PAX East 2013: Legend of Dungeon is a beautiful, must-play indie

Legend of Dungeon was easily one of my favorite surprises at PAX East this year. The game, developed by a two-man, er, man and woman team known as RobotLovesKitty, is a co-op, beat ‘em up dungeon crawler roguelike. That’s a mouthful of game jargon, but it paints a picture of a game most people are probably immediately dying to play. Combined with an amazing mix of 2D pixel art and 3D lighting, the game is both moody and adorable. I had a chance to speak with Calvin Goble, the developer on the game, and spent some time exploring the depths of the dungeon.

RobotLovesKitty doesn’t get much more indie. The team is a two-person show consisting of Calvin and his wife Alix Stolzer. “It’s just me and my wife. Alix is the kitty and I’m the robot, and we just really like making games,” said Calvin. Legend of Dungeon is the combination of their gaming tastes. Alix is a fan of the roguelike genre, going all the way back to the original Rogue, while Calvin is a fan of old school beat ‘em ups like TMNT and X-Men. A couple that makes games together stays together, and they mix up some great genres in the process.

Legend of Dungeon

As in most rogue-likes, the game has 26 randomly generated floors. You have to go to the bottom, grab the treasure, and get back to the surface. “We tried to grab as much magic from classic Rogue as we possibly could,” Calvin said.

That random element will go a long way towards keeping the game fun. “We try to make sure that every time you play your experience is a different one. We want you to be able to enjoy the game over and over and over again,” Calvin explained. “Everything down to the soundtrack is randomized. We have 244 tracks, all the same tempo, all the same key, and they mix together amazingly. Like this music you hear, I’ve never heard before.”

Along your journey you’ll find new weapons and potions with randomized effects. You might drink a potion that will make your character projectile vomit, or find a book that summons an army of skeletons to fight by your side. It’s also immediately apparent how much potential there is for smart and fun co-op play. Inventory management is pretty simple, and within minutes I was tossing my extra health over to Calvin and keeping him alive.

Legend of Dungeon

Perma-death wouldn’t be much fun in a multiplayer game, but Legend of Dungeon has a pretty good alternative. “When a player dies they become a ghost,” Calvin explained. “They can push enemies around, move items a little bit, but when the other living players kill enemies they leave behind spirit essences, which the ghosts can pick up and they’ll revive with one hit point. It’s usually not enough to keep them around for very long. Plus they drop all their weapons, they drop all their gold, so it’s still practically permadeath.”

Beyond the gameplay, Legend of Dungeon also features a stunning art style that mixes simple, 2D pixel art with 3D lighting for an amazing effect. The cutesy sprites venture down into dark, gloomy dungeons with creepy atmosphere. Some areas are pitch black, requiring players to use a torch and stick together. “It looks deceivingly retro, but it takes a little more GPU to run.”

Legend of Dungeon is currently available in “Nearly Beta” form for Mac, Windows, and Linux. In addition, RobotLovesKitty is trying to get greenlit on Steam and they have plans for an Android port and even an Ouya version. “This is a console game at heart. It’s meant for you to sit on a couch with your friends, so having it on the Ouya is going to be awesome.”

Yes it is, Calvin. I can’t wait.

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