Digging Tunnels: Delve Deeper

By Kieron Gillen on May 18th, 2010 at 12:27 pm.

Something is happening here. I'm not sure what. I wish games could be clearer with their UI.

The splendidly named Lunar Giant have just released a demo of their Delve Deeper, which is a multi-player turn-based strategy game of mining and dwarf-exploitation. Oddly, the main reference which comes to mind is old CD32 launch-game Diggers with a splash of Worms and a whole lot more friendliness. And that sentence may as well be Plutonian to most modern readers, and Lunar Giant have failed their Indie Game Marketing entry exams by failing to have any footage of their game online, I’ll explain a little more below…

Basically, it’s a 1-4 player game – either you or AI. You all start on the maps, which are basically randomly generated. In a set number of turns, you have to gather as much of the rich stuff as possible. You have five stunties to help you in the task, which can be Scouts (Good at running), Miners (Good at Carrying Lots of Stuff) or Warriors (Good at twatting nefarious things from the depths and/or other dwarves). Each turn, you get a chance to put down one piece of tunnels – so exposing more of the map – and move each of your fellows. While digging the tunnels reveals surprises, you can also see – out in the darkness – tunnel systems which you can connect to. In true Dwarf-Fortress style, the deeper you dig, the better the treasure gets and the worse the monsters become. Oh – plus artifacts, dragons, etc, etc.

In other words, it’s simple but compulsive. With only five pieces and – in the basic game I played – 15 turns, there’s lots of approaches available. The key risk/reward element is cashing out. You have to actually get your gold to the surface for it to count towards your score. There’s shops beneath the surface you can take your stuff to… but they take a slice of your profits, and you don’t get healed when handing it over. So, how much do you press on? If you go too far, you won’t be able to get your stuff back, and it’ll be pointless. It’s areas like this where the make-up of your team really comes into play, with Miner’s six-slots of stuff giving much higher scoring potentials than the others. And as well as just playing against the level, there’s also the opportunity to go into your opponents areas and just try and mess them up by messing them up… IN THE LANGUAGE OF FIST.

I quite like this, in other words. It’s out on the 24th, so you can’t buy the full version, but I suspect the demo will at least tell you whether or not you’ll be interested.

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55 Comments »

  1. lhzr says:

    they don’t even have screenshots on the site.

    is it .. a text-based strategy? does it look worse than dwarf fortress? what’s the problem here?

    it’s like they don’t even hope anyone might be interested in their game so they didn’t bother.

    you made it sound good, though, so i’ll get the demo, despite the devs trying to make me not download it by having their site made entirely out of walls of text.

  2. DrazharLn says:

    Fun fact: I thought at first you were covering the DF mod Dig Deeper because I failed my reading comprehension exams.

    Looks cool, I’m beginning to think that the number of turn based strategy games out there will soon overwhelm my purchasing capability. Just this year I’ve bought access to the Frozen Synapse Beta twice (for a total of four keys), a copy of Flotilla and the Civ 4 complete pack (oh, and another copy of Alpha Centauri, I love that game).

    Also, no game footage? Do they even want to sell any games?

  3. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Downloading…

    I’m also waiting for Legio that should be available this Friday. You guys should check it out. A turn-based cross between chess and wargames (loosely speaking). It’s developed by an indie company, but this time published by Paradox. I don’t see why they won’t issue a demo too. And this time it’s all for the PC. Nothing else. (eat dirt consoles)

    I do hope they pull this one of. I’ve been longing for a game this type. Casual pure strategy, that is. But, it’s still not a full replacement to the DOS amazing game that was Dark Legions.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Ok, after playing it for 10 minutes (will my comment get pulled off?) here’s my BS review:

      I liked it. But don’t see me playing it for more than… 10 minutes. And I don’t think I can convince my multiplayer friends (3 childhood grognard friends with whom I play wargames and the occasional 4x) to play it either.

      But it’s our fault, not the game. I particularly liked the pixelated artwork. I couldn’t avoid remembering Lost Vikings. The game threw me a few years back and it is always refreshing to see this type of 2D graphics.

      The strategic elements in the game seem interesting, but a tad bit confusing. Going back and forth with my dwarves to collect and then return gold is a huge bore the deeper you go into the mine. Maybe they add something in the middle of the game so I don’t need to go all the way back to the elevator, but I didn’t play that far. Opening or closing(?) tunnels to unleash a hord of monsters against your opponents seems way cool. But the combat looked to me so… ugh! I don’t even understand why am I supposed to fight in a strategic game. Mixing genres I suppose. But it’s just a matter of clicking on the enemy icon… so, why should I bother in this automated society of ours?

