Impressions: Dungeons of Dredmor

By Alec Meer on July 15th, 2011 at 2:16 pm.

Bloody typical. I’ve only just kicked my Realm of the Mad God habit, and then another permadeath RPG comes along and imprisons my mind with compulsion, combat and crits. Dungeons of Dredmor, released yesterday, is far closer to the traditional roguelike model, though it’s left behind the complicated controls and key combinations of the genre’s steelier-eyed denizens in favour of something altogether more accessible. But no less punishing.

I’m not quite far enough in to be WITable as yet, which is a really just a cowardly way of saying I’ve been dying over and over again and I won’t feel ready to write at length about it until I feel like I’ve achieved something remotely honourable.

You can sort-of disable permadeath, which entails asking the game to let you load old saves, but while that’s a route to achieving more I know full well I’d only feel like I was cheating. The thrill of a good roguelike is narrowly avoiding death and, when death comes, going out in spectacular/pathetic fashion. So, for me Dredmor is a game about dying – that’s something I’m more than comfortable with, it’s just that I’m dying very quickly at the moment.

Part of that is, I suspect, because I’m trying to do to much. There’s a huge skill tree in there, massively customisable in order to create your own bespoke class, as well the inevitable megaton of loot. There’s also crafting and teleporting and traps and stealing and sneaking and… well, pretty much every RPG feature you care to name, bar talking to the monsters. So I’m getting a bit too distracted by trying to build a new mace or working out how to summon a moustache golem than I am on simply surviving. Which has the added pain of meaning that when I die, I lose a ton of cool stuff I’ve built an unlocked. Sigh.

It looks and sounds pretty good to me, with the exception of its interface not scaling up to 1920×1200 and presumably other high resolutions very well – skill and item toolbars and the like are absurdly tiny and fiddly all the way down there at the bottom, while moving items between your inventory and your paperdoll needs iTweezers. Patch, please. The general interface leaves a little to be desired too, with a bit too much dragging between different menu screens and a crafting system perhaps generously described as like being flicked repeatedly on the nose.

But! I’m enjoying it, I’m constantly being drawn back to it and I’ve got a strong suspicion there’s an awful lot I haven’t even seen yet. Once I’m more accustomed to its ways, I’m fully expecting to have a grand old time with it. More very soon. Meantime, grab it for an asburdly low price from from its current sole retail home of Steam.

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95 Comments »

  1. Redem says:

    Death, death is my constant companion in this game. I’ve yet to make significant headway past the second floor. :(

    Funny though, and it does have the spirit of a good rogue-like underneath, despite the slightly fiddly UI. Much more accessible, too, especially with the removal of the usual food system. No more starving to death :D

  2. zeroskill says:

    Beware of level 3! Its hell down there.

  3. Hentzau says:

    Even discounting the game’s sense of humour – which is amazing and well worth the £3 asking price all on its own – it’s scarily compulsive. I bought it yesterday afternoon and I’ve already wasted five hours on it.

  4. Mr_Initials says:

    Downloading now.

  5. bogeymanuk says:

    After buying it on day one and having it crash after a few minutes of play five or six times I was pleased to see a bugfix patch last night which allowed me to play for a little while longer.
    After 3 hours descending the dungeons with my heroic fifth lumberjack I managed to stupidly get myself killed by some eels in a pool of water which I could have walked around. Ho hum.
    Its a lot like a less complicated Dungeon Crawl which i’ve sunk countless hours into and died in the same stupid avoidable ways countless times.
    I do hope that they make your character actually wear the items that you pick up on your travels, the one-armed leather jacket, flip flops and traffic cone combo I was wearing for a while last night would have looked awesome!

  6. johnpeat says:

    This is amazing – it’s actually sitting in my ‘game of the year’ slot right now, it’s compulsive, fun, sharp, – just all round excellent…

    The ability to disable permadeath will be controversial but I think the game has the depths to permit it (it’s not a bad idea to do it anyway as it will get around crash bugs without total loss!)

    • ttcfcl says:

      Yea, I have turned perma death off and been saving regularly since it crashed on me once. Luckily that was still a level one character. If my current character dies, then I’ll just delete the save. I don’t mind permadeath on my own stupid actions (ie, attacking the salesdemon cause i accidentally right clicked instead of left clicked) but losing my guy cause of something beyond my control is bad.

