Have You Played… Dungeons of Dredmor?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

We had no idea what a roguelike resurgence there was going to be back when brutal yet light-hearted dungeon-running RPG Dredmor was released in 2011. Sure, a few were doing the rounds, but they were rare enough that this tongue-in-cheek take on perma-death adventuring seemed ever so special. It still is, even if what it’s doing seems rather more commonplace today. It’s got wit and strangeness as well as a mean streak a mile wide.

If anything, roguelike has given way to roguelite and various experimental branching off the original concept, and while Dredmor takes a ton of liberties with the original formula it is that much closer to the core – i.e. that almost every action matters. Thoughtlessness, impatience or complacency will get you killed, and in this case that means saying goodbye to a character you’ve potentially invested hours rather than minutes in. Going back to the very start of a Dredmor campaign is far more heartbreaking than in, say, The Binding of Isaac or Rogue Legacy.

There are roguelikes which push the suffering and tactical thinking far higher than this does, but I think it’s a well-judged middleground between evil and approachable. It’s got great character classes, too.

52 Comments

  1. Arathain says:

    “Great character classes” sells it short, I think. The game has a large number of professions available. At character creation you pick 6. The number of possible builds is then very large. The professions are bizarre and diverse, and if you can avoid making an axe-wielding, mushroom obsessed, kleptomaniac Communist astrologer then you have a stronger will than I.

    Ultimately, the game can feel a little drawn out and fiddly, since the levels tend to be large and awkward to navigate, and there are way, way too many crafting materials to collect if you pick a crafting class. It can be rather a time sink if you want to get anywhere. I still love it, though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      I love the crafting, and always want to make a crafting character, but I find it hard to actually get enough stuff to build decent equipment.

      I feel like there should be more recipes, and more ways to scrap old equipment for parts (although there are mods for this).

      • drumcan says:

        If you haven’t already done so, try adding Clockwork Knight to your character! I successfully completed a Going Rogue permadeath run with that, Smithing, Tinkering and Alchemy. You won’t know what to do with all your materials.

        • Dezmiatu says:

          The only thing to do with all your crafting supplies is to make sure you have the Conquest of the Wizardlands DLC and dump it all on the floor of your pocket dimension.

          • willjin says:

            Pocket dimension was added with Wizardlands DLC, but it’s available with the base game (I spent a period of time without that expansion when it released), but of course, can’t enter the portal thingy WITHIN the pocket dimension without the DLC.

  2. Surcouf says:

    A bit off topic, but does anyone know of another good rogue-like that would compare to binding of isaac, FTL or Rogue Legacy?

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      The game you are looking for is Spelunky!
      If youve played it already, just start searching for roguelites, as they are now fairly commonly called. (Some purists dont like the term roguelike, so it might bother some)

    • Crafter says:

      Crypt of the Necrodancer !
      link to youtube.com
      One of my favorite games of 2014, it is still in Early Access but is already full of features, only the last world is missing.
      A good description would be roguelike-rhythm-chess.

    • Chris D says:

      Not entirely sure how to answer the question as those are three very different takes on the formula but I will say that Darkest Dungeon is very good. It’s only just gone in to early access but you could easily not notice that as it already feels polished.

      • Wowbagger says:

        +1 for Darkest Dungeon it is taking up all my time at present. Also Vagante another early access spelunkyesque offering.

      • Surcouf says:

        This looks a lot like a game I would enjoy, but I’m really tired of early access and the likes. I wan to play a finished product. So many times A game was spoiled for me because I played an early version and the bugs/balance issues/lack of content or polish made the game less enjoyable.

        Darkest dungeon does look awesome, but I’ll wait for the release. Thanks for bringing it to my attention though

        • Chris D says:

          Yeah I completely get that. It’s how I feel about most early access games but this one is my exception.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Have you tried actual, real roguelikes? Most of the popular ones have graphics these days, even though playing them in text mode frees your imagination, like reading a book.

      A few I’ve played extensively:

      – Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is my all-times favorite due to the insane number of gods, races, classes and creatures and the varied, well-designed dungeon environments.

      – DoomRL is more lightweight but is really fun and captures the Doom feeling well.

      – Nethack is one of the oldest ones. Doesn’t have graphics by default but you can find decent tiles for it. It’s hard as hell and almost impossible to win without spoilers or cheats, but I love it for the sheer fun of discovery it offered me: what happens if I kick that sink?

      I haven’t tried the following but they have a great reputation:

      BRogue – closer to the original Rogue game, but fleshes it out with a lot of good stuff.

      Tales of Maj’eyal – rather nice graphics and interface, questing system, a lot of content

      Eternal League of Nefia – only play if you like japanese randomist experiments, but the situations that are said to arise in that game are completely insane

  3. deadly.by.design says:

    This game is DANGEROUS.

