There are two sides to the coin of “retro-style” games. The nostalgia we feel when playing these 8- or 16-bit throwbacks reminds us of some of the earliest days of gaming. The countless hours spent in front of our TVs, trading off playing time with friends, and soaking in the glorious pixelated graphics, chiptune soundtracks, and procedurally generated dungeons made us the gamers we are today. But they also remind us of how far gaming has come as a medium. The breakthroughs made in terms of gameplay and storytelling over the years are hard to forget when we encounter new games that don’t deliver, even if only on a basic level.
This was part of my experience with Quest of Dungeons, a 16-bit, turn-based RPG which tasks players with navigating through multiple levels of a ruined mansion to find a magical lantern that has been used by a powerful sorcerer to steal the light from the world. The artistic styling is everything you’d expect from a roguelike game, the controls are smooth, and I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches (which is hard to say about a lot of indie games). However, the repetitiveness of both combat and level progression dragged down an otherwise entertaining experience as I kept waiting for another element to emerge and provide a new challenge.
Players can choose between four characters: The Warrior, The Wizard, The Shaman, and The Assassin. The Warrior relies solely on melee combat to defeat enemies, while The Assassin is able to take out enemies from afar with his bow. Both characters are able to implement a variety of special abilities to do area damage, increase stats, and deal extra damage for a time, but these abilities are rarely more effective than their standard attacks. The Wizard and the Shaman both rely on magic and spells to defeat their enemies, but they do so in different ways. The Wizard’s abilities focus on direct damage, while The Shaman uses black magic to weaken and disorient his foes before moving in to finish them off. The enemies all rely on melee attacks and aren’t much of a challenge on the two lower difficulties. On the hardest difficulty, you’ll need to rely on both skill and luck to survive as the enemies take more hits to kill and large groups will surround you if you’re not smart.
As I progressed through the procedurally generated levels, some enemies would taunt me and my character would occasionally remark on his surroundings, but there wasn’t much of a storyline or plot to follow. I know first-hand the difficulty in programming a linear story in an otherwise non-linear environment, but the lack of a cohesive story outside of the singular main objective didn’t provide much incentive to explore the entirety of a level. The occasional quest and boss would pop up, but the quests simply tasked me with finding and killing a “special” enemy, and the boss battles lacked the formality required to be considered a true “Boss Battle”. If it wasn’t for my loot-happy, “completionist” OCD, I would have descended through the mansion with reckless abandon, defeated the sorcerer, and grabbed that lantern in an hour or two.
If you’re looking for game that’s fun, easy to jump into, and offers plenty of incentive to replay the adventure using each character, Quest of Dungeons is perfect for you. Quest of Dungeons provides a great, retro-style gaming experience that will bring back fond memories of past eras, but some repetitiveness in its combat and lack of story prevent it from living up to it’s full potential.
Quest of Dungeons has been Greenlit by the Steam community and is tentatively scheduled for a February 2014 release on PC, Mac, and iOS. To see the game in action, check out the website or watch the trailer below.
This game was reviewed using a pre-release build provided by the developer for that purpose.
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