Whenever I’m tasked with choosing between starting my adventure as a Warrior, Wizard, Assassin or Shamen I’m immediately whisked back to a bygone year in gaming when everything was all a bit blocky, a bit difficult and a bit nuts. Well, here I am in 2015, trying to decide which of the four classes I should be sending on a journey into an old haunted mansion, in order to uncover the secrets behind it…and the horrors that lay within.
When your world is overrun by a powerful evil lord who decides to steal all light, trapping it inside a magical lantern, there is only one thing to do; sit down at a campfire, draw straws and see which of the four intrepid adventurers will be heading on in first.
Not that it matters one iota who drops into the dark, dingy, fog-filled mansion first, as procedurally generated layouts ensure that every single playthrough of Quest of Dungeons is completely different to the next. And even if something does seem slightly familiar, the randomly placed enemies and loot items really do throw another curve ball into the equation.
Each step you take on your journey uses up one turn, at which, the enemies that lurk in the corners of the mansion also use theirs. Thankfully, unless you move, they won’t, enabling you to get in close enough to go forward into some basic hand-to-hand combat – that is if you don’t use a range attack to take them out first. If that sounds a bit strange and a bit slow, don’t worry, it isn’t, as this dungeon crawler moves along at a super fast pace. The turn by turn adventure does however give you the chance to settle down occasionally, check on your health or mana levels and decide which of the numerous skills and weapons you need for the task at hand. It all works brilliantly and so if you’re struggling a little, a few moments of calm time should get you back on track. Even when you do find yourself low on health, a quick scan of the area, smashing open cupboards, chests and the mansion owners favourite vases, will see you come up trumps once again.
With a rogue-like feel, every venture into the multiple floored mansions feels like your very last. Death is permanent and there is little to help you on your way except for the skills that you learn and the tools that you stumble upon. I have to admit, if I was writing this review based on the first 20 minutes of gameplay, it would be a completely different story. Struggling to get to grips with the whole concept of Quest of Dungeons, no matter if I went in with the close quarters combat fighting Warrior, the magical Wizard, everyone’s favourite ranged attacking assassin or the quiet but ever so deadly Shamen, it wouldn’t be long before I was dead, finding myself starting from afresh again with little learnt from the previous experience.
But then it all clicked. Don’t ask me how, or why, but I was soon attacking enemies like the best of them, flicking through and using special abilities and magical spells like a boss and leveling up my little friend to that beyond my wildest dreams. From a playthrough lasting mere seconds, I was eventually finding myself trawling through the mansion levels to such an extent that the in-game save option was a god send. Yes, I’d still die occasionally, but I was finally beginning to learn how to best explore my surroundings.
And whilst I was doing so, I was understanding just how complex the initially simple Quest of Dungeons really was. With traders available to sell and buy loot from, a whole range of upgradable weapons, clothes and skills to choose from, Upfall Studios have done a superb task in making me believe that there wasn’t much to get excited about, before slowly drawing me in and throwing a new addiction into my life. Like I needed a new one!
With difficulty levels ranging from the super easy, right up to the insanely difficult, gamers of all skill levels will be content with the blocky dungeons on offer. Hey, even the backing music has a neat little ring to it and is more than bearable. Yes, the actual sound effects are basic and the 16-bit visual style may not suit everyone, but give Quest of Dungeons a chance because it’s one of the best rogue-like, procedurally generated, real time battlers I’ve played.
There is a slight issue present in that permanent death may mean many will not bother playing it over and over again, and there is nothing more frustrating than playing for a few hours, stumbling upon a hardcore boss and seeing everything you had ever lived for wiped out in an instant. But that’s the hard and fast reality of what dungeoneering is about!
At least you get to check out many stats after your death, with near on everything shown including how many times you’ve killed a boss, completed the game on easy, normal, hard and hell modes as well as going deeper into the grittier finer details of how much food you’ve consumed, gold you’ve collected and items you’ve sold at the trader. It’s a bit strange therefore to see the online leaderboards a little bereft of all this info, instead just showing the overall score of your friends and those strangers from around the world. I feel that a trick has been missed as I’d love to have been able to put all my stats to the test, not just the big important one.
But that aside, Quest of Dungeons has been a joy to play. From initially thinking it would be something I’d hate, I’ve found that it’s been the one title I’ve gone to whenever I’ve recently had five minutes spare.
And that says a lot about how good Quest of Dungeons really is.