    By dangerous,I mean I can go without playing it for months, or even a year, but rolling a new character will result in a vortex of obsession. All of my spare gaming time gets sucked up until my crawl inevitably ends in lower-level failure. I’ve yet to beat the game, but I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

    Also, if you like DoD, you might want to check out Dungeon of the Endless. It’s not as complex as DoD in terms of skills and builds, but just as deep with its squad tactics and tower defense elements. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t understand the game’s mix of genres — the basic gameplay is easy to pick up!

    • LandoGriffin says:

      Dungeon of the Endless is really enjoyable. But, it may be best to wait until they get the MP issues like dropping and not being able to rejoin a game in progress, ironed out if they haven’t yet.

      • malkav11 says:

        If you intend to play it multiplayer, which isn’t necessary in the least.

  4. LTK says:

    Going back to the very start of a Dredmor campaign is far more heartbreaking than in, say, The Binding of Isaac or Rogue Legacy.

    That is definitely true, to the point that it significantly discouraged me from playing it any further. A friend gifted me the game and its oodles of DLC, and I enjoyed it for a while but eventually I just got tired of its expansiveness. There’s a metric ton of shit to do, with hundreds of different types of crafting and skills and stats and weapons and spells and so on. Every playthrough is different, but the number of variables is so mindboggling that it doesn’t feel coherent and it just blends together.

    Add to that the fact that every floor takes a staggeringly long time to explore compared to other roguelikes, I would just really prefer playing a roguelike that’s shorter and more focused, which could well be all of them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Velorien says:

      The flip side to its large floors is that there are only 15 of them (with DLC), which is laughable compared to the dozens and hundreds available in the roguelike heavyweights. I would say DoD *is* the shorter, more focused roguelike when compared to ToME, DCSS and the like.

      The other thing is that while the exploration and crafting elements can be time-consuming (I’ll take your word for the former – I’ve never found it so), there are other facets which are so streamlined and accessible as to save a lot of time. For example, the stats and character-building systems are straightforward and decipherable without consulting a wiki, whereas I wouldn’t know what half of ToME’s stats do without all the time I’ve spent on the forums (and even then I can’t get my head around global speed and engine ticks and how to predict when I can make use of that extra tenth of a turn from my boots of speed). So all in all, my experience with this game has been the opposite of yours in terms of time consumption.

      • Arathain says:

        I’m not arguing with you about the complexity of the stats in ToME and the like, but Dredmore’s stat screen is pretty close to incomprehensible. You have a bunch of primary stats and what seems like a couple of dozen secondary ones. They’re all represented by tiny, incomprehensible icons, so you have to check the tooltip for everything. Does the tooltip give you any numbers? No, it just tells you roughly what each stat does. Increasing a primary stat increases some of the secondary ones, but you can never tell if the difference is tiny and incremental or big.

        it makes picking between items a pain. I usually just pick a few secondaries that seem to match my build and chase those.

        • Premium User Badge

          Velorien says:

          Hm. Perhaps my experience has been coloured by… well, experience. I beat the game on Hard/Permadeath (can’t remember what the game called Hard now) eventually, so I probably got very used to the stats by that point. I can’t remember what it was like going in as a beginner.

      • LTK says:

        I should point out that my frame of reference is primarily other ‘roguelites’. Even in a more classical roguelike like Brogue I feel like the pace is much higher, and death comes much swifter, than Dredmor, even though the latter is technically shorter. Same goes for games like FTL, Crypt of the Necrodancer, and action roguelikes such as Nuclear Throne and Teleglitch.

        I don’t exactly know why, but for some roguelikes, death makes me think “I fought bravely and died, my struggle was not in vain as this was a worthwhile experience” and for others it’s “Well that was a waste of my time.” Eventually, Dredmor made its way into the latter category.

        • LandoGriffin says:

          The main draw to DoD originally was that it was more or less Nethack-lite with usable a GUI and the interface not looking entirely like an ASCII title gone wrong.

          link to maroon.dti.ne.jp

          DoD unapologetically plucks the same strings, and certainly evokes the same feelings that a long (non-scum) game of Nethack (Rogue +). If you want to be more black and white than that, you could say that DoD is the original Rouge-likes brother from another mother and not be very far off.

          Of course there’s various ways to add a GUI to Nethack, one recently came out on Steam actually.

          link to store.steampowered.com

          But DoD took something old and made it new. Certainly why I tend to go back to it over the various other games which are actually like Rogue.

    • wu wei says:

      every floor takes a staggeringly long time to explore compared to other roguelikes

      There’s also the small-level mode which scales up XP gain to compensate.

