Legend of Dungeon Review (PC)
The indie market has had a small explosion of roguelikes, and, for the most part, they stick to their own little niche of cult appeal. As a genre almost as old as gaming itself, roguelikes can feel pretty stale, but Legend of Dungeon is fresh, daring, and maybe just a little bit magical.
I’ve noticed roguelikes tend to go one of two ways. Either they are painfully complicated and painfully difficult, or they are streamlined and simplified and painfully difficult. Both have their merits, and I have enjoyed games in both categories. I’m not sure where Legend of Dungeon goes. It’s a very simple game, as far as roguelikes go. You move your character throughout a dungeon, going deeper and deeper until you retrieve the treasure. You can equip various hats, which affect your stats (which are never explained, but the fun is trying to figure it out), use weapons and various consumables. Potions are random and can have very different effects, and they do not get named after you try them, so you should be keeping notes. As you descend through the randomized levels, you may find yourself thinking “This is actually pretty easy”… Until you find the new monster the dungeon throws at you and you find yourself woefully unprepared. Some just seem horribly unfair. A nymph/pixie thing hit me and put me to sleep, leaving me at the mercy of a goblin, who was more than happy to chew on my face for a bit. Sure, the first three levels are a bit of a cakewalk, but the difficulty curve ramps up pretty quickly. Oh, and did I mention the combat is real-time? It is much less tactical than other games in the genre, but combat can become quite intense because of this. Controls can be somewhat quirky on a keyboard, but I found a gamepad works quite well for this title.
One of the new things Legends of Dungeon brings is a fresh perspective. Gone is the classic top-down, isometric view, replaced by a 2.5D 8-bit look, with smooth lighting. The lighting even comes into play in terms of equipping items, as you can only use one item at a time. So a dark room may require you to equip the lantern, but you won’t be able to attack, so you will have a very clear view of that skeleton eying you up for replacement bones. The new view, along with the ability to jump, allows for a few short platforming sections, but only if you’re a risk taker. Landing is a tricky thing, and if you’re the sort of person to risk your progress for one coin in the middle of a lava lake, you have my admiration.
One of the most striking things about the game is its atmosphere. While most roguelikes are dark and gloomy, the dungeon in LoD is quite a lovely ruin, and one that makes you want to see more of it. I especially liked the creepy white angel statues, which can make some players a bit uncomfortable and contribute to the more subtle menace of the game. There are a few simple traps, and some hidden doors and platforms accessible through levers, so there is scope for exploration.
Each layer of the dungeon has doorways to other segments. A nice feature implemented in the game is that the last door you went through has a red glow behind it, so you can’t get too lost, but there are a few items you can find which make exploration even easier. Weapons and hats range from pretty damn awesome (with mandatory randomly generated names, of course), to kind of weird, to downright silly. Legends of Dungeon is lighthearted, but there is a small creep factor which fits in quite nicely. The subtle, dynamic soundtrack serves to emphasize the above, and it is an absolute joy to explore the ruins, listen to the music and play with the lights, because it all goes so well together.
Legends of Dungeon may not be a traditional dungeon crawler, but it is a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by stale dungeons. Veterans of the genre may find it a little too simple and forgiving, but there are challenges to be found. However, if you don’t enjoy its difficulty level, you probably will fall in love with its look and atmosphere. It’s oddly relaxing for a roguelike, and I, for one, welcome this take on the genre wholeheartedly. It’s a game that I played sitting back in my chair with a gamepad, which is an odd thing to hear about a dungeon crawler, but it is a welcome change.
4.5 creepy angel statues out of 5