Gaslamp Games‘ roguelike title Dungeons of Dredmor is nearing release, bringing with it fresh hand-drawn graphics, a sharp sense of humor reminiscent of LucasArts/Telltale Games point-and-click adventures of old, and the great roguelike tradition of randomized worlds filled with all variety of beast and bounty for the player to encounter.
Oftentimes shunned for their unintuitive interfaces and alphabet-soup graphics, I usually feel a bit apprehensive about recommending roguelike games to people I don’t know, but having gotten my hands on a recent beta version of Dungeon of Dredmor, I can say that this is one roguelike I can recommend to both players new to the genre, and veterans looking for a new addiction. Check out the trailer above for a look at the gameplay, and hit the jump if you want to hear about my time exploring the Dungeons of Dredmor.
Upon beginning a new game in Dungeons of Dredmor (selecting the difficulty “Dwarvish Moderation,” for my first game), I began perusing the list of skills I could select from for my character. Looking over them, they began normal enough; Swords, Axes, Archery, Unarmed, but then my eyes came upon such skills as Fleshsmithing and Mathemagic. This could be interesting… I made a mostly random selection, clicking on some of the less-traditional skills, skimmed the intro/background text, and dove into the dungeons.
The first thing I noticed was the interface at the bottom of the screen, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played Diablo or similar games (derived from traditional roguelikes, what would you know). Entirely clickable or assignable to hot-key and filled with helpful mouse-over info, it also has a trait seemingly borrowed straight from Doom: directly in between my health and my mana bars is my character’s face, scowling and glancing from side to side and, as I would soon find out, acting as a display of my current health.
I open the door to my left, and see a small creature that I am informed is a “diggle.” Well, this is kind of cute, I thought as I saw other diggles enter the screen from further into the room, shouldn’t be too difficult. And that was the death of my first character.
Next character, an alchemist with a crossbow, takes a bad hit a few rooms into the dungeon and decides to drink what must be a health potion in his inventory (red = health, right?). That adventurer died soon after when the acid melted away his stomach. Oh, maybe I was supposed to mix it with some of the other beakers in my inventory…
After only a few more tries, and a few more dead adventurers, I finally started to figure it out, and was soon marching through the halls, slaying diggles left and right (little squeaky bastards). Make no mistake, Dredmor is not a “simple” roguelike. Unlike many roguelikes though – and besides the aforementioned clickable interface – it boasts beautiful, hand-drawn graphics: your character stomping around not unlike a Mr. Threepwood, spells causing bursts of smoke and flame, creatures of all sizes, shapes, and colors shambling towards you. The effort put into the art of the game is astonishing, and one can tell that the project is truly a labor of love for its creators.
Another area in which the game provides more than the standard roguelike experience is in its humor. With every item and creature having an informative mouse-over entry, there is a good amount of text, and the developers took it upon themselves to make it worth your time to read it, if not only to inform you, but to get a good laugh or two as well from a bad pun or a witty, self-aware comment or a sudden, unexpected Mortal Kombat-style voice-over. Even the general atmosphere of the game blew my mind in its wackiness: wait, there is a god-shrine to the Lutefisk God?! And you’ll know you need better armor when you’re either constantly gobbling down one of the game’s 10 varieties of life-giving cheese or using a bucket or a safety-cone as a helmet.
But aside from the overall charm of the game, does Dungeons of Dredmor still maintain focus and have a good gameplay system? Yes. And I think this is what roguelikes have needed now for years to bring in fresh new players: a shiny, humorous, and unique coat built atop of the proven gameplay of the genre. Beyond the alchemy system (that I’ve still yet to master), Dredmor also boasts a forging and crafting/smithing system for armor and weapon creation, a tinkering system for the creation of traps, several schools of magic, each with its own costs and benefits, and much more. The amount of replayability this game offers for the player to simply go back through with a new character to experiment and mess around with (and undoubtedly laugh about) a new set of skills is amazing.
Hopefully I’m right, and this draws in people who before now have shied away from roguelikes, but regardless, I’ll be waiting anxiously to dive back into the Dungeons of Dredmor