      Nice looking game. Should be very fun for those who like it (true La Palice quote, I swear).

      This review is accurate and reflects my views of the game in its present state. Yet it doesn’t follow my standards for strategic game reviews. Deal with the contradiction.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Mario: See those tiny little Valve-esque Gnomes? You can sell your gold there. They take a commission, but clearly it saves you a lot of time.

      KG

  4. mrmud says:

    I think the real question is why the dwarves are fighting creatures named after logical operators.

  5. Brumisator says:

    The music in this game instantly made me think of Futurama’s holophonor played badly

  6. smokingkipper says:

    Diggers! My brother and I loved that game on the CD32, we must have spent hours and hours playing it. Although it is strange as I cannot remember a single thing about it.

    • BooleanBob says:

      My sweet Jesus, Diggers was an amazing game. I had it for DOS! Platform/RTS/construction simulator madness with terrifying skeletons that chased you EVERYWHERE. And all for the sake of getting your faction enough money to build a museum to exhibit their world-threatening collection of nicknacks.

    • dan. says:

      +1 for the Diggers love.

      Ah, the time spent playing Diggers, Guardian, Beneath A Steel Sky, Gloom, and SubWar 2050 (and the god-awful Microcosm) on the CD32… Interestingly, all (except Microcosm) were available for the A1200, which made owning a CD32 kinda pointless. :/

    • Premium User Badge Chaz says:

      To my eternal regret, I bought a CD32, I never had Diggers though. I bought that one with the robots, what was it Liberation or something like that? Gunship 2000 was the best game I ever bought for it, but Frontier: Elite II wasn’t too bad either but some of the more complex planet landings would bring the console to its knees.

  7. Tei says:

    I have managed (using incredible browsing skills), to secure this screenshots:
    Big Obscure:
    http://www.lunargiantstudios.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/new_depths.png
    Revealing One:
    http://www.lunargiantstudios.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/NewLevel.jpg
    Seems the view of the map is like a platformer (side view), but the map is divided in generous size hexes.

    • lhzr says:

      oh, i guess the screens explain the.. lack of screens.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      To be fair, they’re maximum-zoomed-out mode.

      KG

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      yeah. The game looks better on the screen. It’s also windowed (or the demo is), which I very much appreciate on 2D games in modern computers. In any case, there’s 3 levels of zoom and the pixels show on the highest level. It still looks pretty. But then I’m a sucker for 2D games.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Mario: Yeah, this is in no way an ugly game. It’s 2d, but has a lot of charm. The pixelation on the zoom is the only thing which would trip people up.

      KG

    • jonfitt says:

      Pixelation? In a dwarf game? People will never stand for that.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      @JonFitt: Yeah! It’d get in the way of the ascii!

  8. jokermatt999 says:

    In the off chance that you didn’t catch it, yes those are the names of the dwarves from The Hobbit.

  9. Dain says:

    Good, not just me who thought of Diggers then. I had it on the Acorn!

  10. Jajusha says:

    Odd, this “1 map demo” has an awful lot of available maps, from 2 players to the 4 players stuff

    • Stromko says:

      And less or significantly more than 15 turns on some of those maps, too. I played 25 rounds on the Mines of Mordia, which seemed quite lengthy enough. Still not nearly enough time to mine out the mountain, but enough for numerous twists and turns and complications.

  11. Wilson says:

    I enjoyed this, but watching all the animations play out is quite tedious (unless there’s some way to skip them that I missed). Love the art and concept, but I can’t be bothered to play many games if I always have to watch all the dwarves slowly run around and slowly beat on things.

    • Jesus says:

      Exactly.
      I love the game and it’s adorable graphics, but seriously, it needs a way to speed things up…

  12. jackflash says:

    Totally off-topic, I know, but Kieron – any chance we’ll get a hands-on of some pre-release code for Operation Arrowhead, soon? Or do we have to wait for a post-embargo full review?

  13. amanda says:

    Anyone remember a game called Diggles (or Wiggles)? An underground Settlers game – well, it was very like Cultures.

