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Miniature Dungeons Aplenty

2011-04-27 by . 3 comments

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Only 20 minutes left before bed time, so what should you play?  You want something with a bit more substance than a couple rounds of Bejeweled.  But with most games, by the time you’ve finished booting the game, loading your save, and re-orienting yourself to your situation in the game, your time is up.  Enter Desktop Dungeons.  This brilliant little game has taken the often complicated genre of role-playing games (specifically roguelikes) and distilled it down to its purest form, creating a randomized adventure that you can experience in less than 20 minutes.  And did I mention that it’s free?
Rogue beginning a dungeon

A fledgling rogue

At its core, Desktop Dungeons is a game about limited resources.  You start out as a weak adventurer in a randomly created dungeon, and you need to make yourself powerful enough to defeat the boss of the dungeon.  As you are warned in the tutorial, the game is tough and you should expect to lose often.  The gameplay is turn-based, so you don’t have to worry about time.  Instead, your most important resource is space.  You can only see a small area of the dungeon to start, and you know there are powerups and monsters to defeat all around you.  Each square of the dungeon that you reveal also restores your health and magical strength.  But because this is the primary healing mechanism in the game, each dungeon square that you reveal removes another source of future healing.  So you are forced to limit your exploration to only that which is necessary for you to continue.

Some of the other limited resources in the game include spells (a random assortment are placed throughout the dungeon), health and mana potions, gold (used to buy items from randomly placed shops), and monsters (who provide you the experience you need to gain enough strength to defeat the boss)

A priest in the library dungeon

So many choices in so little time

With a game that only lasts 20 minutes, replayability is key.  Luckily, this is an area where Desktop Dungeons excels.  When you first start the game, you will be able to select from a few races, and four different classes.  Each has special abilities that make the game play significantly differently. As you defeat a dungeon boss with each class, a new class is unlocked as well as new monsters.  Some of the classes also unlock spells which can then be randomly inserted into dungeons for the other classes.  You’ll unlock “challenge” dungeons with multiple bosses, and be forced to defeat them with particularly difficult classes to unlock yet more classes. By the time you’re done, you’ll have unlocked 18 classes and 7 races, each one providing a unique experience.

The only type of person I wouldn’t recommend this game for is those that are averse to math.  You frequently need to play out scenarios in your head  to figure out the best next step.  If I fireball this monster twice, will I be able to defeat it with attacks before it defeats me?  Can I attack once, reveal 2 squares to heal, and then come back to finish the monster off?  What if I attacked twice, then defeated another monster to level up, and then used the rest of my magic?  I could see this game being used in classrooms to bolster kid’s mental math abilities.

Assuming you aren’t allergic to a mental workout, I strongly recommend you head out to the Desktop Dungeons site and download it today.  Just don’t blame me when you realize that instead of 20 minutes, you’ve spent several hours playing through one dungeon after another, desperately trying to beat Frank the Zombie and his cohorts…

Defeated by Frank the Zombie

Defeated by Frank the Zombie

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3 Comments

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  • Macha says:

    Hmm, this definitely seems interesting. If only there was a Linux version :(

  • jin says:

    I love Desktop Dungeons!

  • Carletronicon says:

    @Macha for what it’s worth, it runs fine (albeit without sound, which might be something I did to myself) under wine

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