Roguelike games descend from the game Rogue released in the 80’s and can be identified by their randomly generated layout meaning that each time you play the game runs at least slightly differently. The problem with these games is that they often run toward the very hard end of the spectrum, carrying perma-death, meaning that a few simple mistakes can end your game often before you’ve come to grips with what the game is. Thus I present to you Desktop Dungeon; in particularly the free version still available on their website.
The game takes many of the staples of the genre with you playing the part of a standard fantasy trope as you explore a dungeon, fight monsters and claim gold. The main difference is that the whole game plays out on one screen that starts covered in the fog of war, and is usually over in about ten minutes.
The game starts with five races and four classes to choose from with each affecting gameplay enough to warrant trying each out to find which one suits you best or would at least attract you most this time around, but not enough that you feel like you have to relearn the game. Though perhaps the first thing you notice on booting the game up is the amount of stuff that is blanked out to be unlocked at a later date via completion of levels and run-throughs.
The game itself runs a rough twenty by twenty grid with each monster, hero, shop, brick or so forth taking up one of those squares. You start somewhere around the middle of this dungeon at level one as shown by you stats on the side, the little green number under your character and your general sense of confusion at the world around your blocky little character. From here you must defeat the monsters around you by bumping into them or standing beside them and clicking on them. Combat itself is that simple with hits taking place simultaneously between you and said monster until you run away, triumph or die removing the need for twitch based reflexes or even in a particularly involved strategy. The monsters themselves do not move and every new square uncovered returns some health and mana along with any stray potions you may find, giving the whole thing a puzzle like atmosphere like a game of hearts which may sound strange when you’re playing a Halfling wizard fighting against a super meat-boy parody but trust me.
Whenever you start to run low on anything either pop a potion or go off to explore more of the screen and re-think your position because just as you reclaim lost hit-points in exploration so do the monster who was just beating you to a bloody pulp. This could either mean going to find something hidden in the darkness at a slightly lower level, buying something from one of the shops, acquiring one of the spells left lying around or praying to a local shrine.
The spells are fairly varied and interesting, ranging from first strikes and throwing fireballs to teleporting yourself and monsters around the room. The shrines meanwhile will be dedicated to various deities who will require the player to act in a certain way to receive rewards. This could mean abstaining from magic or shops or not fleeing of beating up anything lower level than yourself. Finding one that suits your current play though style can be a bit tough sometimes but the rewards are often worth it and help out on the harder difficulty settings.
The controls are simple and the spells are varied and interesting enough to keep you amused for the first few games before they become standard parts of your tactics. The game can be easily overplayed to annoyance especially in the early games where you will fight the same few monsters over and over but despite this it still makes a good little puzzle in the vein of minesweeper just with a D&D twist. The graphics are simple and sweet and probably will allow the game to run on almost anything and I would recommend it to anyone who thought any of this sounded fun or at least mildly interesting.