Review by Bkstunt_31
"Dungeon crawling with eyebrows!"
I'm a big fan of cheap games, which is why I like Steam and their sales. As a result I have probably 20+ cheap games kinda just sitting on my computer. I swear I'm getting to them slowly. In fact, I just beat a game called Dungeons of Dredmore that you are coincidentally probably wondering about. Well, since you are wondering I can tell you that Dungeons of Dredmore is all about dungeon crawling. And eyebrows. But mostly dungeon crawling. It's actually a rouge-like dungeon crawler. For those that don't know, "Rouge-Like" means that for every action you do, the enemy gets to act. They often involve a grid-based system and are, more often than not, comprised of randomly-generated content. Dredmore is no exception. So if you're ok with the genre let's take a more in-depth look at what you can expect out of Dungeons of Dredmore and whether it's worth your money.
Let's start with the story. So you've got this evil Dredmore guy who is, well, evil. You'll then create an adventurer (male or female) who has the world's greatest eyebrows you'll ever see, who makes it their quest to kill this great evil. And that's about it. Yeah, cheap games aren't really known for their stories. So in a nutshell you aren't going to pick up Dungeons of Dredmore for its storytelling. I will say that the game is fairly humorous regardless. Monsters will often make funny remarks like "You suck at this" or "I'm not even supposed to be here" while they move around and item descriptions are often downright hilarious.
How about that game play!? Well, when you first start a game and make a character you'll have to give him 7 different skills. These skills are picked out of a pool of, oh, about 35 different skills that each fall into either a Warrior, Rouge or Wizard category. You can mix and match these skills to your hearts desire, or just let the game pick out 7 of them randomly for you. Life will of course be easier on you if you pick complementing skills. You'll also have to pick a difficulty level, whether or not you want "perma-death" to be active, and whether or not you want the dungeon levels to be big or small. You can actually make the dungeon levels smaller while keeping the same amount of monsters present, which the game calls its "no time to grind" option. Neat.
From there you're off to the dungeon. The entire point of the game is to get to the bottom floor and confront Lord Dredmore, but you have to survive on the way! As I said, the levels you come across are randomly generated. Monsters are restricted to certain levels (for difficulties sake) as are items, so the random nature won't kill you off or grant you great rewards too fast. As you fight you'll earn experience and gain levels, which lets you pick one of your 7 skills to level up. Most of the monsters you'll encounter fall into the Warrior/Rouge/Wizard category and fighting is as simple as clicking on them until they die. However, since this is a rouge-like game it is very possible to encounter multiple monsters and, since one of your turns means EVERY monster on the map gets to act, it is very possible to get surrounded. In fact, each level has a room called a Monster Zoo which is literally a room full of monsters. So yeah, strategy and preparedness is important.
When you aren't fighting, exploring is a top priority. You'll find all sorts of items to gather and equip. Speaking of equipping items, the amount of armor you can equip is fairly impressive. Chest, pants, boots, hat, rings, gauntlets, ranged weapons, left and right hands. Pretty standard for a dungeon crawler, but most games nowadays don't even bother to do that. There's also just a TON of stats to be aware of. You have your basics like attack and magic power, but then you have two dozen smaller icons for stats on a wealth of information, such as dodging, counterattack chance, various elemental resistance, etc. It's fairly in-depth and a lot to take in at first. In other words, the game's stat-tracking is a micro-manager's dream come true (and I know there are some of you out there that see this as a big turn on!). Crafters aren't left out in the cold either. The game has potions, smithing and tinkering to delve into, complete with parts scattered all around the dungeon and recipes to find. To get the most out of crafting you have to take some skills and invest levels into them (which I never did), but the option is there.
The game as a whole works well. There's a few nit-picky things I could get into. For one the user interface could use some polish. The item bar and skill bars seem too underwhelming and could be more prominent and/or customizable. The pop-up menus and screens, such as for the items, could also be integrated better into the game. There's also some easy key shortcuts that aren't advertised (such as picking up items and making them go straight to your bag) that could be taught to the player instead of, you know, not being told at all, even in the tutorial. Little things like that that a bigger game and company have the time to polish up, but still, as it is, the game works and these things are in the end fairly nit-picky. One thing that ISN'T nit-picky is the game balance. I can personally tell you that the game is unbalanced. I played a fighter/warrior the entire game, specializing simultaneously on overwhelming offense and fantastic defense. By the end of the game I was dodging and counter-attacking so much that it wasn't even fair. Nothing can touch me. Then I get to Dredmore... and get two-shotted. Dead as dirt. I proceed to load up my save and try again and again and I can't even scratch this guy! I'd like to say it was because I was on hard, but no, I was on easy. I eventually learn quickly that a WARRIOR CANNOT WIN this game. I did end up beating the game by stocking up on throwing items and killing him that way while running away all the time but still: this game IS unbalanced and it should be noted. No one enjoys going through an entire game killing everything with their two weapons only to learn you can't scratch the boss with those same weapons and need to switch to throwing weapons for the win. Ugh. That's my biggest gripe with the game play, so take it for what it's worth.
The graphics in the game are fairly standard. Your hero is quite unique with his ginormous eyebrows and monsters are mostly your standard fantasy fare (with plenty of palette-swapping), with the exception of the "Diggle" which seems to be a mole creature with a drill for a nose. Quite clever, actually, and the developer is aware of this as well as the Diggle seems to be a commonly used reference. As you go down to different levels the floors will graphically change. The levels will go through themes such as the metallic floor or the ice floor. Items are fairly detailed in their sprite designs but have no visual affect once you equip them.
The soundtrack to the game is surprisingly good. Much better than I thought it would be. The entire track is synthesized tunes of course, but it's all fairly fast paced and impressively layered. My favorite has to be "Ice Battle" by far. Still, the music changes up while exploring and is pretty relaxing. A good sound track overall. There's little voice in the game but it is there every now and again, mostly when special monsters show up and try to taunt you.
With the game's randomized nature, multiple difficulties and multiple skill sets to try out there is quite a bit of re-playability. I don't know how much you'll want to re-play the game with some of the balance issues, but still. There's also at least three DLC packs that I know of as well as a wealth of mod options on the steam community workshop. The developer also seems to keep investing time into the game as well, which is always a plus.
In the end you've got a fairly enjoyable rouge-like in your hands with Dungeons of Dredmore. Sure the game play can be beyond frustrating at times and they can phone it in on the graphics but the music and vast re-playability options help give the game its charm. If you're into rouge-likes, this decision should be a easy: this is a must-buy. If you're not, the decision is harder. It's still a fairly cheap game so you can't really go wrong, but hopefully this review has helped you out! Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/13
Game Release: Dungeons of Dredmor (US, 07/13/11)
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