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Unexplored's free Dark Ritual DLC is like playing reverse roguelike Cluedo

Unexplored remains one of the best real-time roguelikes out there. Inspired heavily by the tactile but stat-lite Brogue, it inspired a gushing review from Adam, and was one of my Game of the Year nominees for 2017. It was great back then, and thanks to developers Ludomotion’s steady content updates, even better now. Today marks the release of the third and final major free DLC – The Dark Ritual – after a long period of beta testing. It’s an odd one, stretching the game’s story and map-generating systems into an offbeat Lovecraftian murder-mystery.

The Dark Ritual is a quirky bit of design that pushes Unexplored’s excellent dungeon generation into strange new shapes. There’s a world-ending ritual due to happen tonight, and some naughty cultist is going to summon their elder god. Problem is that they’re also protected by this god, and can only be killed one way without dooming the world anyhow. Worse still: There’s multiple cults lurking around this mansion and its grounds, and you’ve got a time limit that ticks down with every area entered. It’s a much wider, flatter world than your usual dungeon, but detailed.

The only way I can describe the end result is reverse roguelike cluedo. You’re trying to find out the Who and Where from procedurally generated hints around the mansion grounds, with many of them being locked behind puzzles or in secret areas. Most clues will tell you who or what it isn’t, but if you’re lucky you’ll zero in on the target. Turns out that the killer was YOU, with the Silver Dagger, in the Ritual Chamber. You hope. It’s a clever spin on an already very good game, and a good reason to dust Unexplored off if you’ve drifted away from it.

The other two DLCs are somewhat more traditionally dungeon-crawly. The Mithril Run is inspired by that famous Lord of The Rings delve into Moria, full of deep shadows, sneaky goblins and orcs, and with a big surly Balrog to throw down with if you can get to the end. The Ripley Run is based on Aliens, giving you a repeating crossbow and a ring of life-sense (a magical motion tracker) and sending you into a deep hive of acid-blooded monsters to kill their queen. Cool as these are, I admit that the traditional delve for the Amulet of Yendor is still where it’s at.

Unexplored is slightly discounted on Steam this week, down to £6.29/$9/$9.

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Dominic Tarason

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