Review: One More Dungeon

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What is it that you really like about your favorite games? Is it the creative ways they differentiate themselves from their peers, or is it how they nail the fundamentals all games aspire to? I bet most of you will say the former, but the latter is more important than you might think. Great games are great because of what makes them unique, but they’d never have the chance to get there without solid controls and gameplay. One More Dungeon rather exemplifies this, because it locks down all the basics of its genre, that of the FPS roguelike, and doesn’t step an inch past them. It’s a perfectly generic fantasy roguelike, but one that’s so solid in its simplicity that you’re bound to get some fun out of it.

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Hope you didn’t show up for a story, ’cause all you’re getting is a dungeon full of evil. No really, your beardy character has no name and is dungeon-diving to stop nasties from pouring out of it. You’ve got ten (I think it’s ten) levels to get through to reach the source of the corruption, and on each floor you’ll have to wrest the keys to the stairwell from a particularly nasty guardian. There’s plenty of other baddies occupying the place, from rats and snails in the intro levels to necromancers and elementals in the depths. Loot is thankfully plentiful, and with the right gear you should be able to bust your way through the hordes and complete your generic quest to perfectly perfunctory accolades.

Look, I want you to read this, and then close your eyes for a second and visualize it: Roguelike fantasy in the Wolf3D engine. What you are imagining is almost certainly One More Dungeon, caves and goblins and potions and swords and all. This is the ur fantasy roguelike, the Platonic ideal of a traditional dungeon romp, with absolutely no surprises in store. You’ve seen these enemies before, whacked them with these weapons before, quaffed these potions before, and so on. There’s exactly one part of the game that’s a little different, the corrupted world beyond the random portals on some levels, where a carpet of violet tentacles and eyestalks have overrun some kind of castle. But these are short side areas, and once you’re done there it’s back to the sewers, caves, ice caves, and fire caves of the main adventure.

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I will say though, whoever your little dude is, he’s a pretty talented fighter. At any time you can have a magical staff in your left hand and a melee weapon in your right, and use them both with the corresponding mouse buttons. Staves use colored crystals as ammunition, similar to Ziggurat, and come in all sorts of grades and elements. Your melee weapons have a slow wind-up and not much oomph to them, but they’re reliable damage-dealers at ranges where you really want enemies to stop existing. You can also carry some kind of magical artifact that produces a powerful effect using your magic points, and potions that provide buffs or restore your limited health points. There are stores to buy gear in, shrines to improve your few attributes, and crates to break for a chance at more goodies. All of these are arranged in aggressively random halls and chambers, tangled enough that backtracking and navigating solely by mini-map will be necessary at times.

The saving grace here is that all these basic elements are plenty polished and look great in motion, providing the foundation for some decent hacking, slashing, and looting. Your movement speed is on the higher side, which makes maneuvering more fun. The simple dichotomy of magic blasts and sword swings helps freshen up the combat, because each staff works a little different and the crystal ammo means you can’t stay at range forever. Enemies mostly charge or shoot things at you, but with the twisted levels they can come from anywhere and you want to be on your guard at all times so as to not lose any precious life. Encountering a new monster can be daunting as you learn their patterns, and guardians are always a challenge thanks to their extensive health reserves.

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One More Dungeon isn’t something everyone should run out and get, but it’s a perfectly good FPS roguelike. It has all the parts needed for success, presented in a charming, chunky, pixellated format. There’s even a bit of meta-progression in unlocking mutators for runs, global effects that’ll make the game harder or easier depending on your preference. It’s still generic fantasy no matter what, but at least you can bend the balance a bit towards what you’re looking for. I know I’m normally hard on games that don’t offer much past the baseline (you might be thinking of my Heavy Bullets review the other day), but there’s a good spread of mechanics and content here even if it doesn’t do anything new. Even a generic game can do generic really well, and One More Dungeon has a lock on fantasy roguelikes that’s worth checking out.

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