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Return To Desktop Dungeons

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The ‘games I keep meaning to play’ list has now reached the proportions of [unkind joke about your mother redacted], but today I finally found time to peer curiously at 10 minute RPG Desktop Dungeons. Kieron previously posted about it here, wherein the gigantic wibbling wimp praised its design but moaned about its difficulty. I have successfully proved myself the stronger man than he, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the balance-tuning patches added since release.
It’s totally My Sort Of Thing (i.e. strategic, violence-fulled mega-compulsion at the exclusion of any sort of interaction with other human beings), but more than that I urge you to give it a shot now if you were put off by its less forgiving earlier builds.

The last update landed just a month ago, and it remains very much a going concern. Winning now feels like a matter of puzzling out the order, rather than lucking into a sympathetic dungeon layout.

To explain rather than presume, actually: its worlds are randomly-generated single screens, populated by monsters of varying levels – your goal is to carve through them all, balancing risk with reward. If you’re level 4, a level 6 beastie is going to be a tough challenge, but there’s more of an XP payout for taking it down now than there would be once you’re a sixer too.

As well as tuning, the religion system makes it that much more conquerable (but still thanks to tactics, not brute force). Pledge your faith to a god’s shrine and you’ll receive piety when certain conditions are met. Alas, you’ll also receive punishment should you transgress their rules. For instance, the Golden Guardian grants big points for slaying the undead, but considers you dishonorable should you take down creatures of a lower level to your character. So, get the ganking XP, or concentrate on earning piety? If you do, you can then spend it on some mega-bonuses. There’s a raft of different gods, each with their own fusiness, and with each randomly generated level offering a lucky dip selection of deities.

In other words, Desktop Dungeons is now easily the game it always deserved to be. I’m a big fan of the unlock system too, which isn’t a hollow matter of bigger swords and different coloured hats, but instead opens up new characters with neat-o buffs and dangerous flaws, plus some stupidly difficult bonus challenge modes – the game’s brutal origins have not been forgotten.

There’s also the fan-made tilesets, which shake-up the top-down look some. I quite like the one that looks a little like Doom, but the one made by Spelunky’s Derek Yu pleased the dev so much that he’s made it the default. For more on that kind of thing – and indeed how to beat the game, which is something I’m avoiding in order to fuel my own arrogance – check out the fan wiki.

You should also eye-imbibe this recent blog by Danny Day, one of the game’s devs at QCf Design, in which he reveals his understandable disgruntlement that someone’s ripping off Desktop Dungeons with an iPhone game. And just as QCf are gearing up for a fancy-pants Unity-powered version with more of a meta-game surrounding it. Not to mention their own iPhone version at some point.

Read, be angry, and don’t buy any DD-like game that isn’t made by QFC. If you really must buy a rogue-like sorta thing on iToys, make it 100 Rogues (easily one of my favourite games of the year, but I’d better not mention it here or Jim will appear with his spiked mace made of spiked maces and… oh. Oh dear.)

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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