  7. pakoito says:

    I was on the closed beta-testing and I must say it’s rather gooooooooooooooooooooood and lovely. Same as Desktop Dungeons, it is a good starting into the genre before going to the depths of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

    • johnpeat says:

      I’ve played Desktop Dungeons to death and this is the ideal ‘next step’.

      Slightly less puzzley – slightly deeper – but not the ‘abandon all hope of understanding it’ that most Rogue games can become…

    • Thants says:

      Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is probably the easiest to get into of the old-school roguelikes, at least. And it’s great.

  8. Tei says:

    I have found in a dungeon some propaganda posters. These posters say me (the player) is a monster, that want to kill everybody, and that have a nasty disease. What if is true? What if the player is a nasty assasin tryiing to kill everybody on these well crafted mines? What horrible disease have the player? Why the big eyebrowns?

  9. Cerzi says:

    tagged as “casual” on steam? that doesn’t sound right

    • mwoody says:

      Weeell, it’s not totally off, depending on how you define the terms. It makes sense if you see “casual” – as opposed to “hardcore” – as describing the play experience of the game, rather than the people who play it. Dungeons of Dredmor can be played for brief intervals when you have a spare moment, with these tiny sessions often encompassing an entire game arc (beginning to death). Compare it to something like, say, Dead Space 2, where you can only save at certain points, there’s an ongoing story to remember, you need to remember what you were doing and how to use your weapons, and other things that make it a game better suited to playing in several hour chunks or more.

      That Dredmor is good in short bursts because you’ll rarely SURVIVE longer than a short burst is another story. The terminology is robust enough to support the concept of a “difficult casual” game.

    • johnpeat says:

      It’s completely wrong – ‘casual’ on Steam means light-hearted puzzle games and point-and-click detective things…

      It’s an RPG…

    • pakoito says:

      “Casual” in steam means no big budget title. It refers to the developers, not the game.

    • BadHat says:

      @johnpeat – Actually, it’s both:

      Genre: RPG, Indie, Casual

    • johnpeat says:

      @pakoito – what!?!? are…. you…. on???? :)

      I love the idea of being a ‘casual’ developer but that’s clearly not what it means.

      Casual games – games played by people who don’t play non-casual games – in effect :)

    • johnpeat says:

      Generally speaking, permadeath != casual surely?? :)

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Far too many people associate casual games with casual gamers. Which, yes, speaks to a massive flaw in the terminology, but: casual games, defined simply, are games that don’t require a great investment of time or interest, and which feature simple, accessible interfaces. They often reward such an investment, yes, but they do not require it.

      Torchlight, for example, is a casual game; it can be played in short bursts, requires little investment in the narrative or the complexities of its systems, and has simple, accessible controls. Dungeons Of Dredmor is similar, save that its principal goal is not the steady acquisition of loot, but rather the steady acquisition of knowledge. Sure, it’s difficult; so is Angry Birds. Point is, difficulty is not a barrier to entry, it’s a barrier to progress. Complex interfaces are a barrier to entry. Dungeons Of Dredmor is a casual game because the mechanics of the world are complex and deep, but the basic gameplay is stock-simple.

      Casual gamers, on the other hand, are people who, well, game casually. They like games, but tend to view them strictly as toys for their amusement. They’re the gaming equivalent of people who listen to whatever’s on the radio and don’t give a shit what any of the songs are called, what their lyrics are, etc. If it’s catchy, it’s good enough for them.

    • BooleanBob says:

      The important thing is that nobody in this sub-thread mentioned League of Legends. Good work, everyone.

      Oh shi

  10. mwoody says:

    The first character I ever had get to level 2 soon encountered a “monster zoo”: 100 various tough enemies, all stuffed in one room. He WON. All of them dead. The vampirism skill tree can make you a TOUGH sucker.

    Then he went around a corner and was killed by a single named ooze, in two shots.

    The roguelike, it is strong in this one.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    Screw a character who’s able to talk to the monsters. The only thing that matters is that THEY CAN TALK TO YOU. And even in charming ways.
    Thou art a pimple indeed.

  12. Gepetto says:

    I picked this up last night and am completely loving it. Always thought that the argument against a decent GUI for a Rogue-alike was that it would mean unnecessary simplification of the game itself, but this disproves that. For 3 quid its an absolute steal.

