Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dungeons of Dredmor Review

If you are a fan of dungeon-crawl PC games, you’re going to want to give Dungeons of Dredmor a try. Based in a 10-level labyrinth, Dredmor offers up everything that makes for a great dungeon crawl…namely lots of weapons, monsters, skills and other items to use in attaining your goal, the eventual defeat of Lord Dredmor himself.

PC Gamer US named Dungeons of Dredmor their Top Indie Game of 2011. Dredmor is set apart from other dungeon crawls or rogue-like games by its graphics and sound. Not only that, but Dredmor has a silly sense of humor to boot, with monsters issuing funny insults faster than you can draw your Clockwork Chainsword. Best of all, Dungeons of Dredmor costs only $4.99. You won’t find a better deal out there.

As with any good dungeon delve, Dredmor starts off with a character generation system which offers  a lot of variation, depending on what type of persona you wish to have. The basic game boasts 33 different skills, while the expansion packs offer even more. You get to choose from typical RPG skills such as Swords and Dual-Wielding, or the more creative Mathemagic and Archaeology. Once your skills are chosen, you can’t go back and select differently, so thoughtfulness here is key. Or, you can have the game select your 7 skills randomly for you (this is fun, but often leads to a quick death).

The 33 skills are listed here:
Swords • Axes • Maces • Staves • Dual Wielding • Shield Bearer • Berserker Rage • Unarmed Combat • Master of Arms • Smithing

Archaeology • Burglary • Archery • Thrown Weapons • Tinkering • Fungal Arts • Artful Dodger • Perception • Assassination

Blood Mage • Golemancy • Fleshsmithing • Mathemagic • Psionics • Necronomiconomics • Viking Wizardry • Astrology • Promethean Magic • Magic Training • Ley Walker • Wand Lore • Vampirism • Alchemy

Once your character is generated, it’s time to drop your newly created dungeon-fodder onto the first level. There, you can view all of your many statistics that will impact your progression in the game. Since Dredmor is normally played in Perma-death mode (meaning you can’t reload your character after death), it’s a good idea to pay attention to the small details. You can also view your very limited starting inventory, including any equipped items. Now, you’re ready to venture forth into the dungeon.

The ten dungeon levels in Dredmor are all roughly the same size, and each level takes about 1 ½ hours to clear depending on how quickly you progress. Each level is randomly generated for loads of fun replay. It’s pretty common to lose a lot of characters in the game’s first few levels, especially when you’re trying out different skill combinations. So, having a flippant attitude toward character death is important.

The dungeon levels each have a different look to them, but each level basically contains the same kind of stuff…lots of monsters, more items than you can carry, a few shops to purchase and sell items, statues to break, chests to unlock…you get the picture. However, the variety and replayability keep Dredmor from becoming mundane. Also, the graphics and sounds lend a style to the game that other dungeon crawl games don’t offer.

One feature of Dungeons of Dredmor that is a little different is the Monster Zoo, a collection of 100 monsters in a single room. Each level (starting with Level 2) has a monster zoo, meaning that you better be prepared for one any time you open a door. As you might expect, the zoos take a little while to clear out, and usually feature a “boss” or two. These can be deadly when attacking with hordes of normal monsters.

Every time your character levels up, you get to choose a new skill level for one of your chosen skills. This is where games are won and lost, because the abilities gained at different skill levels vary so greatly. For instance, Level 2 of the Golemancy skill allows you to create a small golem for protection in battle, a good option to have! Getting certain skills to their highest level quickly is usually a good strategy for successful Dredmor gameplay.

Each time your character dies, he will be listed in the High Score list (along with a tombstone). You will quickly fill up the Top Ten slots on the high score list as you learn the best ways to play. It’s quite routine to have characters pass away after only a few fights, while getting characters to make it down a few levels is challenging indeed.

After a few tries with different skillsets, I was able to get a couple of characters down to Dungeon Level 4 before they died. These characters were most always the armored fighter types, with my wizard-like creations generally getting slaughtered in the first two levels. For some reason, the dungeon’s fourth level seems to be where the monsters ramp up a bit, and I’ve been taken out more than once by a single foe after I had cleared out a Monster Zoo.

The shops are very important places to visit. You’ll find a variety of items there which you may or may not be able to afford. Certain skills can increase your ability to find loot. That becomes key if you want to do a lot of item purchasing, rather than simply finding the items that you need at some point. Occasionally, you can find a shop on the first few levels with an ultra-powerful item, such as a sword or wand. Usually, such an item is not affordable at the time you first visit the shop, but you can always come back later and acquire it when you get the needed funds.

In my current game, I’ve blown through level 4 for the first time, and have made it all the way down to Level 7. I’m thinking that this character has a chance to go all the way. Here is my Character Build:

Berserker Rage – For the general combat bonuses.
Fleshsmithing – I’ve found the Knit Tissue ability at skill Level 2 absolutely essential for extended survival.
Mathemagic – Froda’s Jump Discontinuity (Level 1 skill) has gotten me out of many a sticky battle, especially against a hard foe or a cluster of opponents when my life level dropped quickly.
Promethean Magic – The fire-based skills at levels 1 and 4 offer fire-ball like spells which can take out several monsters at once. I like to use to deplete monster hit points this when I first enter a room, and then finish them off with my weapon.
Perception – Allows you to see things, especially traps, more easily. This is very useful when you are a low-level character.
Burglary – The Lucky Pick skill at level 2 allows you to always have some lockpicks on hand.
Archaeology – Perhaps my favorite skill, you start with the Fedora – a hat with better than average ability modifiers. Ancient Kronian Ritual at Skill Level 5 lets you use each Item-Enhancing Anvil twice instead of once. I try to max this skill as soon as possible.

Other skills that I like, but couldn’t work into this character build are Dual-Wielding, Assassination, Viking Wizardry and Vampirism. The latter skill lets you regenerate your life points from the dead corpses that you kill. However, you can’t use food to restore your life, so you have to keep killing things to survive. Also, I’ve actually found using a strong shield preferable to the Dual-Wielding skill.

If I do ever get down to Level 10 and defeat Lord Dredmor, I will restart with a different type of character, maybe one that creates golems or deals in Necromancy. Whatever I decide, I know that I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of Dungeons of Dredmor.

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