Already an IGF winning title, many of you may not need me to tell you that there's an unassuming dungeon game you should be playing - Desktop Dungeons. Gracing the IndieCade booth, the title with roguelike roots from Cape Town developers Quarter Circle Forward (QCF) is available in Alpha build now for PC and Mac - but I got a glimpse of the future.
Best described as an attractive, 2D, bite-sized roguelike, Desktop Dungeons has breezy controls and a streamlined interface that make for absorbing exploration and combat. Every time you kick off a new game you begin at Level 1, and you progress - on a single screen - through a dungeon with the goal of taking down the Lvl 10 boss. As you traverse the dungeon you can pick up gold to acquire weapons from shops, earn piety points to worship a deity to aid you in battle, and swap out spells that are handy in combat and leveling. Since each dungeon is generated fresh for every game, each time you play is new and exciting - and challenging in new and exciting ways.
One of my favorite game features is that exploration rewards you with health and mana. The trick is, there's only so much of the dungeon to be uncovered, so stumbling around revealing the whole dungeon without engaging in combat is a grievous error. If, however, you play as a certain race and class (Human Fighter!) you can actually detect nearby enemies and temper your exploration with battle more effectively. Enemies - which include nods to other games like goo balls and meat men - do not attack when you get close, but you will need to defeat certain ones to progress and fully explore a dungeon, and while it is possible to beat a higher level enemy it takes guts, carefully chosen attacks, and maybe a potion or two. When you do gain a level your health and mana are refilled, which turns monsters themselves into a resource to be harvested.
Quick-play at its core, each dungeon can be finished in no more than thirty minutes. As you defeat dungeons and challenges you unlock new character classes and further gameplay modes, which can net you more rewards in subsequent dungeons. With seven available races and nineteen classes - and each class carries three abilities - there's a surprising amount of variety here. Achievers take note: ranked games have their scores uploaded to an online leaderboard.
Ultimately, in my maiden game, I was killed by a goat - which seemed like a good a place to stop and ask some Qs of the developers, like what platforms we can expect to see the game on. Already on PC/Mac and browser, the final game will be available on PC/Mac, web, iPhone and Android - with plans to hit Steam. Available for free right now in its Alpha build, they are taking pre-orders for the finished version of the game. Not only does a pre-order get you the prettier and polished final build, it also gets you into the Beta planned for July 2011. With the low, low cost of $10 I'm telling you, pre-order the game. Fine, go play the free version - but then pre-order the game.
Even with permadeath, DD is not technically a roquelike, but its definitely part of the same family tree. Resource management, leveling and careful decision making are the difference between victory and death giving Dekstop Dungeons an almost puzzle-like quality. Every move can tip the scales, each decision is meaningful - but you're not committed to them for long and can always click "Retire" if you get impossibly stuck. Me, I tend to die in battle regardless, it just seems more honorable - even death by goat.
Alpha build dungeon, Halfling Rogue
Message from the Boss
Glimpse into the future - the future DD
Beginning a Dungeon as Human Fighter