Mazes of Karradash clearly draws inspiration from the early days of the dungeon-crawler genre, hearkening back to the era with a clever loading screen featuring a pixelated image of a floppy disk. In those days, you needed a whole desktop computer and time to commit to your dungeon crawling. Now, that computer is a phone that can fit in your pocket, and with Mazes of Karradash you can dive into that dungeon at any time. This synthesis of old aesthetic and new gameplay results in a solid game that will please both casual and hardcore gamers.
All the typical hallmarks of the dungeon-crawler genre are present in Mazes of Karradash. Your quest is to trek into the darkest depths of the dungeon of Karradash, passing through different levels filled with monsters that get consecutively nastier and more dangerous. Along the way you also find chests filled with precious loot, such as gold coins, potions, and relics. These items come in handy for Karradash’s unique feature: your village.
The thing about Mazes of Karradash is that you shouldn’t get too attached to any one of your characters, they’re almost certainly going to die and never come back. The game has a permadeath system, which is just as unforgiving as it sounds. But your heroes’ deaths are never in vain, because the spoils of their journey go to improving the resources of your village, resulting in future heroes who will be better outfitted for the journey. After an ill-fated round leaves your hero dead, you can use their gold to purchase things like Academies, which allow you to unlock new classes, or Farms, to boost you starting attributes. Other types of loot, like relics, unlock new weapons and armour classes.
This system, while greatly enhancing the replay value, does mean that Mazes of Karradash comes with a bit of a difficulty curve. At the start of the game, you’re limited to playing as only human warriors fighting with their bare hands or rusty daggers, and you’re not destined to last very long. However, with each new attempt at the dungeon and additional races and classes, you start to get the hang of things and can easily move on to more challenging levels of the dungeon.
Having to send in character after character to their deaths just to acquire better equipment can feel like a grind at times, but Mazes of Karradash is just as easy to put down as it is to pick up. Its autosave feature ensures you won’t lose your place, even if your phone freezes, so you can play for short bursts on your lunch break or crawl for an hour or two, depending on your fancy.
Despite the beginning difficulty curve, what makes Mazes of Karradash so playable is that the cost of entry is so low. Combat is based on a simple turn system, and if you are ever confused about any of the icons on the screen, there is a link to an online manual on the home screen of the game, which you can exit to at any time without losing progress. Unlike other classic RPGs, the manual of Mazes of Karradash is hardly dense. First-timers of dungeon-crawlers will have no trouble understanding the mechanics at work, while veterans will likewise be pleased by the game’s faithfulness to the genre.
With their simplistic designs and straightforward gameplay, it almost seems as though dungeon-crawlers were just waiting for a platform like mobile phones to come along. Mazes of Karradash capitalizes on the mobile device’s ability to attract both casual and hardcore gamers, and offers a gaming experience that will please both.
Is it Hardcore?
Retro dungeon crawling gets a mobile update in a simple game that’s fun to play.