Dungeons of Dredmor’s take on dungeon crawling is not to be missed.
Dungeons of Dredmor is an RPG, but it’s probably not the sort of game you imagine when you read those three genre-defining letters. Dungeons of Dredmor is what enthusiasts call a roguelike, a very challenging sort of dungeon-crawling RPG that descends from the classic PC game Rogue. The basic idea of this type of RPG is that you, a solo hero, must survive a gauntlet of randomly-generated dungeon levels with nothing but your wits, whatever equipment you can scrounge up, and whatever skills the game permits you to acquire.
Where most roguelikes are Spartan affairs that use ASCII characters instead of convention in-game graphics, Dungeons of Dredmor features unique tilesets and hand-crafted pixel animations for the hero and all the many monsters and objects you’ll encounter in the dungeon. The game even features a wide variety of engrossing musical tracks, satisfying sound effects, and some terribly amusing voice clips. Roguelikes also tend to be strictly class-based, but Dungeons of Dredmor is willing to let you attempt to conquer the dungeon using any combination of seven skills out of the game’s total selection of thirty-five.
Most of the skills you use to defeat the dungeons are conventional sorts of things, like skill with axes or the ability to cast magic spells. There’s also a suite of extremely interesting crafting skills not quite like anything you’d encounter in a typical roguelike. You can make your own equipment, potions, and life-sustaining foods by using the right equipment and recipes you find scattered around the dungeon. Your goal is to survive the dungeon’s ten randomly generated levels and defeat the lich Dredmor, who lurks on the dungeon’s lowest level.
What really sets Dungeons of Dredmor apart from the typical roguelike is its sense of humor. The archetypal Dredmor aside, virtually everything you fight is threatening in only a very silly way. Stats have silly names like burliness and savvy. You may forge weapons from plastic and loot descriptions are often funny in their own right. Even the game’s tooltips work humor into what is otherwise useful advice, complete with a special tooltip that triggers if the game should happen to crash (an event that only happened once during the test period).
Dungeons of Dredmor is an excellent game, the sort of compulsively replayable RPG that is rarely ever published. Roguelikes have an intrinsically repetitive nature that some people may find off-putting, while others may find the game’s difficulty discouraging. In Dungeons of Dredmor, it’s not so much if you’ll die but when and how. There are options for more casual gamers, though, as well as options like Permadeath and Going Rogue that will keep hardcore fans of the genre amused for hours on end.