Return To Desktop Dungeons

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.)


  1. Kieron Gillen says:

    It’s a great game. Good on Alec for highlighting the unlocking system, which I loved back in March but for some reason didn’t appear to have mentioned it.


  2. Lobotomist says:

    Never managed to get to second level :(

    • pakoito says:

      Explore the dungeon for more lvl 1 enemies. Get the Fighter class and you’ll see their positions from the start.

  3. pakoito says:

    Yeah I read the enraged entry yesterday and insta-twittered it to some indie known faces. Deejoban was the only one answering asking for more info.

    I’m eager to put my hands on the final version and I hope they raise a well-deserved price on the IGN, instead of being punished by the ripoff. The new meta and the new 2D artist are putting a lot of value on top of some well-thought game mechanics.

    PS: Also, the ripoff name takes another well know f2p game.

  4. TimA says:

    Excellent, I definitely must download the latest version, it’s been a while.

    Since you mentioned mobile roguelikes, does anyone know a good one for an Android phone?

    • Schaulustiger says:

      @TimA: Look for Dweller in the Marketplace,it’s quite good.

    • TimA says:

      Oh thanks! It looks great, but I should have added that I am constrained to using a touch screen, which I understand makes roguelikes in general a little difficult… It’s playable but rather tricky. Something like Desktop Dungeons would be simply perfect, ahhh.

    • Koozer says:

      I’ve had a play around with Dweller on a touch screen, it’s effectively turn-based, based on your movement, so it works fine in that sense. On the other hand, navigating the menus is a task conceived by the most cunning of hell’s impish demon-spawn.

  5. Nick says:

    Its pretty great, although with some of the penalties being so harsh and some of the bonuses being utterly useless I rarely ever pick a god now, which kind of defeats the purpose of that system for me.

    On the challenge maps I always take dracul if he is available, pretty much the best god and they never have undead so his penalties don’t come into play unles you use a healing glyph, other than that I take pactmaker but thats it, can’t really be bothered with the others especially the ones than punish the use of magic when the whole strategy of the game demands you use the fireball spell unless you get very very lucky (or are a vampire..). There is a reason the fireball is always present on every map.

  6. Auspex says:

    Love it – managed to unlock everything in earlier version (take that KG!)

    Didn’t even know it was still being updated will have to give it another look when I’m not incredibly busy. It really is great, in my top 10 games of the year /easily/.

    • Auspex says:

      Also, being the inquisitive sort I tracked down the clone, it really is an incredibly blatant copy.
      Damn you barely regulated app store!

  7. NecktieGrins says:

    This game seized several days of my life back in March.

    I got round to thinking about it again and wondering if I’d ever unlock its unlockables. Looks like I pretty much HAVE to pick it up and let it eat yet more days.



  8. Richard Clayton says:

    Ah excellent. Really enjoyed the last update but found the frequent seemingly unwinnable dungeons frustrating: if I know that there is a way and I’ve just played badly that’s fine but to find that the design is against you is quite different. Still managed to spend hours playing though (10 minute game, my arse!). Great fun. However this sounds even better – will give it another go.

  9. Lambchops says:

    This game tided me over as a quick blast job during my final exams and as such I’ve been throwing it in as a wild card in game of the year discussions. Thought the difficulty wasn’t too disastorous the first time; although there were a few too many impossible dungeons I suppose) and really loved how the different combinations of race, character, items, diety and so on forced you to change up your tactics.

    Also often forgotten is the cleverness of having exploration tied to health, but also having monsters recover if you moved away. Really forced you to think about your next move (as did the healing by levelling up trick that let you save those precious health potions for later).

    Gah, you’ve made me go and look for the latest version, start all over again and see what effect the rebalance has made haven;t you? I hope you are pround of yourself Alec.

  10. Keith Burgun says:

    Hey, thanks for the 100 Rogues mention. Lead designer here. Also, worth mentioning – I’m a friend of Nandrew’s (the lead designer of the original Desktop Dungeons) and we added an item that references DD to our game, called “Nandrew’s Goat-Whacker”.

