Friday, 20 July 2012

Completed - Dungeons of Dredmor

Dungeons of Dredmor is a humourous roguelike by GasLamp Games that I ended up obsessing over shortly after it introduced Steam workshop support and the associated "You Have To Name The Expansion" expansion back at the beginning of June.

For reference, the defining characteristics of a roguelike are:
  • permadeath - Your character dies, they exist pretty much only as a high score entry
  • random dungeons maps - The layout of each level is procedurally generated via a random seed. The overall dungeon can have consistent themes (i.e. level 10 is always an ice level) but the layout, placement of monsters and treasures are all random
  • RPG levelling: You get XP and you level up mostly by hitting things with weapons.
  • Turn based: The entire game system is based on discrete units of time that only advance when you perform an action.
There are other common features found in games like ADOM, Dungeon Crawl and NetHack such as starvation as a motivation for continuing deeper, races and classes, and a default display based purely on ascii characters. Dungeons of Dredmor only fills the 4 characteristics I list, and even then only using the defaults, you can turn off permadeath if you so desire.

When you create a character in Dredmor, you pick a name (and a gender if you have the Diggle Gods expansion) and 7 skills. These skills are not all balanced and range from Swordfighting to Veganism and Vampirism, they determine your starting stats and equipment and when you level you choose to advance one of your skills. Some skills work really well together, others don't. I would be surprised to find a viable character that has both Veganism and Vampirism for example, since simply attacking in melee would trigger a significant debuff.

Dredmor's tone is very light hearted and silly. The skills are fairly silly and strange with each ability it grants having its own funny description. This is a game where the final level of the Perception skill is Eye-lasers, you can gain experience for "Heroic Vandalism" and being an archaeologist lets you realise a translation was off and fundamentally change the powers of an artifact.

The game also has achievements for many of the deaths you will face during the game, which is good because you will die, and you will die a lot. Winning the game requires a combination of persistence, caution and luck. Finding great gear at the right time will extend your character's life significantly, finding a monster zoo when you were looking for a place to hold up and heal will put a premature end to a promising character.

The game has a very simple graphical style, it does not even try to show your character wearing and wielding your equipment. It has a set animation for each weapon style and a set of generic spellcasting animations. It is fairly easy to mod, you simply need to know the right xml structure and this approach also makes it easy to add your own items with their graphics. The Steam workshop makes it really easy for players to find and add mods to their copies of the game, in particular Meltdown is fantastic for crafting based characters.

The aim of the game is to reach the final level of the dungeon, either level 10 or level 15 depending on your game mode and kill Dredmor, saving the world for now anyway. I found that the game outstayed its welcome with me on my winning playthrough; I had chosen the longest possible game settings and the dungeon simply went too deep and I felt that I was in the final hour or two of the game for the last 8 or so hours. This is a great way to keep me playing despite becoming increasingly weary of the game.

That said, I spent 69 hours and 30 characters in order to actually finish it. It was overall a fun experience, and definitely worth the $3 it costs to get the complete version on Steam right now.

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