      • malkav11 says:

        Unfortunately it doesn’t really compensate for the dramatically lower amount of loot.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      It manages to be weirdly samey despite bursting at the seams with all kinds of miscellaneous stuff, too. I’ve enjoyed a lot of roguelikes, but despite being the most attractively presented one I’ve ever seen, for me this fell firmly into the “like a roguelike, except not actually good” category with a handful of other novelty items like DoomRL.

  5. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Great game with great humour. A really nice starting point for rogue likes. A bit easy in places, and suffers like most roguelikes do from having to repeat the starting part again and again.

    But choosing your own class was done incredibly well, and if you ever got too good at the game, you could make yourself some challenge runs very easily with the class system.

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Speaking of the humor, DoD also has some of the best/funniest achievements on Steam.

      You Know What Time It Is
      Equip the Parachute Pants and the Warhammer.

      link to steamcommunity.com

      • Frosty840 says:

        I don’t think anything is going to beat Civ5’s “Poland Can Into Space” achievement for me, but Dredmor’s can be pretty decent.

  6. Jams O'Donnell says:

    The game’s install size is tiny, meaning that it never gets deleted from my PC. It’s the only PC roguelike I’ve been able to get into, and I love it.

    I really appreciate that the easier difficulties are actually pretty fun for a casual playthrough — it’s a good way to spend an evening, and the lowered difficulty means you’re never really screwed when you take a randomised set of skills.

    • mortal_vombat says:

      i think those are the reasons DoD is one of my most played games. it so small in size it never occured to me to uninstall it and it’s accessible enough so i can always jump in and play for how ever much time i have to kill :)

  7. Chris D says:

    I can’t say I’m fond of “Roguelite” as the new genre label. It seems to carry the implication that it’s a lightweight or lesser experience than the genuine article. Most of these games are altering the formula but are still just as involved and brutal as their predecessors. (Having said that Dredmore may be the one game that merits the Roguelite label as it’s, intentionally, a more lightweight and accessible experience)

    I’m still personally in favour of Roguelikelike although Procedural Death Labyrinth is also acceptable.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      The day Procedural Death Labyrinth catches on, I will be a happy man.

      …and in games, too.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      I also prefer ‘Roguelikelike’ or ‘Procedural Death Labyrinth’ or, for even greater clarity, ‘Procedural Permadeath Labyrinth’ since the point isn’t that you die a lot but that there are meaningful consequences to death in such games, unlike Rogue Legacy.

  8. phanatic62 says:

    ” Thoughtlessness, impatience or complacency will get you killed, and in this case that means saying goodbye to a character you’ve potentially invested hours rather than minutes in.”

    So true! I can’t even count the number of times I died because I got lazy and just started attacking away without paying attention to my health, traps or enemies around me. I’ve never actually beaten the game, and aggravatingly was once killed by Lord Dredmor himself. But every so often I dive back in for a play, trying out new builds and getting sucked in once again. This was my first real roguelike, and it’s still my favorite. Gaslamp’s humor is bonkers as well. I love the tombstones!

  9. scottyjx says:

    This game was really awesome when I was pretty bad at it and could only make it to the second or third floor. Last time I played, I managed a good build and some good luck and made it something like a million hours in and a million floors down and it’s just the same enemies over and over and the same strategy over and over and the same jokes over and over and there was no end in sight. It just became a really tedious time sink. Still recommend it for those first handful of characters you make. Very charming and funny, but the game lost me with its mid-to-end game.

    • BooleanBob says:

      This was very much my experience of it. The moment I started to make decent headway was also the moment (or, drawn out series of repetitive hours-long slogfests) I fell utterly out of love with the game.

      It was only after this that I managed to blow up a lutefisk cube trying to manage my inventory through the cumbersome UI, and a million angry demons were released, and I couldn’t do anything to stop them spawning, and I know the whole point of roguelikes is that you will die and have lost dozens of hours and it will feel like complete bullshit but this one, THIS one…

      The game was scoured from my harddrive with a brillo pad shortly thereafter. I can’t really say I’ve missed it.

      • scottyjx says:

        Haha, that is, no joke, part of why I stopped playing (the other part being the tedium.) I knew death was *probably* going to come, and I knew it was going be crushing to lose so many hours in that fashion. So I just kind of stopped playing, a version of taking my ball and going home. It’s still on my hard drive, I think. And your demon situation reminds me of multiple runs that were ruined by shopkeepers attacking for reason I had nothing to do with. Oh well.

  10. Baf says:

    Heartbreaking as it may be to die in this game, starting over means an opportunity to try out a different combination of skillsets. And trying out different combinations of skillsets is half the fun of the game, if you ask me.

  11. Anthile says:

    The number one game to unleash you inner socialist, mushroom-farming emo-pirate-vegan.