  11. Tei says:

    If you got both hands cut, and you are forced to play with a foot, this is the perfect game. It need a minimal interface, but a maximum fun. I managed to unlock 2 or 3 classes on the old version. I am not good at this :-P

  12. Lambchops says:

    Wow, the religion system has had a pretty big overhaul since the last time I’ve played this. Definitely makes it play slightly differently. Still as addictive as ever!

  13. BobDicks says:

    Wait what’s going on someones been copied what’s happening someone help me I’m lost :(

    • Nick says:

      Some arsehole has cloned their game and is selling it on the iphone.

  14. Bassism says:

    Cool, haven’t touched this since it was originally released. I managed a fair number or unlocks but eventually hit a roadblock. If it’s easier now, I’ll have to give it another run and see what else there is to find.

  15. Brumisator says:

    Why does the Thief look like Hitler (without the moustache) in the default Derek Yu tileset?

    link to

  16. Arathain says:

    If you copy all the files of the new version over your old copy it remembers all your unlocks. Which is nice.

  17. Deano2099 says:

    My game of the year I reckon.

    Actual, properly unwinnable dungeons, on regular, are fairly rare. More common with some classes for sure, and a lot of caster classes are hugely dependent on finding the fireball spell before exploring too far but still.

    A lot of the times what looks unwinnable is just you not being good enough yet. To get an idea, fire up one of the challenge dungeons (they do need unlocking) – they have two bosses and monsters with various debilitating effects. The first time you see one you’d think that it’d never be possible.

    But as you work your way through the game, you get better and start to figure out how to tackle them. Now, those challenge dungeons, I’ll give you, may be unwinnable more often (or maybe I’m just not good enough yet) but when you go back to the early ones, at that level, it’s a rare dungeon you can’t win.

    Two essential things that should define your key strategies that the game doesn’t make explicit:
    1. You get full health and mana back when you level.
    2. You get significantly more XP for killing creatures above your level, and it also means there will be more lower level creatures left later on, which is handy when you remember point 1. I generally find that by level 2, ideally you should always be aiming to kill creatures one or two levels higher.

    The game is balanced around you exploiting these two facts, they aren’t just handy bonuses. Exactly how to best exploit them I’ll leave to you to figure out…

    • Radiant says:

      TALK MORE.


      In all seriousness I am shit at this game and need all the help I can get.

    • Nick says:

      Also to make things somewhat easier, try and find the fireball glyph asap (on most characters anyway) and be sure to save your potions all for the boss unless you absolutely have to. If you are about to kill something that will level you up and you have mana for it left, shoot off some fireballs at your next target to soften it up.

      when you get the poison glyph (via assassin beating the standard dungeon), careful use of it and the fireball can let you kill things much higher han yourself with a bit of patience/luck, you’ll need enough mana for at least one fireball and one poison cast and plenty of unexplored area. You shoot the creature, poison it, explore to get mana back rinse repeat. Can be a bit risky as if you attack anything else you’ll need to repoison before exploring again, but you can skip many levels in one go this way.

  18. Down Rodeo says:

    Oh man, this game is great. It took so much time, I didn’t mange to unlock everything. It’s just so… interesting! Sounds like the gods are rather different, the Golden Guardian made the undead challenge rather easy, sounds like he is slightly less so now.

    I really oughtn’t to play this new version.

    It’s odd, I downloaded the version after the one Kieron mentioned away back when, but never did play it. Frustrating and awesome in equal measures, really. It’s pure brilliance.

  19. ghostwriter says:

    Wow, that was much better than expected.

  20. P7uen says:

    This may sound odd, but I avoided the game when it was mentioned in the forums a week or so ago, because of the graphics.

    I love nethack and I love Minecraft and I love Crysis, but the in-betweeny not C64 but not modern-pixel-art MSPaint graphics just make me nauseous.

    With the new Spelunkified graphics I am desperately willing the download bar to complete!

