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Legend of Dungeon

"How you feel about this chaos will almost entirely determine your overall reaction to the game."

Over the years I have played few roguelikes, but of course, I'm hardly alone. Though the genre has been around since 1980 when the original Rogue was released, it has not been popular with developers until recently. But even in its resurgence, the genre's permadeath, randomness, and level of difficulty have kept me away. They essentially induce paralysis for me in the turn-based system many roguelikes use. I know I'm going to die if I don't do the right thing, so each turn lasts an eternity while I try to decide what the right thing is. However, unlike those others, Legend of Dungeon is an action roguelike, and that made all the difference in the world for me.

Legend of Dungeon has no story whatsoever. You are simply an adventurer (or four adventurers, if you have three friends who are willing to crowd around your computer screen) attempting to reach the 26th floor of the dungeon to find and retrieve the legendary treasure there. The controls are configurable, and gamepads are supported, so a session full of yelling at three friends to give you that new helmet can be yours if you've got the hardware for it. There aren't many buttons required for each player, but I don't relish the idea of putting more than two people on the same keyboard; a gamepad just feels more natural for this game. Still, as long as one player remains alive, anyone who dies has the chance to avoid the aforementioned permadeath by collecting orbs that will bring them back to life, and that's the kind of perk that makes a little keyboard crowding feel like less of a hassle.

Whether you're playing alone or with friends, randomness is the main characteristic of Legend of Dungeon. The levels are randomly-generated, as are the enemies you find there and the items you pick up along the way. In fact, although you find a rainbow's worth of potions as you progress, even those are randomized at the start of each playthrough. In one play, the inky black potion may put you to sleep, but in another, it may heal 100 HP. The game never tells you what a potion does, even if you've already tried one of that color during the current game, but the developers have hinted that this may change in a future patch.

How you feel about this chaos will almost entirely determine your overall reaction to the game. I've played it quite a few times now, and I've never reached the end, but the intrigue of what items may appear next time brings me back. Will I get a machine gun? A top hat that spews smoke like a chimney? A miner's helmet with a light for dark rooms? Or maybe something else that I've never seen before? There's no way to know, and the creativity the developers put into the items makes it fun to find out each time. Of course, the flip side is that when you don't know what you'll get, every time you play can begin to feel the same and you may feel that there's more luck involved in your success than skill.

The game's visual presentation is another element that could strike some gamers differently than others. It's an intentionally pixelated style, similar to that seen in Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. There's no denying that it is a frequently-used style these days, and that turns some gamers off, but I think it's done well here. Legend of Dungeon's environments and enemies are all clearly defined, and the particle effects fit well with the game's overall look.

Light can play a big factor in your survival, so it's fortunate that plenty of attention was focused into creating a lighting engine that works well. Some rooms are pitch black and, unless you've found an item that provides more light, you must inch forward and watch for any hint of a monster coming near your tiny pool of visibility. And even if you have your own light, is it a helmet, or is it something you'll have to carry in your hands instead of a weapon? Is that worth the risk?

The sounds of enemies play a similar role in your survival, particularly in those dark rooms. Each type makes a distinct noise when they notice you and come to attack, and you quickly begin to recognize common foes. This helps not just in dark rooms, but in knowing how to time your attacks in any room where you're facing a number of enemies. There is no voice acting and only occasional, but perfectly serviceable, music. This might be a negative in some games, but in this one the crucial need to hear the monsters makes the lack of constant music a good thing.

Legend of Dungeon is fun to play, but it's a game that you're unlikely to actually finish without trying a great number of times. And since you can't save your game, each attempt is a fresh start. The question is whether you'll continue to enjoy the game's randomness long enough to attempt it that many times. As for me, it's the kind of game I find myself thinking about when I'm not playing it; making plans for the next round; trying to decide what I could do better and how to progress farther. I'd rate that as a pretty good indicator of success for any game.


© 2013 Robot Loves Kitty. All rights reserved.




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