    • Kdansky says:

      GUI quality and mechanical complexity are unrelated. Examples:

      Portal: Complex, and simpler than any other shooter (only one gun and six movement buttons).
      Starcraft 2: Ridiculously complex, yet you can play it well enough for a mouse and about five keys (Ctrl, 1, 2, A, Shift).

      Trying to think of a game that is simple, yet has overly complex controls. Any takers?

      Will pick up the game when I get home. Thanks, RPS, my backlog increases faster than I can play the damn things. I wonder if a 20$ price point wouldn’t have been a good idea. Sure, many would not buy it, but on the other hand, if 20% still do, you’re at a clear gain, and leave yourself the option of sales. I think 3$ is too cheap.

    • Machinations says:

      I only ever played Nethack with Vulture’s / Falcon’s Eye or Crawl with tiles – even DF I use the nice MayDay set.

      Nancy boy, I know.

    • Thants says:

      Crawl has basically the perfect Roguelike interface.

  13. Mr_Hands says:

    I spent five minutes in this game wondering if I can snort aluminum powder and whether that might give me a strange buff.

    It’s amazing how front-loaded the first floor is in terms of insanely awesome loot. Even though I typically only last long enough to get to the 2nd floor, I consistently find excellent stuff that makes me want to play more.

    Also, the Dwarf Fortressian item name generator is fucking wonderful.

    • pakoito says:

      During beta I said several times that it’s a bit bad design to easily get full inventory from crafting items in first floor. Guess they kept it anyway.

    • johnpeat says:

      I get the feeling that it’s all about gauging when it’s safe to proceed down.

      I’ve played some games where I ended-up well kitted on Floor 1 and still dead the moment I hit Floor 2.

      I think it’s a way of offering you the chance of really buffing-up before risking it – or giving people who aren’t quite so good at it something to do for their money :)

  14. Balm says:

    After several deaths I finaly got on the right track, picked nice tallents, found some unusally good artefact sword, plowed through first 2 levels, took a chunk of third, and then, after I vent up to second floor and came back down, game crushed.
    I’m not coming back to it for couple of days at least, if at all.

  15. OJSlaughter says:

    This game is evil! EVIL!!!!!!

  16. bitbot says:

    I picked this up this morning and have been playing it all day, unable to stop. My third character just died on level 4 with a nice score of 72648. It’s not that hard playing as a warrior with alchemy skills… I had 20 healing potions when I died. I just gotta remember to use them next time!

  17. teh_boy says:

    Yeah, this game is seriously fun. And aggravating. And hilarious. And fun. I can’t wait to see what level 3 is like.

  18. Cerzi says:

    This is awesome.

  19. Machinations says:

    Amazing and well worth 5 bux

    I mean what are you going to get with 5 bux, a Big Mac? The eyebrows alone are worth 5$

    There is an incredible amount of attention to detail – truly a gamer’s game.

    When leaving, the “Please don’t go..” from SMAC brought an impish grin to a bearded old gaffer like me.

  20. Fwiffo says:

    I’ve never lasted longer than ten minutes. I love it.

  21. zergrush says:

    Is there any simpler way to put stuff on the inventory? Don’t really like having to put stuff there manually. Tried shift / ctrl / alt clicking and none of those worked ~.~

  22. RichRuzz says:

    Totally loving it so far, and was surprised to find a “roguelike” game just appear on Steam one day.

  23. Gurrah says:

    I stumbled into a zoo of monsters, needless to say I died.

    • EOT says:

      As did I. But not before sending two thirds of them back to Dredmore in bin bags. I completely forgot you could make healing potions…even though it’s in the tutorial. Probably would have survived the fight if I’d had some.

    • Chris D says:

      I survived my monster zoo experience, though it helped that my resistances were high enough that neither Deths nor Electroblobbys could harm me, meaning I could use them for makeshift barriers and fight the rest one at a time.

    • mwoody says:

      There seems to be a monster zoo absolutely guaranteed on level 2, which sort of sucks actually, just from a randomness standpoint.

  24. Torgen says:

    No one has mentioned the Companion Cube in the header.

  25. Spoon says:

    I laughed quite a lot the first time I found bat country, was swarmed and died miserably.

