Ten years ago, nobody could have predicted that the word “roguelike” was going to turn into a buzzword. Now, in hindsight, it actually makes sense. For game developers working with limited budgets, making a randomly-generated, infinitely replayable game in the mold of some of the greatest low-budget games of all time has to sound more appealing than making your limitations more visible with a linear game designed for one playthrough. What developers sometimes forget, though, is that randomness is pointless without a good gameplay mechanics and a vision for what the end result of all that procedural generation might look like. Dragon’s Dungeon, unfortunately, is one of these roguelikes, and trying to crawl through its dungeons is sure to leave players anxious to play something better before they even really start.
The main thing that Dragon’s Dungeon has going for it is its amount of content: large levels, multiple classes, a crafting system, and a giant amount of skills and items. Players take their characters down through huge multi-level dungeons, unlocking quests as they level up. The quests provide variations on the standard dungeon crawling, and come with their own rewards. Dragon’s Dungeon’s problem, though, is that the actual dungeon crawling is really tedious. Each level of the dungeon is basically a simple maze, and the enemies are rooted to one place, leaving the player character safe until they choose to approach.
These decisions take a lot of the suspense out of dungeon crawling, but can still work if executed well, like in, say, Desktop Dungeons. Unfortunately, there really aren’t enough enemy types at any given time, and the enemies themselves are mostly interchangeable. In addition, combat with any given enemy is fairly lengthy, with multiple hits needed to fell even a bat. There’s also a “superhit” system, which promises a critical hit if the player taps the screen rapidly on certain hits. These hits are basically always guaranteed to be critical, so there’s not really much point to making the player tap the screen rapidly, which has never been an especially fun mechanic.
The loot in Dragon’s Dungeon never feels satisfying to acquire, and it’s in part because the game forgoes text almost entirely, having you rely on the graphics to get your bearings. When you get some loot, it will only flash on the screen momentarily, so you’ll need to dive into your inventory to see what it is and what it does. The inventory is somewhat clunky to navigate, as is much of the game’s UI, and it often doesn’t feel like it’s worth the time to go see what you just picked up. A roguelike with as little text as possible is an interesting idea, but the way it’s implemented in Dragon’s Dungeon removes the crucial elements that text provides in games like these: the ability to both use your imagination and get your bearings. When everything is just a blob of pixels with no context, the entire spirit of the genre is missing.
Dragon’s Dungeon plays like a game where the development team got so caught up in making character classes, a crafting system, dungeon concepts, and loot that they never got out of the idea phase. The result is a game that feels like it hasn’t fully been brought to life. Take the character system and quest system and put them in a game where the enemies move around and the dungeon has more variety than the bare minimum, and then maybe we can talk, but as it stands now, Dragon’s Dungeon feels less like a poorly-done game and more like a really, really incomplete one.!
Is it Hardcore?
Welcome the dungeon, where none of the enemies move and there isn’t really a satisfying indicator of progress as you go 12 rounds with every enemy you fight.