Legend of Dungeon Review: Where everything's made up and the pots don't matter
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It’s difficult to gripe over kinks in Legend of Dungeon’s engrossing armor since the game isn’t even finished. With that said, as a fan of roguelikes, I do have a few, shall we say, suggestions in mind. First and foremost is that the game’s abrupt difficulty spikes need to be reined in. It’s one thing to challenge a player with new, powerful enemies, but another entirely to drop a giant, one-hitting Minotaur on their head on Floor 2. Many bosses are outlandishly powerful, and when your primary weapon is a blade with the attack radius of a broken butter knife, player “strategy” is so limited that the only sensible decision is to run away screaming, defeating the purpose of a boss fight entirely. The other end of the spectrum is finding powerful gear sequence-breakingly early, rendering “bosses” nothing more than abnormally durable punching bags.
Behold my undead army and tremble!
Level generation is in equal need of a few structural parameters. Too frequent were the floors consisting of one or two rooms—as opposed to the usual six to eight—before sending me on my merry, underequipped and under-leveled way. This not only thrusts the player into imbalanced environments, but undermines the end-game goal of making it back to Floor 0 after retrieving the deified 26th loot (which is quite difficult, by the way, because enemies are constantly spawning in).
Actually navigating those levels could use a few tweaks as well. Doorways are also placed randomly, and with no map to go on, “Let’s progress through this door” quickly devolves into “I guess we’ll just go through random doors until we find our way out.” Interestingly, a means of countering this mundane exploration is already part of the game: The door that you entered a room from is highlighted red while all others are black. Applying this same color-coating to one or two more entryways in descending order of use would lend direction to the dungeon.
I've made a huge mistake.
There’s also wasted potential in the game’s item system. Legend of Dungeon’s colorful array of potions, for example, is worth approximately nothing since their effects are completely unpredictable, with potions of the same name resulting in everything from a full heal to putting your character to sleep, which, in pitched combat, can put a damper on things and quickly end your otherwise successful dungeon run. Dedicated heal and buff potions would add variety to the game’s healing system — which currently consists of eating apples — and could help balance the aforementioned boss fights.
Where is your magic now!?
In addition, due to the lack of any sort of mana gauge, magic is downright trivializing. Why should I care about the Fantastical Sword of Life-Rending (which I just made up, but is probably in the game) when I can spam enemy-seeking fireballs or summon skeletons like there’s no tomorrow?
Notice that I didn’t request a tutorial. When I said you have nothing but “Here’s a dungeon; GO!” to go on, I wasn’t kidding. The game does absolutely nothing in the way of explanation, instead throwing you to the wolves and telling you to figure it out. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Legend of Dungeon is about learning the old fashioned way — by trying again. Even after several dead characters, I found myself discovering more and more about the dungeon’s design and how I could better the chances of keeping my face intact. Barring the pointless boss fights, dying is never annoying because you know you’re only three seconds away from getting back to the action and not stopping to take review notes while standing next to a lit bomb.
Proud of its indie roots, Legend of Dungeon threw in some Plants vs. Zombie and other references.
Legend of Dungeon is an expertly tailored and refreshing love letter to the rogue games of old and can already stand among the ranks of Spelunky, Dungeons of Dredmor or The Binding of Isaac. If, after making the necessary changes and updates to bring the game out of Beta, RobotLovesKitty can find a way to secure online multiplayer and do away with the limitation of local key binding, it could establish an entirely new standard for the rogue-like(-like) genre. However, it’s still incomplete, and there is plenty of room for improvement. Luckily, the team has a solid, fun, unique foundation to build on.