By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
DoD (Dungeons of Dredmor, not Department of Defence) is a great rogue-like from Gaslamp Games. With a brilliant art style and a unique sense of humour this rogue-like made accessible is an addictive experience.
The game follows traditional rogue-like rules, however it is a far cry from the likes of Nethack as the gameplay is made infinitely more accessible. Entry into DoD begins typically with the tutorial that introduces the mechanics of the game, and does so very well. Now you’re ready to enter into the dungeon proper, first choosing from the various difficulty options. This helpfully includes three difficulty levels, a toggle for perma-death (leave it on for tense gameplay) and also an option that will shrink the level size. You are then offered a grid of skills which range from the normal and mundane such as Swords, Daggers and the such to the less common Necronomiconomics (the economy of the undead) and The Fungal Arts. There are seven skill slots available, meaning there is a huge variety in the type of character that can be created. Once you’ve rolled your skills it’s time to name your character and choose either the brown-haired male avatar or the red-head female avatar, both equipped with glorious eyebrows of vast proportion.
You will then be placed promptly into the first level of the dungeon, the game then continues along the rogue-like norm as you proceed to explore the dungeon turn-by-turn. The UI consists of an item hotbar, player portrait, magic hotbar, health bar, mana bar and clickable links to various UI elements such as inventory and character sheets. This UI implementation is quite brilliant, allowing mouse users to click their way through the game and keyboard-addicts to belt through interfaces at great speed. The UI windows can be moved around (an interface touch that I’ve loved since Morrowind) and function well, with tooltips providing context to some of the less obvious icons. The whole interface scores well in being very intuitive whilst remaining functional once the game has been mastered, certainly a tad more accessible than Nethack.
The combat is tense and fun; turn-based grid movement combat combined so perfectly with perma-death in creating a sense of tension. The game design can exploit this at times with the occasional ‘Monster Zoo’, I won’t ruin too much in what that consists of but it’s certainly likely to produce the “Oh sh..” response. Health points can be regenerated with potions, however these are rare and your normal healing method will be the consumption of a variety of comically named foodstuffs which give health over time.
The appearance of the gamer is fantastic, a sprite based approach with a great cartoony art style that matches the sense of humour and general feel of the game. The designs of the environments is varied from level to level, moving from classic dungeons to more sci-fi-esque levels and darker dungeons. These environments have loot chests as expected, but also stores vending machines and statues (try giving those a quick hit). In addition there are traps which require disarming, levers to pull, locked doors to pick, all depending on the skills of your character. For example, the picking of locks can be achieved through intricate means using lockpicking skill to open the door or chest, alternatively you can just kick it until something happens. The creatures are equally varied in a fantastic manner, from the now infamous Diggle to robots, genies and many many more. Each new type of enemy represents an unknown threat to your precious single life and must be dealt with accordingly using magic, ranged attack and such or alternatively just running away and levelling on the previous floor of the dungeon until you feel your character is ready for the challenge.
In addition to the regular magic/weapon system the game features a crafting system allowing player to collect materials in their loot, refine them and then construct them into weapons, armour, drinks ,food (sandwiches yum) and accessories. This adds yet more depth and makes crafting skills very helpful as they can allow the player to craft good gear rather than just grind for it in the hope of a good drop.
The sound and music of the game is as close to an audible equivalent to the visual style as is possible. The music is great and even through hours of gameplay and the subsequent repeat tracks it remains ideal (and if it does get old it can be muted). The sounds are also good quality and fit the humorous tone of game perfectly.
Gaslamp Games have shown themselves to be fantastic developers through the process of DoD’s post-release development. A combination of free and affordable DLC release have expanded the game experience in addition to their brilliant integration into the Steam Workshop (for the Steam version). Opening up easy access to an immense modding scene which has seen nothing but support from Gaslamp Games. This is really great to see and the support of the modding scene prolongs the life of DoD whilst creating and strengthening a dedicated community. The mix of free and paid DLC is an interesting approach and not that common, although any qualms over paid DLC is offset by the sheer affordability of it; with two of the three expansions priced at £1.99 (approx $3.00) and the third being completely free. At this point the game is a very refined experience with most of the little niggles from launch ironed out.
The game and its expansions are available from the website through Humble Store integration with the base game costing £3.30 (approx $5.00) and the expansions priced at £1.98 (approx $3.00) each. The website also has the complete pack for £6.60 (approx $10.00). The game is also available directly from Steam and Desura for slightly more. I’m not sure if the Humble purchase provides a key for Steam or Desura, but in the past similar purchases have so it’s likely.
The game is available on Windows, Mac and Linux with all of the distributions listed above having solid integration with all three platforms. System requirements are low, you should be able to run this on just about anything and still enjoy the game as it’s meant to be enjoyed.
Overall DoD is a great game that will have you coming back time after time, creating new character, new high scores and most importantly; new stories of your ventures. The gameplay is fun and addictive, made accessible by a good UI and a fun and humorous style. Buy this now and it’ll continue to provide entertainment, or wait until the next sale season and grab it even cheaper.