Have You Played... Guild Of Dungeoneering?
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
There are dungeon crawling games in which you control the heroes and there are dungeon crawling games in which you control the villains. Guild of Dungeoneering [official site] is positioned somewhere between those two posts - you're the good guys, delving deep to cleanse evil, but rather than having direct control of the dungeoneers, you construct the dungeon around them in an attempt to level them up and direct them toward their goal.
I didn't understand the appeal of Guild of Dungeoneering when I first played. Hero characters are divided into several unlockable classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but there is no persistent levelling up or looting. Each run begins with a fresh start and each character resets to level one as soon as they leave the dungeon. I thought that made for a slim game with no sense of progression.
Guild is a slight game, in some ways, but it's much more enjoyable than I thought. The characters don't matter because - and the clue's in the name here - the guild itself is the real character. Each wannabe hero is essentially the weapon directed at a particular dungeon and its boss and the game is as much puzzle as RPG in its later levels. When you're forced to flee from a wildly overpowered monster, building paths to safety and planting distractions in its path, the game is tricky and pleasurable. Eventually you'll need to fight but it's necessary to level up before facing your demons, stringing together encounters against weaker creatures before allowing the boss to catch you.
It's a smart game, delightfully presented as what look like the sketches of dungeons I used to make in exercise books at school, and, more and more often, I find myself loading it up during my lunch breaks.