    • Redd says:

      Thank you! Thank you, thank you! Every time I’ve seen “The Dig” mentioned I’ve always though of this game I used to love with the Nordic style ‘troll’ people in it but, of course, it was never that game. Then I saw Kieron mention Diggers and my heart leaped… but, again, it wasn’t the one.
      But Diggles!? Wheeee!

    • Wahngrok says:

      I remember the Wiggles being fun but due to some bug I got stuck at some advanced level and couldn’t bring myself to replay that level (or the game for that matter) again.

  14. Tom OBedlam says:

    bah website seems to be broken

  15. Torgen says:

    What the hey? I downloaded the demo this morning on the laptop, now they’ve removed the demo- links point nowhere. Any news on what happened, and why?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I don’t know what happened. Maybe they couldn’t handle the added bandwidth this RPS article forced them onto.

      But there’s something weird with this demo… I’m yet to find any limitations to it. I mean, plays like the real game. I can choose any sort of map and have been playing for quite a long time now without seeing anything that could look like a demo limitation.

      As anyone encountered those?

    • Jajusha says:

      True, the only thing that seems to be missing is the multiplayer and customization. Perhaps the “demo” was one of the final beta versions.

  16. The Stig says:

    The site is back up now. Unfortunately our data center had an outage today that may or may not have been related to the many simultaneous downloads of the demo.

  17. Sanns says:

    I had to give up on this game. It seemed like a cool concept, but the controls are unwieldy and unintuitive–to the point where I just couldn’t bare to play anymore. You need to go through a overly-elaborate menu to select tunnels, then use overly-sensitive arrow keys to select a hex to put the tunnel, and then go through another process to orient the tunnel. Why can’t I just click on a hex with my mouse pointer? Scrolling the map and moving the dwarfs seems needlessly cumbersome as well. The whole thing screams that it was designed for XBox and then hastily ported to PC.

    • Stromko says:

      Reminded me more of a board game, personally, like Carcasonne meets Webs of Gold. I found the cursor key movement of pieces to be a good thing, probably since I didn’t have Show Grid turned on and it helped me orient the pieces better, and I also appreciated that the cursor keys were quick and zippy.

      While I was playing it didn’t strike me as hasty, though I did notice the console control option. If you want to play on one computer with several players, it’s not a bad idea to have a gamepad-friendly control scheme which allows you to quickly pass control between them, to be fair. I did however encounter a glitch when I tried to hit Escape during a dwarf’s movement to cancel his movement– he stopped moving and I wasn’t able to move him or any other dwarf, though the End Turn button did appear.

      Also, I found out more by accident that there were more than 3 pieces available, I didn’t notice the down arrow that let me choose from different pieces in each category. It seems like a non-intuitive way to go about it, actually, why not just let us click (or move the cursor to) a given square and it would automatically choose Low, Middle, or Deep mines depending on what square we pressed?

      It’s a social game, the ultimate replay value is going to come down to playing it locally with other people. If that’s what you mean by it being a console game, then I think you’re really selling PC games short. Online multiplayer may be more competitive but it isn’t as fun as playing games with friends, and I’m glad there’s a few more games (such as this and Cortex Command) coming out that support offline PC multiplayer.

  18. K.Boogle says:

    This game is awesome! And it perfectly soothed my sour mood!

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      I agree- I had a blast with this! I’m glad the “demo” includes such a variety of maps. To my mind this is most like the boardgame Carcasonne (as already mentioned by Stromko).

      After screwing around in a few abortive games I figured out the game mechanics and got down to business- I played through the biggest 4 player map and a couple of the three player maps. I’ve had a few thoughts, and since the game website doesn’t seem to have a forum of its own, here is my brain dump:

      The mechanics are neat: The lantern concept is cool- I like being forced to balance between mining and pushing away the enemy spawn zones. Similarly, the different resources, gnomes, floating eyeballs, and will-o-wisps allow for some interesting decisions. I found on most maps its better to get your dwarfs down deep quickly, and keep them there, and take the seller’s penalties.

      The absolute most fun thing is to connect up “the deeps” and open an entrance into your opponent’s area. On most maps the baddies will come flooding up, and you are able to subsequently open your own entrance and sneak down after they vacate.

      The AI can be challenging one-on-one, but on the big maps the AI often makes stupid decisions. The best strategy for a human player seems to be to stay away from the AI, and let them wear each other out while you go mine for goodies elsewhere. This is particularly evident on a map like Mines of Moria, where the AI seemed to get hung up fighting the dragons, fighting each other, and mining the upper gold areas.

