Monday, May 30, 2011

Indie Cred: QCF Designs - Desktop Dungeons

Title: Desktop Dungeons
Developer: QCF Design
Platform: PC
Release: Released! Go here to download

 For every ten minutes you spend doing something besides playing this game, you could be playing this game. Think about that

Oops, I dropped it on its head

The phrase “pick up and play” and “adventure RPG” have never really run in the same crowd. “PUPP” (in the spirit of one of my friend’s recent quests to acronymize every phrase in existence) likes to play handball in the yard, go bowling on weekends, and cook up some hot dogs every once in awhile. “ARPG” tends to spend all of her time in the basement painting sets, writing fan fiction, testing dungeons, and nursing her vitamin D deficiency. PUPP’s got all the friends, but ARPG’s got all the brains. They just don’t cross paths often...that is, until Desktop Dungeons (DD) came along.

chill out, storytime

PUPP was immediately taken in DD’s good looks and sensible design. Simple, appealing sprites were easy on the eyes and on the brain. It didn’t take a technomancer to know what a fighter did (fight, I’m pretty sure), or to understand the phrase “Left click on the goblin to attack”. What’s more, there was only ever one level to play through. Every new game was different, but it didn’t put PUPP off like you may think; it made it easier to play because PUPP felt like he was meeting a new friend every time. Before long, PUPP had unlocked more than half of the classes and races the game had available, and had developed a serious appreciation for DD’s more “deep stuffs.”
This “deep stuffs”, though, is precisely what piqued ARPG’s interest. ARPG was unsure at first. It was too plain; goats, snakes, zombies, goblins, and warlocks. Nothing original. And the classes? So simple! A Fighter, of course. And a Wizard, and a Monk (which she supposed the developers threw in for credibility). She simply wasn’t convinced. But the number of blank spaces that faced her on the start screen did tickle her noggin something fierce. “Let me just unlock the first thing,” she thought, “to confirm my obviously true suspicions.” But by then it was too late.

 stay awhile, and play

Desktop Dungeons is a curious creature, but its playability, honest humor, and truly complex design make it worth investing time in. QCF Design’s understanding of the Roguelike and their experience in making games accessible (evidence by titles like Colgate Smile Protector and Tropika Supakick) shine bright in this title. 

a rare effectivus minimalismus, spotted in the wild. crikey!
 Every game is randomly generated, but only ever a single floor. The number of enemies and their levels are semirandom, but their locations are fixed. Discovering tiles replenishes your health and energy, but not all tiles are accessible. Enemies have unique traits that discourage brute-force tactics, but there are also spells and altars littered about each level, which when used open up new tactics to circumvent most (if not all) of these elements, should you find the right combination. And there’s the rub: the right combination often begins with the selection you make before the level is ever generated. This of course can result in some unwinnable scenarios (as random generation is wont to create), but it also deepens the tactical aspect of the game by encouraging you to develop race-based, class-based, spell-based, worship-based, and level-based strategies over and over again. What’s more, with every victory (and with enough defeats, sometimes), more classes, races, and game modes are unlocked, providing both extensive customizability and near-endless randomization.
knowing is half the battle
 It’s true that a single game will probably only take you 10 minutes. What QCF doesn’t tell you is that you’ll spend 10x that amount thinking about the game.

PUPP and ARPG may never be best friends, it’s true. They’re too different. But, every once in awhile, PUPP might say, “hey, ARPG. Let’s play some Desktop Dungeons over at my place today.” And ARPG can’t help but respond, “Sure. As long as I get to choose who we use.”