Dungeon Raid is a puzzle RPG experience that no fan of the genre should miss
Fireflame Games’ Dungeon Raid is a brilliant take on the RPG-meets-puzzle genre. Instead of focusing on a vanilla story mixed with some generic character portraits, Dungeon Raid places emphasis on gameplay, and it pays off in a great way. Unlike its story-driven cousins, this game uses a score attack approach. What the game lacks in story, it makes up for with an approachable, yet addictive, style of play.
Let me make one thing clear: if you’re even slightly into puzzle games, get on the Android Market or the iOS App Store and buy Dungeon Raid. The difficulty I’m having with this review is separating myself from the game long enough to write it. The feeling I get playing Dungeon Raid is the same feeling many get when they see cute animals in the wild. It’s not something that really should excite you, since you see that sort of thing on the internet all the time. The real treat is getting up close. When that happens, you realize that seeing those critters in person is much more satisfying than viewing pictures online.
In writing this review, I desperately want to compare Dungeon Raid to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. At first glance, both games look similar. They both require you to match at least three of the same item, give you abilities and stats, and give different character classes. But that’s where the similarities end. While Puzzle Quest uses these traits with the classic match-three system and RPG elements to complement the overall story, Dungeon Raid takes these features and compacts them into a surprisingly unique experience.
While Dungeon Raid presents its gameplay like a match-three puzzle game, you don’t shift pieces around the board. There are five types of pieces used: Potions, shields, coins, swords, and monsters. When there are at least three adjoining pieces of the same type, you draw a line across them, collecting them. The exception is with swords and monsters. Those two must be linked together so that the swords kill the monsters. If you leave the enemies alive after your turn, they’ll attack you. Lose all your health, and it’s game over.
That part of the game is a simple concept. The depth comes after your start collecting items. There are a lot of meters to monitor, and just about everything you can collect fills some sort of gauge. Coins will allow you to purchase an item that boosts stats, shields provide equipment upgrades, and collecting potions restores health. Killing enough monsters will net experience, allowing you to earn skills, passive abilities, and stat boosts. The stat boosts raise attack power, defenses, and health. Passive abilities range from regenerating health to inflicting damage on an attacking monster. These options are great, although you can’t control which options appear for selection when you fill a meter.
Skills are where the game takes a unique turn. Some of the skills are simple, like a fireball that destroys a random 3×3 area. Others get a bit more tactical, however. One skill converts all coins to swords, and another does the opposite. Another skill will grant only one hit point to monsters summoned on that turn. My personal favorite is the skill that randomly transforms one monster into a special monster. These boss-like creatures show up routinely during your playthroughs. They typically have much more health than a normal monster, along with higher defenses and strength. They’re special because each one has a different skill as its disposal, typically used to beef up other monsters or do extra damage to you. Player and enemy skills add a great deal to the experience, and the only drawback is that you can’t control which skills will be available upon leveling up.
The core gameplay alone is more than enough to keep you hooked for hours, but if you’re in the mood for more, Dungeon Raid certainly does not disappoint. As you play on higher difficulties, you can unlock other classes and races. The classes come with their own perks and flaws, as well as a limited number of skills in the pool. The non-human races add another dimension, giving special bonuses with the drawback of introducing mortal enemies – specific special monsters that get an advantage against that race.
Outside of the normal game mode, there are a few other features. I strongly recommend playing the game’s tutorial on your first go, as it does as great job explaining the system. There are also two challenge modes: Dungeon Sprint and Pretzel Hero. Dungeon Sprint is a faster version of the game that lasts only 100 turns. Pretzel Hero is similar to the normal game, but you can earn points by overlapping your path. These modes are a nice change of pace, but neither are likely to keep you occupied for too long as the main game is far more enjoyable. Other features include a local scoreboard and OpenFeint support.
I hate giving out perfect scores. While a perfect score never means that the game itself is perfect, it does mean that it either changes the way we look at games or it found that ideal balance of polish, depth, and fun. Dungeon Raid doesn’t change the way we see gaming, but it certainly is polished, deep, and a complete joy. I could go on for hours about how much I’ve enjoyed Dungeon Raid, but your time is much better spent actually playing the game. There are certainly some minor gripes, such as the randomness of ability selection, but these complaints do nothing to harm the experience. Whether you regularly pay for mobile games, or are hesitant to do so with so many freebies on the market, put those feelings aside and give Dungeon Raid a shot. You won’t regret it.