What am I playing this Week? Dungeons of Dredmor, Saving your Holiday Wallet

This week I continue our under $10 theme for the holidays by investing some time in Gaslamp Games’ Dungeons of Dredmor. This roguelike dungeon crawler has been a Steam staple for quite some time, and has actually been in my library for a few years now. On steam and in other places you can find this game for five dollars, but has come out with a couple of expansions over the years. With expansions, this game is a touch over our $10 cap, but even the basic game is worth the price of admission.

Like most roguelike crawlers, the concept behind Dungeons of Dredmor is a very simple one. You create a character, stock your character with a combination of skills and abilities, and then try to hack and slash your way to the bottom of the dungeon to find the boss, in this case the lich Dredmor, whom has resurrected again. This seems like a regular occurrence, and there is no end to the supply of dungeon crawlers (IE you,) to travel down into the depths and hopefully put him down for another few, or perhaps few hundred years.

Coming out in 2011, Dungeons of Dredmor was rather one of the earlier incarnations of indie games that made it to the Steam platform successfully. This was before Steam Greenlight, and before you could commonly buy pre-release alpha, beta and other indie games. The mechanics are very simple in the dungeon. Every move or action is a turn, and both you, and the dungeon monsters get an action on each turn. In practice, it moves very smoothly. The game’s graphics are simple and easy to get into, the monsters are cute and have plenty of references to your favorite geeky topics and history, and there are enough skills to give you an almost endless variety of combinations for your character. Like many dungeon crawlers, there is a crafting system as well, though if you do not have the appropriate skill at character creation you are really limited on what you can make. You have the choice of either picking your skills, or selecting them randomly. You can create some rather evil combos with the in-game skills, but when you choose random generation, you can have some really crazy synergies.

Everything in the game pretty much point or click. There are you standard two toolbars for skills and items, you can use the keyboard for movement, etc. etc. This is a well-defined genre by now, so the controls are rather basic, as they should be for a game that you want to just drop in and have either a few minutes, or a few hours for your play through. Like many indie games Gaslight Games went with a simplified sprite-based art style. It’s not bad, it can get a bit repetitive though when higher level enemies look pretty much the same as the lower level ones, just with alternate colors. Admittedly, this is a symptom with many indie rogue likes, and it didn’t bother me too much.

That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of content though, even if you don’t add the expansions there is an active modder community with fully fleshed out skills, items, rooms and monsters that fans of the game created to enhance the experience. In fact, that’s one of my few complaints with this game, depending on your skill set you’re going to end up with a lot of items that you can’t use. This can crowd the map rather thoroughly, especially if you have zero crafting skills, and so all of those ingredients just…lay there and mess up your dungeon. If you’re like me and prefer some nice tidy stone when you’ve left a level this can be rather frustrating.

It seems every indie game these days has to contain some kind of self-referencing and geek-referencing content, and Dungeons of Dredmor is no exception. Admittedly, since this was one of the first successful indie games out there I guess you could say it was original at the time. Some of the references are cute, others will make you scratch your head and wonder why they bothered including it in the game.

For a long time, Dungeons of Dredmor was one of my staple games, I had it on my home computer, my traveling laptop, probably any place I could see myself using a computer for any significant length of time. That’s one of the advantages of a simple, straightforward, but well thought out game, it works anywhere, and you want to play it anywhere. If you’re looking to get your dollar’s worth with the slim remains of your holiday spending this is a game worth the investment.

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