  21. XuaXua says:

    It’s due to these bastards that I’m addicted to Crawl Stone Soup.

    • the affront says:

      Stone Soup is awesome.
      For anyone who played this, got an appetite for roguelikes and found himself wanting more depth and content apart from the puzzles: go play it. It arguably looks better, has some really great features especially concerning user-friendliness and usability (auto explore, auto travel to user set waypoints, etc) and even also has an only-1-dungeon-level mode.
      link to

  22. Sidewinder says:

    It took a bit of searching, but found the Iphone game

    [No, I don’t think so – Ed]

    It is similar to Desktop Dungeons but surprisingly well done.

    • Polysynchronicity says:

      And by “similar” you mean “completely ripped off with some poor art on it”, I hope?

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      They call themselves Lazy Peon Games. That’s pretty honest, and accurate.

    • Quasar says:

      I’d totally buy an actual iPhone version of Desktop Dungeons, this game is a fantastic time-sink.

    • dTb says:

      Did you read the blog ?

      Nobody should give money to STEALERS of ideas, work, interface, level design and all… this iphone game is a 100% clone made (and selling) without the agreement of the creators !!

      Everybody should wait for the original’s makers version of the game !

      Of course it’s “surprisingly well done” : it’s copied exactly off a game that’s been in testing and continuous development for nearly a year ! Some people make all the work and another one get the money…

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:


      I disagree. The clone seems very well made and doesn’t use any assets of the original game, and nothing forbids game mechanics from being copied. Actually, with the addition of “equpment” actually improves upon the game.
      If QCF feels the need to compete with Iphone developers, that’s their decision. There is nothing that says I can only give my money to one developer, and I’m certain the original has the chance to earn some money should they port it over properly.

    • Lilliput King says:

      MFG: True, but this is like someone doing a cover version of a fantastic, sure-fire hit song before the original creators managed to get their version onto the market.

      In the words of Bob Dylan, it’s like they never even gave them a chance.

      The really upsetting aspect is that if QCF had never released their version for free on the PC the pond scum would never have been able to duplicate it. They’d have done best by not releasing anything or talking to anyone until after they’d released the game. That’s not the kind of world we want to live in, surely.

    • molluskgonebad says:

      Interesting/ironic that you’re quoting Bob Dylan regarding this scenario. Folkster Dave van Ronk had worked up a set of new chord voicings and an arrangement for the old tune “House of The Rising Sun” which he was in the process of trying to get recorded when Bob Dylan went into the studio for the first time. Dylan used Van Ronk’s chords/arrangement before he could get to the studio with it, which kind of annoyed him.

      In turn, the Animals lifted the chords from Dylan’s version and scored a big hit, and reportedly neither Dylan nor Van Ronk could play it afterward without being accused of plagiarizing an Animals tune.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Hehe, interesting. I just remembered it as a line from Theme Time Radio Hour (actually describing a similar situation) and thought I’d quote it out of context for some funtimes.

  23. Berzee says:

    Wow, this game is really unexpectedly engaging. I’m enjoying it quite a bit! :)

  24. MarkSide says:

    Heard about this before, but it didn’t appeal. Played it now and it’s a pretty super-awesome puzzle-type number-fest! Thumbs up.

  25. Matt Roberts says:

    Love it, love it, love it! Managed to do one level as a Fighter eventually, and I was pleasantly surprised at the kind of things that unlocked. Inspired to go back to it now, but looking at the screenies, I’m obviously behind on my updates! Very much hoping the difficulty hasn’t been changed too much – I rather liked how hard it was.

  26. Danny says:

    Played it all morning at work. I feel pretty bad about myself.

  27. Tom says:

    I adore easily accessible (low learning curve/pansy) dungeon crawlers like this, can’t wait to try it out after work. Wish there were more of these around, or I’m not looking in the right place haha.

  28. Tommo says:

    Is the only way to overcome mana burn is through leveling up?

  29. fallingmagpie says:

    This game is hard.

  30. Fuu says:

    This game deserves to win some kind of prize.