Review: Dungelot: Shattered Lands13 Dec 2016 0
Review: Dungelot: Shattered Lands
Released 21 Jan 2016
The Dungelot series of games by Red Winter combine the procedurally generated dungeon levels and turn-based movement of a roguelike game with the character advancement and loot acquisition aspects of an RPG. Dungelot: Shattered Lands—the third game in the series—came out in early 2016 but never got a Pocket Tactics review. The time has come to remedy that.
Dungelot: Shattered Lands is set in the world of Pangeus. The earth itself has been violently split into three different continents due to the Great Rift, a cataclysm brought on by the unchecked extraction of mana from beneath the surface. The people of Pangeus had believed mana to be endless, and ignored the signs of impending doom. They were wrong.
Today, portals based on mana technology link the three continents together. The true nature of these portals was unknown and poorly understood, however, and their side effects had detrimental results. Portals siphon life and emotions from people and convert their nightmares (undead cows for example) into reality. The undead rose, animals mutated into aggressive beasts of doom, and darkness and despair filled the land.
You play as an adventurer in this world. You are driven by an interest in fame, wealth, and discovery. There are three different shattered pieces of Pangeus to explore, each with its own nightmare-stocked dungeons to investigate. Can you come through it alive, or will you fall and become yet another denizen of the dark?
There are four different characters to play in Dungelot Shattered Lands, each with unique powers and a play style all their own. You start with one, a mighty paladin, and unlock the other three as you go. There are eighteen dungeons to explore and they are scattered across the three different continents.
Dungelot Shattered Lands is all about crawling through dungeons and upgrading your characters. Dungeons are tile-based and the contents of most tiles are initially hidden. You have to click on a tile to explore what lies nearby. You might reveal a monster to be destroyed or trap to be skirted, or better yet, gold or treasure to be claimed. If it's a monster the tiles surrounding it will remain hidden until you defeat that monster. You're ultimately seeking a key that will unlock the next level of the dungeon and let you delve ever deeper.
The dungeons are computer-generated, like any roguelike, and will never be the same twice. Each has a certain number of levels, except the "endless dungeons" that are unlocked when you finish a continent's other continent. The last level of each dungeon holds the inevitable boss fight. The boss has to be defeated in order to beat the dungeon and earn a greater prize. Some levels don't hold loot and monsters, but rather a respite from your dungeon crawl. There's a tavern where you can rest and regain health and purchase (or try to steal) magic items to help you carry on and hopefully survive what awaits. There are also levels featuring puzzles, games of chance, and opportunities to invest in budding dungeon-based businesses.
Shattered Lands has lots of different monsters to battle and bosses to beat. The more you face a particular type of monster the more you learn about it and the more its monster-manual style entry gets filled in. There are also an assortment of different traps to avoid. Traps have a timer that shows the number of turns before it goes inactive. The trick is figuring out how to run out that clock with your available moves.
Like any good RPG, Dungelot Shattered Lands has a bunch of loot. There are all kinds of potions, weapons, and other items to find as you delve through the dungeon. Stuff you find in the dungeon itself isn't permanent, so use it if you need it. Whatever is left unused is converted to gold when you leave. Your weapons and armor are permanent, however, and you can have your own personal smith craft you new and better stuff as you rack up the gold. You can even spend your hard-earned spoils to unlock permanent cross-character bonuses from a well-appointed adventurer's mansion.
You'll need all of these, a good plan, and a little luck to fight your way through the Shattered Lands. The game is no push over and the more difficult dungeons are quite challenging. You will likely have to rerun some of them multiple times before finding success. That's not a bad thing; in fact I really enjoyed retooling my strategy and diving back in for another go at particularly tough dungeons. You can purchase different types of blessings from a commercially enterprising god that will help, and the right mix of these makes a big difference.
My main complaint about Dungelot Shattered Lands is that the game seems to be optimized for landscape mode. Even on my iPhone 6s Plus the game is a bit small to play. Portrait mode feels much better, but text and dialogue shown near the edge of the screen gets cut off requiring a tilt back to landscape mode to read it. The game is also not optimized for the iPad Pro. I'm guessing it'd work just fine a regularly sized tablet, though I am unable to test. While not great, this isn't a deal breaker for the game and doesn't affect every level of every dungeon.
Dungelot Shattered Lands checks off all the right roguelike and role-playing game boxes. Dungeons are generated by the game and different every time. They are chock full of monsters to fight, magical spells and items to use, and gold to acquire. If you fail, that's it, your run is over and you'll have to come back again later. There's no revival. There are also interesting characters and plenty to spend your gold on: new weapons and armor, character upgrades and bonuses, and blessings from a god.
Gameplay is simple and fun and Dungelot Shattered Lands is perfect for quick play sessions. One level of a dungeon takes just minutes and an entire dungeon run is well under an hour. Despite this quick game play, I got sucked into several multi-hour game sessions, which is a mark of a truly engaging game. The quick-game potential makes the game a no brainer on phones, in my opinion, which still leaves me shaking my head about the portrait-mode issues.
Dungelot Shattered Lands is a high-quality, fast-paced, dungeon-delving adventure that will provide a great many hours of entertainment. Despite the display issues, it is well worth your time and money. I highly recommend you check it out on iOS or Android.