Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Epic Dungeon

The best roguelike on the indiechannel so far.

I'm a gambler and my favorite stat is luck. It's all about the gold and I was stockpiling it. But my supply of health potions was dwindling. Fortunately I found a store around Depth 3 but the trader's prices were steep. I left everything behind for a few precious potions. What use is gold if you're dead?

At around Depth 6 I picked up this odd looking quarterstaff. It would certainly be better than the simple dagger I was using to fend off those pesky spiders and bats. If nothing else the weapon had some reach.

Once I touched the weapon though a strange weakness passed over my body and I could barely lift the staff off the floor. I tried dropping the cursed thing but my hand refused to obey my mind's command. This didn't bode well. I spent some time on Depth 7, circling the corridors, practicing with my feeble weapon in the hopes I would gain some semblance of skill with it.

It was to prove futile, as a pack of wild dogs finally got the best of me on Depth 10.

Epic Dungeon is the first game to be released as part of the Xbox Indie Games Winter Uprising. A response to treatment the Xbox Indie Channel has received from gamers, developers, and Microsoft themselves. What will this uprising lead to?

But more importantly how does Epic Dungeon play?

Quite good actually. Even though a few seconds into the game, I was about to fly into a rage concerning the lack of diagonal movement. My thumbs felt constrained, attempting to translate my mind into a mode of action that the game did not allow. After a few minutes however my thumbs were properly trained and I understood the game's need for a strict four way movement pattern. (Apparently you can move diagonally, maybe I wasn't pushing hard enough.)

The game is simple to pick up and play. At least for someone familiar with the Roguelike ;) My practice of skipping the instructions screen before the first play did not prove detrimental to my experience of the game. At intervals throughout the game, friendly little popups appeared at the top of my screen telling me what all the buttons on the controller do. After my first playthrough I did check out the help system and found it to be simple but informative, very nice.

Throughout the dungeon you might meet fellow crawlers and perhaps even some locals. They are represented symbolically by a question mark on the map, the standard quest depictor. Press the button and,

Short textual quests, with the possibility of a reward if you answer correctly? But what is correctly? I chose the way of the gambler and it worked out most of the time. These mini quests are a nice break from the action of the dungeon crawl which can get a little frenetic at times, especially when you are surrounded by multiple monsters and the screen starts flashing red, urging you to drink a health potion.

After a few short playthroughs as a gambler I decided to switch to the Shaman. Epic Dungeons Wizard archetype (and the type I usually play). The Shaman has a freezing AOE attack that allowed me to make it out of Depth 50. This was only my third playthrough of the game and it took me about an hour and a half. So I've beaten the game, not something I expect to do with a roguelike on the first day of playing. But Epic Dungeon isn't your typical roguelike.

For one thing it's not quite turnbased, the dungeon's monsters move on their own terms and if you need a few moments to think about your situation you will need to pause the game. Or just open up your inventory and use a teleport scroll to port to the nearest shop, and load up on health potions.

Combat in the game is pretty standard, simply walk in the direction that you wish to attack and if there's an enemy in your way you will swing your weapon. Besides the standard attack, there are four unique special attacks. Each one mapped to a button. As you level you can increase the number of times you can use these attacks in sequence, up to a maximum of ten. I've only used two special attacks in a playthrough, managing to chain all four together would probably be pretty difficult but I'm sure it can be done.

You probably already know that the game's art direction is influenced by the 8-bit. This style influences the modern gamer greatly, its visuals and sounds having been deeply imprinted into our minds at an early age, and connotated by many emotive aspects.  It's obvious that Mark, the sole developer behind the game had fun with the art. There are a lot of nice details here, animated traps, and scroll effects among other things. I really enjoyed the detail put into weapon and armor types.

I just wish the game lasted longer, maybe for Epic Dungeon 2?

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