  26. Cerzi says:

    curses! had geared up a berzerker with insane dodge (something like 25 in total). But met my match when I ran into Krombelng the Morning’s Holidays, a rogue AI murderbot. Got trapped in a corner and 2-shotted.

    I was known as Cerzi the Slippery though, thanks to that crazy dodging!

  27. bluebogle says:

    I’m guessing both these points have been made above, but I’m not going to read every single comment, so here goes.

    Best skill tree to focus on early on is the flame based one. Once you have the summonable creature and the fireball spell, the game gets much more manageable.

    As for UI scaling, the developers have said it’s the first thing they will address as soon as they work out a few more bugs and glitches.

    This game is mighty addictive. I don’t even like roguelikes, and I was up til 2 am playing this. Can’t wait to get back to it later today!

  28. Tacroy says:

    I wasn’t going to buy this game.

    And then I saw the player character’s eyebrows on the title screen.

    And now I am sold.

  29. Coins says:

    It’s a lovely game. The only problem I could have with it is, that gear doesn’t show up on your character. Have I been spoiled by graphics?

    • johnpeat says:

      You found the bucket or the traffic cone then? :)

    • Chris D says:

      “Have I been spoiled by graphics?”

      Yes, the only known cure is to play Nethack in the ASCII version until the mere sight of a letter Q brings you out in a cold sweat.

  30. Cerzi says:

    Aw, my level 6 berzerking astronomer psi-monk died of… CTD. After churning through 10 or so characters, this one was really working out nicely, with 10k+ gold and almost at level7… Then bam, CTD. The worst kind of perma death.

    • noom says:

      Periodic autosave in case of crashes should definitely be added if it’s not already there.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Been looking forward to this one for a bit as it looks like it could be another of those games that it’s perfect to fill a few idle moments with.

    Off to buy now.

  32. noom says:

    Ugh. 2 hours into my first game I stumbled into some big nasty, who took me down to 1hp in 3 hits. I then drank an invisibility potion, and he couldn’t find me any more. I was so pleased with myself that, whilst making good my escape, I blindly ran straight into the tesla trap I’d placed a few moves earlier. So much facepalm.

  33. Darwin says:

    Rogue and Eyebrows; what more could you want in a game

  34. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Ah I do love the vindictiveness of these types of games! On one occassion I chose a poor bunch of skills and my only saving grace was my trusty crossbow. Alas, one room I entered on level 1 contained a metric shit ton of enemies but also something wonderful looking called a “bolt of mass destruction” gleefully I headed for this wonderous thing (which looked like some sort of nuclear warhead) inteneding to go out in a mushroom cloud of glory. However in my rush to grap the prize I clicked on it, failing to notice a trap, which my chracter did avoid but in doing so got himself trapped between two enemies and facing the ignominy of death by diggle.

  35. anotherman7 says:

    The game is so full of character, I love it. I’ve yet to make it past the second floor but stacking defense/shield skills seems to keep me alive longer than anything else. Annoyingly I’ve become a bit of a hoarder after finding a horadric lutefisk cube…

  36. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I haven’t actually died yet, which probably means I’m doing it wrong.

    I’d like a transparency feature on the closest walls to your viewpoint, in order to allow for better movement, and some sort of “dump straight to inventory” option for picking up lewts would be nice. Otherwise, mostly it’s pretty cool.

    • Matzerath says:

      Shift+Mouseclick. Pass it on.

    • mwoody says:

      I actually find it easier to just click on the loot, then click on your character.

      Incidentally, you can split off single units from a larger stack by clicking inside the ingredients part of a crafting window.

  37. godkingemperor says:

    Charging for this is bullshit, sorry. There are so many better RLs out there and theyre all free! FREE! And they offer more! Do yourself a favor and play some of them instead.

    • pipman3000 says:

      but how many of them have lutefisk?

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      It’s funny how I often end up paying more for those “free” roguelikes, than I did for this game at under $5 (we’re complaining about the price of games at <$5 now? Awesome.), just to get character slots and storage. Assuming, of course, I'd like to play a game with something slightly better than ascii characters for graphics. Game art costs money.

    • noom says:

      @godkingemperor

      Charging for this really isn’t bullshit.

    • Tuan says:

      Such as…?