  12. Rise / Run says:

    My wife and I have both sunk inordinate amounts of time into DoD. She had to delete it from her HDD to make sure she can get any work done at home.

    That said, she’s not a gamer mostly because she finds anything twitchy or time-dependent to stressful and unfun. She really enjoyed the turn-based nature — any suggestions for good turn-based games (puzzle, roguelite, whatever), that might appeal to not-super-gamer types? (Exception: The only non-turn based game she enjoys is the original typing of the dead.)

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Dungeon of the Endless is worth trying if you play on the Too Easy setting. It still has permadeath, but you can pause whenever you like.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Advance Wars! And all things picross – I’m extremely partial to a few screens of Gemsweeper of an evening.

    • Chris D says:

      There’s a load of really great turn based games out there at the moment but off the top of my head:

      Card Hunter – free to play but the good kind
      Invisible Inc. – still early access but already fun.
      Puzzle Quest
      Desktop Dungeons
      Valkyria Chronicles
      XCOM?
      Darkest Dungeon
      Space Chem
      One of the Civs
      Hearthstone
      Qvadriga

      Not strictly turn based but still pretty relaxed:
      Waking Mars
      Sunless Sea
      Plants vs Zombies

      Some of those are for varying values of appeal to not-super gamer types because I’m not entirely sure what that means but there should be something in there depending on what her tastes are.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I managed to kill Dredmor once, a long time ago, when the dungeon was still only ten levels deep. I made it to level 14 twice since then. One time I died to what might have been a bug – I stepped on a trap and then got hit by a large number of trap effects in one go, enough to kill even my pretty durable character at full HP.

    The other time I got overconfident (of course). I thought I could clean out a level of Diggle Hell – and I was right. The demons were tough but manageable and it seemed like I was almost at the end of the level. Then I opened a door and stood in front of Vlad Digula and he murdered the crap out of me (in fact, that was where the overconfidence happened – I thought I could take him for a turn or two).

  14. mitrovarr says:

    If anyone has trouble with the length of the game (it does get rather long and tedious, particularly the expansions, and the length doesn’t fit well with permadeath), there’s an option at character creation called ‘No time to grind’. It cuts the length of the game down to about 1/4, which is a much more appropriate length. You also level more quickly, which helps it avoid being monotonous.

    • Premium User Badge

      Velorien says:

      Fairly warned be ye, No Time to Grind isn’t very well-balanced. It’s entirely playable, but while it boosts xp to make up for the fact that you’re fighting 1/4 of the monsters, it does nothing about the fact that you’re gathering 1/4 of the equipment. So your character will be tangibly weaker overall.

      • mitrovarr says:

        I recently played through the entire game on NTTG 2-3 times and I felt like it was pretty well balanced. The game normally gives you way too much stuff (it can start to feel like inventory management: the game) and NTTG scales it back down to reasonable levels. The only concerns are that it weakens characters heavily based around crafting (since you can’t be certain you’ll get the ingredients you need, and there are fewer places to learn secret recipes) and you can’t be guaranteed that you’ll get any specific item. Although, the game vomits up powerful weapons in huge quantities during the last few levels, so you can be sure you’ll at least get an appropriate one for your weapon skill.

        Switching to NTTG made the game fun again for me. Without it, the game was just so long that I’d get bored long before I got even a single character to the end. To be honest I absolutely can’t believe anyone thought the default length was a good idea.

  15. JD Ogre says:

    Well, Steam says 1187 hours played, which means probably 750 hours (accounting for alt-tab time). So yeah, I’ve played it. Way too much. :P

  16. jrodman says:

    Too bad the game has no proper documentation.

  17. lowprices says:

    This is the game that got me into Roguelikes. Even though it’s mostly given way to an obsession with Spelunky and Binding of Isaac, it’s still my most played game on steam, and a great one to play while listening to podcasts.

  18. Mr Coot says:

    I love Dungeons of Dredmor very much and have played almost 200 hrs of it. I took a break just before some refinements to the classes – and came back to find some were dropped which I hadn’t tried. This meant I could no longer obtain all the available achievements which, being mildly OCD about completing the whole lot for games I like, made me lose heart a bit for it. But the mobs, sound fx and flavour text/story are at a perfectly pleasing level of silliness for me. I would recommend it, espesh as you can adjust difficulty and perma-death to suit your tastes. Diggles forever.

  19. MellowKrogoth says:

    This game has its moments, both of interesting tactical combat and funny jokes (or is it the overabundance of jokes that’s funny?). However it plays too slow compared to classic roguelikes, and their dungeon generation is pretty bad compared to those. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup in particular has an interesting variety of rooms; Dredmor’s levels feel jumbled together. I think having detailed graphics for everything unfortunately reinforces the perception of a big mess. Also their stat system is ridiculous.