor in merrily bold letters.
This is a game that has swallowed over a dozen similarly dandy heroes of mine. Be it the bushy eyebrowed barbarian and Lutefisk-afficionado Bronsky IV (dead, because he was too proud to escape an army of Diggles, bats and blobs through a Diabolical Portal), or the bushy eyebrowed Bronsky XI, a reformed vampire and necromancer, who was too curious for his own good and was clobbered to death by a robot as a result. In other words: I can’t say I’m even near beating the eponymous big bad Dredmor, but I can’t stop. I can’t stop picking a set of weird skills of varying usefulness for my heroes and wasting life after heroic life in those hand drawn dungeons. Why? What makes losing in Dungeons of Dredmor so much fun?
Part of the reason is its heritage. Dungeons of Dredmor is a modern indie version of a roguelike
, the 80s genre of top down, turn-based dungeon crawlers with randomized dungeons, complex rule sets, gruelling difficulty and, at its most traditional, abstract ASCII-graphics. A genre in which every “D” could mean an end to your heroic “@” and that ultimately spawned both Blizzard’s Diablo games and the more esoteric Dwarven society simulator, Dwarf Fortress. In short: being addictive is in Dungeons of Dredmor’s DNA.
But it’s what it does with its heritage that deserves special attention. And that is: not much, really. Just like with the equally amazing indie shoot 'em up Jamestown
, the developers of Dungeons of Dredmor have realized that in convincing a broad player base of the quality of an odd, hardcore and at times inaccessible genre, requires only updated graphics, a new UI and a few modern additions. The core mechanics of the genre are still just as addictive as ever and remain, stalwart as ever.
So, Dungeons of Dredmor does away with character classes or race. You will always be a bushy-eyebrowed human male - and a dorky looking one at that - but you can customise your avatar through his skillset. Choosing seven skills from Dungeons' sizable list empowers you to dual wield weapons, walk leylines, tinker around all steampunky or summon moustache golems to do your Diggle stabbing for you. In all of this Dungeons of Dredmor keeps a humorous, friendly tone that lets you know that it’s alright if your awesome Drizzt Do'Urden
-like hero got crushed by a mean old blob on Level One.
This level is called The Unsettling Crack of Waffles. Really.
Dungeons does almost everything right: the randomized dungeons, the joy over finding a traffic cone hat or crafting your first plastic chest piece. Still, the hand-drawn character art and constraints of an indie budget do put some limitations on the game. It doesn't matter how much gear you put on your character, how many tentacled crossbow bolts he wields or how accomplished a mathemagician he becomes; he'll always remain a dorky dandy, just like the traditional '@'. The consistency of your character is at once part of the initial appeal and eventual disappointment: in this RPG you can never really evolve.
However, it’s testimony to the fantastically fun and tight design of Dungeons of Dredmor that even this lack can be shrugged off in favour of all the bizarre stories of failed herodom it lets you experience. Congratulations, Bronsky XII., you too are allowed to die in the monster zoo.