Better put your boots on, there’s treasure to be had on the 26th floor. You probably won’t make it though. The dastardly duo at Robot Loves Kitty made sure there are more dangers than you can shake a +1 mace at, but is the game worth spending countless hours and most of your sanity on?
Legend of Dungeon is a roguelike dungeon crawler that takes no prisoners. The game tasks you with the seemingly simple goal of reaching the 26th floor where gold, diamonds, and other lucrative goodies are just waiting to be hoisted from the depths. Along your journey you’ll be forced to square off against a variety of monsters and traps, most of which will present as simple obstacles. However, with this being a roguelike, not everything is as it seems, and you will often find yourself caught out after underestimating the deadliness of your enemies. This style of play isn’t for everyone, and you will have to shed a good amount of blood before you can stand much chance of reaching the lower levels. Combine that with a randomized layout on each excursion to the depths and you can see why the game appeals to the more masochistic player who likes a challenge.
Throughout each lifetime, you will come across a variety of randomly dropped loot ranging from stat boosting hats to uniquely obscure weapons. On one of my many sessions I stumbled across a Feeble Oculus Rift hat which gave me a handy speed boost, as well as a giant red glowing glaive that would shoot out angry red skulls to seek out my enemies. The items hold some rarity to them, but their usefulness means the player has to decide whether to risk searching further into the side rooms on each level, potentially meeting a grizzly death in the process. When you do finally succumb to death’s common embrace, it’s time to start again from the very beginning.
Once you do finally crawl down to that final level, expect to be showered in numerous riches. After you’ve grabbed your fill of the booty, it’s time to start the second leg of your journey as you progress back towards the surface up the path you came, which has now been inhabited with harder enemies. This way of generating a new experience on each run ensures gameplay remains dynamic, so as to keep that level of uncertainty throughout each session, and in many ways it keeps the game itself from becoming stale and easy. It’s the high level of difficulty in the challenges that are presented which give Legend of Dungeon its appeal, and by causing things to be different each time there’s always a sense of tension when you take your next apprehensive step into the abyss.
Controlling your wary adventurer is a fairly simple matter, given that the levels stretch out on a horizontal plane with some depth. This means you’re always interacting with things that are directly parallel to you along the plane, but never above or below you. By doing this, they’ve made the game feel slightly more restricted for the player, as they have to take into consideration where they are standing in order to attack an enemy or flick a switch.
The game is presented as an homage to the old school style 8-bit graphics, where each sprite is sporting a highly detailed appearance, from the slimes all the way to the grim reapers. The dungeon is brought to life through the use of dynamic lighting, which helps to set the mood for exploring around corners, and in some cases it actually acts as its own hazard where certain rooms are plunged into complete darkness. There’s something quite charming about seeing the shadows of a thousand angry bats cast against the wall as you’re fleeing. It contributes a sense of depth that most games in this genre seem to disregard. This is a dangerous place, and it feels as ominous as it should.
Legend of Dungeon also sports a healthy co-op mode, allowing up to 4 local players to join forces in an effort to plunder the depths of the dungeon. By joining forces, the game shifts from a very careful and calculated process of risk vs. reward into a mad dash through the levels as each player sprints for the next big piece of loot. Sure, you’re “supposed” to be a team, but the lure of loot can break the strongest of bonds. I’d sell my friend for a laser beam cat any day. It’s just a shame this mode doesn’t see an online aspect, as not everyone can persuade their friends to join them in the same room.
Unfortunately, some aspects of the game detract from the fun of dungeon diving, holding you back with unnecessary obstacles that could be easily addressed to keep the player better informed about what’s going on with their character. The bottom left of the screen displays a series of digits, including your current health and experience values. These icons are made fairly obvious by being marked with sensible symbols, like a heart for the health bar. Unfortunately, there are certain elements that get absolutely no explanation, through in-game prompts or icons. After a few Google searches, I discovered these mystery numbers to be secondary stats, relating to attack damage, run speed, and armour. It’s understandable that games of this genre don’t hold your hand, and that the enjoyment comes from learning through experience. However, I feel that in this respect some guidance during the starting tavern scene would have been enough to inform the player of each value and its purpose, so that they can make better choices of what loot to equip during their journey.
Legend of Dungeon stands out as a successful venture into the roguelike genre, where my time inside the murky depths was spent in fear and desperation, clambering for the last ray of hope that I might not die in a corner with my hard earned loot. The dynamic lighting and well designed textures help to breathe life into the narrow corridors, and creates an alluring environment for you to explore and eventually die in. There are a few issues with fiddly controls and a lack of information on certain aspects of your character that can cause some unnecessary complications, but these are easily overlooked as you’ll probably be too busy stuffing your pockets full of VR helmets and cats anyway.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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