Sunday, October 23, 2011

-REVIEW: Dungeons of Dredmor-
babby's first roguelike

Title: Dungeons of Dredmor
Developer: Gaslamp Games

Release: $4.99 (PC, Steam)

No, YOUR father was an impotent side of half-baked ham sandwich

Roguelikes are riding an enormous cultural chubby right now.  Their punishing, randomized gameplay mixed with their seemingly endless troves of undiscovered loot and enemies make for a powerful combination that apparently taps into what’s currently hot. What that is exactly, I’m not so sure, but what I am sure is that roguelikes have been around since the 20-sided die that inspired them, so to me it seems like everyone who’s fallen in love them all over again are really no better than a bunch of hormonal 13 year-olds trying desperately to rub out their perpetually stiffened meatlogs to pictures of 1920s flapper duds holding a bottle of backyard moonshine.

So, if you’re going to engage in such an unsavory exercise, at least do it right.
It’s for this very reason that I recommend Dungeons of Dredmor. If you know nothing of roguelikes, here’s a primer. What Dungeons of Dredmor does is take those elementary particles and whips them up into this whirlwind of hormonal urges and innuendos and consummates it both superficially and substantially.
Superficially, Dungeons of Dredmor looks great, sounds great, and reads like a well-aged hetaera. Its easygoing sense of humor cushions blow after unforgiving blow laid upon your virginal body, giving you the rather fun (and rather false) sensation that you’re actually making some kind of progress. What is actually happening is that your tastes are being reconfigured, subtly, surely, into something more daring, more risky, more refined, and more resilient. 
This is the key to appreciating roguelikes. For all their unbidden treasures and sanctimonious praise, they are actually the pinnacle of inaccessible gaming. A game that can therefore solubilize the essence of this glory out of its hard, acquired taste of a shell and yet lead the player to put it back into that shell while still enjoying it is a masterpiece indeed.
And this is what Dungeons of Dredmor does. It’s unique, certainly, in that it has its own set of spells and weapon improvement tables, enemies, and questing mechanics, but what’s more unique about it is how little it deviates from the formula of a classic roguelike, if one may choose to play it that way. The magic is then thus: that Dungeons of Dredmor successfully packs a formidable range of experiences upon the roguelike continuum into a single, unified, pleasing, and accessible package, all of which is customizable by the player.
Buy this game. It may well be the last roguelike you ever do.