    • Kaira- says:

      @Abundant_Suede

      Wait, what roguelikes are those that you have to pay for character slots? Never heard of such things. As to roguelikes with graphics, there are plenty. Stone Soup, Angband and its variants, Nethack, Slash’Em, Powder, Rogue Survivor, IVAN, Dwarf Fortress also has tileset support, ToME and so on, all free and most of them open-source.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      I’m afraid my statement was influenced by Friday night beers, and some hours spent in Realm of the Mad God. Their pay model was on my mind.

      Still, doesn’t seem fair to compare an ascii RL with community-donated tilesets, to someone who wants to make a graphical roguelike. The latter has time/costs associated with all that game/interface art (and possibly music), even if the developer was content to work for free.

      I don’t begrudge anyone a graphical roguelike with an eye towards accessibility that costs under $5, especially if that funds further development.

  38. Zepposlav says:

    Totally medicore roguelike. Play Dungeon Crawler and forget about this game. Srsly graphics junkies…

    • pipman3000 says:

      Why is it mediocre? why can’t you people actually explain why you don’t like the game instead of just shilling for another one?

    • pipman3000 says:

      seriously this is the second time i’ve seen someone call a game shit without explaining why then start advertising dungeon crawl.

      i get it dc: stonesoup is a good game but sometimes you want to play something different like realm of the mad god or this game, and if $5 is too much money to you then you really need to get a job or get on welfare or something because even little kids have access to that kind of money.

      if you live in a country where dollars or euros are hard to come by maybe someone here can help you.

    • Zepposlav says:

      Dude it was me! :D lololol

    • pipman3000 says:

      Dungeon Crawl is a totally medicore roguelike. Play ADOM and forget about that game. :)

    • Nick says:

      I agree, ADOM is where its at. Even if its never updated anymore, still the best roguelike around imo.

    • Kaira- says:

      ADoM is truly the king of roguelikes. Hopefully JADE will be as good, 0.1.1 should be out pretty soon from what I’ve followed on Biskup’s Facebook.

    • godkingemperor says:

      Its not that $5 is a lot of money, its just so antithetical to a genre with a lengthy heritage. It shows the cynicism of the current era of both gaming and internet culture.

      Hell, when did we last see shareware games?

    • Dominic White says:

      Commercial roguelikes have been around for decades, goofus.

      http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/mystery-dungeon-shiren-the-wanderer

      Hell, they just released the sequel to that on the Wii last year. As a full priced game. $5 is nothing compared to that.

    • noom says:

      “It shows the cynicism of the current era of both gaming and internet culture.”

      It really, really doesn’t. £12 mappacks for CoD shows that. £3 indie games do not.

  39. DarkFenix says:

    Finally managed some small degree of success. Cleared the first dungeon level on a crossbow-wielding rogue-type character.

    Increasing your crafting skills early seems to work nicely, I have a steel ratchet crossbow and any tinker-type crafting I do yields an excellent output. Getting enough bolts to do much with the crossbow seems rather difficult though, after quite a nice haul of metal early in level 1 I’ve found very little since. Ah well, on to level 2 where hopefully I’ll find some more resources.

  40. Abundant_Suede says:

    I’m enjoying the game, but I’m genetically predisposed to liking any game where I have a “caddishness” score.

    I also like how your avatar starts playing a handheld if you’re afk too long.

  41. Premium User Badge

    hellboy says:

    I’m very much enjoying this game. Not a huge fan of the graphical style of the game, but the underlying roguelike is quite good!

  42. MartinNr5 says:

    Can I in any way sell items or do I have to throw them away (unless I can re-use them through smelting etc, ofc)?

    [Edit] Yes you can, just drag an item to the shopkeeper. Source: http://www.gaslampgames.com/forum/discussion/77

  43. Blob-World-Eye-Weary says:

    Bah I keep miss clicking on those doors, dam it Dudley when you pull you shit together in these rouge likes. At least there no newts in this game to die to.

  44. dakl says:

    I’m a sucker for anything remotely roguelike and will probably have to go ahead and buy this too. And permadeath, as contradictory as it sounds, is an essential part of the fun – the thing that makes roguelikes what they are, the thing that makes your heart race when you get into a tight corner. no risk, no game.

  45. Premium User Badge

    harvb says:

    Have to agree with the initial thoughts. Great promise, good clean fun for the price, but man the text and interface are just too tiny.