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Dungeons of Dying-a-whole-bleeding-LOT!

Okay as you might have noticed in a post from yesterday me and Tim have been dabbling with Dungeons of Dredmor an RPG by Gaslamp Games.

It’s completely single player and involves your quest to stop an evil Lich from taking over the world, or some shit like that…

Overall it’s a pretty fun game, magic, weapons and plenty of enemies with which to use them on, plus a bewildering array of items with which to customise your champion. Well all in all when put like that it does sound fairly run-of-the-mill. Not so. One of the major things about the game is that it was designed with Permadeath in mind. So the idea behind a lot of it was that if you die: no respawns, no loading the last save, no nothing! Your character is dead, and dead is where he will stay.

It does make for irritating moments of course and Permadeath is one of those things that the later it happens the more irritating it is. After all I’d rather lose 5 minutes of playtime rather that be killed by the last boss (for example) and then realise that if you want to try again you have to play the whole fucking game again! Most of the time that’s not my style but I have to admit, I wanted to try it out as it was designed and I have been enjoying that immensely. I have after about 3 hours of playing, over the course of two days, lost about 6 or so champions in various stages of leveling. I’d thought it would be annoying but really it simply makes you want to try harder, it gives you that “You know what? Fuck you!” feeling of trying to complete the game simply to spite it.

The gameplay is pretty unique out of all the RPGs I’ve ever played. It’s a turn based RPG, and that’s not just the fighting… The way the game works is that every time you use your “Turn” then all the mobs in the vicinity use theirs. A turn comprises of: moving a space, attacking, using a spell or using an item. Whether picking up and crafting items counts as a turn I’m not sure as I’ve never really been dumb enough to try either when there’s mobs about. It certainly adds a small element of strategy to the game as you can take however long you need to plan your next move, even when surrounded by enemies, whether you’re debating using one spell or your sword or whether or not you should drink a potion now you can take as long as you need. It’s quite a change of pace from other RPGs like Fallout or Fable where the fighting is fast paced, so it’s good if you feel like a fairly relaxed gaming session.

My gaming style means I don’t really think about the moves I do, I just tend to wander about and when it comes to a fight I just do as I please, so again fairly relaxed.

When you start the game you choose seven skill trees for your character (stuff like axe wielding, magic, armour wielding, crafting… the usual stuff) and as you progress through the game you improve your character in the usual RPG style by putting points into the trees. You also, again in classic RPG style, go around improving your gear to the biggest extent you can at any given moment.

The game is set inside a massive dungeon (surprise surprise) so you will always have four walls around you, and while you can explore to your hearts content, it is definitely closed in. You get further in the game by going down stairs to the next level where there are harder monsters and, you hope, better loot. Each floor in the dungeon is randomly generated, so if you are on floor two and die, the next time you reach floor two it will be a completely different floor two than the last one. Item placement, NPC placement, quests, everything pretty much is randomly generated on each floor, so there is a lot of variety to each of your champions adventures (not just the champion himself).

Now it does say in the tutorial that it’s a very difficult thing to reach the end of the game and you can expect a lot of deaths before you manage (and it probably means a whoooooooooole lot) so for those of us who actually feel the need to complete the game and don’t really like the idea of losing all their progress then the Permadeath can be switched off (a useful feature there). Basically I have enjoyed playing it a lot and I think it’s certainly a solid game but I can’t really give it MUCH more praise due to a few things which I dislike about it.

The major problem as I see it is the randomness of the dungeon. In any game when I die I try to learn from my mistake. In any game where I die I will think straight away: “Right I need to stay away from the guy holding the fucking massive axe!” And then I’ll load, try again while staying away from the guy with the fucking massive axe and lo and behold I might survive the encounter that time. In Dredmor, you can’t do this. Every single time you start a new character you can forget all that you know from your previous character because all the rooms on every floor will be different, there will be mobs in different places and even different items. This leads to some really unlucky and therefore really annoying situations.

Case in point, earlier today Tim was playing on his hero where he had gotten further than ever before and was better than any of his previous champions. He’s exploring the second floor when he approaches and kicks open a door. Behind it is what looks like a few ogres, some Deths, some Zombys (they also spelt that wrong for whatever reason!) and lots of tiny useless level 1 guys. He’s stunned. There has to be at least 15 mobs there, some of which we’ve never even seen before. He tries running away but gets run down after a few steps.

This was extraordinarily bad luck to come across a group that size and he can’t learn from it because the next time he gets to the second floor there might not be any such gathering at all! The random generator is also what I blame a lot of low level deaths on, where what I just described happening to Tim happens to me after opening the first few doors in the game. And then in the next save I might get a decent weapon and be able to enchant it before I even come across more than single mobs.

It could be that I am just not designed for Permadeath games of course. I imagine that if it were all the same, I’d get bored of it EVEN quicker than I would like this. I just can’t help feeling though that the level of difference is simply too much.

One other thing, almost not worth mentioning is that I don’t much like the way stats are done in the game. Clearly in the descriptions the makers were trying to be amusing but in reality all it means is that for some of the stats… I don’t quite understand what they do. The same goes for some items, potions and wands especially, where it doesn’t tell you what the item really does.

It was definitely a fun and well made game but quite simply was not my thing. I can’t recommend buying it or not buying it because for an unusual change I simply can’t say what decision I would make knowing what I do now, I certainly enjoy playing it but also I dislike some parts of it. Really the choice is very much up to you on this one!

Also! Check out my videos on our Youtube channel where I go through a small part of Dungeons of Dredmor on one of my many characters. Here are the links:

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2J_wsiU3YU

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htv9JaBpgBU

Rating: C+

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  1. Tim Mottram
    July 17, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    While i agree with most of this post, I feel you haven’t quite understood the game. (Also please note this can be purchased from steam for the meager price of £3.79)

    You say there is no opportunity to learn from your mistakes, I believe this is simply untrue. As you play through various lives as different heroes you learn more about the game, whether it is what certain items do (There is a lot but not THAT many) certain abilities do, the strength of certain enemies you face. Every time i start a new character i feel more prepared to face the up and coming enemies.

    I also love the perma-death feature though i understand why some people including yourself don’t. It gives death meaning. A reason to be cautious and to hold on to dear life for as long as you can.

    As for the death of my beloved Chuck the Third, although it was sad and frustrating it was interesting. I ran like a coward at the site of this vile creatures and they trapped and killed me. What if i’d stayed at fought like a man? We never will know.

    I love this game. Almost certainly one of my favorites so far this year.

  1. July 19, 2011 at 10:05 am

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