      Lastly, I thought of a whole shwack of things that could be added to this game, including: More dwarf classes, possibly inculding an AOE class or a healer class, the ability to find and equip stat boosting items in the relic slot, undead enemies that don’t stay dead, slime cubes that break into smaller blobs upon death, locked doors with keys to find, teleporters, some bonus scheme to encourage monster hunting, etc etc.

      I’m still trying to work out the best mix of dwarves- I am pretty happy with 2 fighters, 2 miners, and a third miner or scout, depending on the level layout, and game duration.

    • HYPERPOWERi says:

      What RadioactiveMan said.

      Fun and original gameplay and lovely visuals. I’ll pay for the full release.

  19. K.Boogle says:

    I wonder if this game will have multiplayer? Because that would just take the cake. I mean, this game just SCREAMS to be multiplayer, especially with the amount of ways you can screw over the opposing team by building tunnels leading into hordes of enemies.

    • Vinraith says:

      The splendidly named Lunar Giant have just released a demo of their Delve Deeper, which is a multi-player turn-based strategy game of mining and dwarf-exploitation.

      It’s the first sentence.

    • K.Boogle says:

      Ah, see I THOUGHT I read that it was multiplayer, but then since there is no multiplayer in the demo I figured maybe it didn’t have multiplayer, and then when I went back to this post and read “Basically, it’s a 1-4 player game – either you or AI.” I thought I must have made a mistake reading it the first time and oh grumble grumble.

  20. Froibo says:

    Fun game has a board game feel, can’t imagine playing this game long without someone else to play against though.

  21. Langetc says:

    Multiplayer isn’t missing, it’s just hard to find. When you start a game, just pick several teams of dwarves before you click there to play. Boom! Hotseat multiplayer.

    I can’t see any reduced functionality at all.

    • HYPERPOWERi says:

      I’m not sure whether they’ve uploaded a different version of the “demo”, but I’ve got access to one level only, whereas RadioactiveMan seems to have played through a fair few of them.

      Yay for hotseat though!

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Hmm my version has around 10 levels, and I can’t see any reduced functionality at all- The longest matches are 25 or 28 rounds… and I have slider bars to adjust the amount of treasure, monsters, and treasure chests.

      Maybe somebody goofed and some of us got a complete (or more complete?) version of the game? My .exe install file is ~42.2 MB… If this was a big time developer I would happily pass on my version, bank error in our favor, but in this case I am a little hesitant in sharing the full game, if thats what I’ve got.

      Hopefully though, I’ve just got a demo, and the full game has more levels, an online multiplayer, and most hopefully, a level editor tool!

    • HYPERPOWERi says:

      My .exe is 43.9 mb. Couldn’t find a workaround in the config file either. Guess I’ll have to wait for another week! They’ll be getting my pennies in any case.

      Regarding level editor and online play — I’ve asked the same questions on the blog. Stig’s answer here: http://bit.ly/92nYS1

      Basically, level editor was on the cards for some time — they’re polishing it up for a future release.

      No online play — the game is meant to be played solo or hotseat.

  22. disperse says:

    Hmm, requires .NET 3.5 and some other Microsoft nonsense and my laptop refuses to install it for some reason.

    Oh well, doesn’t want me to play it I guess.

    • Markoff Chaney says:

      Be sure to grab XNA 3.1 as well. This one’s well worth the effort to get going, if you enjoy turn based games with a little strategery.

  23. Markoff Chaney says:

    There are two versions of the Demo. The first I grabbed day one and it appears to have unlocked functionality much like RadioactiveMan describes. The second I put on my wife’s machine last night and it only has one level. I no longer have the first demo executable to compare sizes, even though the install sizes seem equivalent. Error, I would say, as the title bar on my box even says Delve Deeper and the one on the wife’s says Delve Deeper Demo. May ethics prevail.

    Well worth the dollars, from what I’ve seen so far, except for the no network multiplayer. My wife’s not big into turn based, so I’m not sure this would get much play from me except for against the AI and they aren’t shining examples of logic and foresight.

  24. pupsikaso says:

    New development! Apparently the game will NOT have networked multiplayer on release. The multiplayer that is promised in the game description is actually just LAN.

    Read in this thread:
    http://www.lunargiantstudios.com/forum?vasthtmlaction=viewtopic&t=10.0

    Which is a gosh darned shame.