Review: Quest of Dungeons18 Nov 2016 0
Review: Quest of Dungeons
Released 25 Mar 2014
Rogue-likes: a genre that has rocketed exponentially over the past ten years. When done right it can become an obsession; where a fanbase becomes a community, all manner of wikis, strategic guides, YouTube channels and more can revolve around a single game. When done wrong, they crash and burn within a blink of an eye.
This review is based on the game-state as of October 21st, 2016, when the 'Revenge of the Jelly King' DLC was added ($0.99/£0.79 IAP). Impressions and criticisms within this review encompass the base game as well as that of the DLC and do not take into account anything prior to this date.
Due to their very nature, first impressions count. The first five minutes of gameplay is typically a broad definition of what the overall experience will constitute. And with this concept in mind, it has to be said that Quest of Dungeons makes a lacklustre initial impression. The introduction feels blasé; a pixel art retro style, while clean and efficient, features largely basic, uninspired character and environmental design. The story is largely non-existent, but then rogue-likes do not live or die by the story either.
There are four characters to choose from: warrior, assassin, wizard, shaman; standard fare for a fantasy-based setting. They follow the tropes you would expect for each class i.e. the wizard is terrible at close combat, but is a boss with magic. The recently released “Revenge of the Jelly King” expansion also includes a new character class, NecroDancer, a loving nod to the fabulous Crypt of the NecroDancer, but unfortunately with none of the charm.
The Diablo-stylings of a loot-based system are in place here: clear a room, find the treasure or weapons, check your inventory and move on. If you are fortunate enough to stumble across a shop the treasure can be used for more powerful weapons, better armour, potions, keys, etc. Spellbooks are another type of item to pick up, allowing use of the mana bar to cast offensive spells, stack on top of your weapon, and create shields.
Movement is kept simple by touching the space you want to move to. It is responsive, but the journey made between the spaces is not up to you, instead, the game chooses the quickest route. This can be a pain if you are trying to make your way around a group of enemies and your character decides to make a suicide run through the middle of them. Quest of Dungeons was released simultaneously for PC and iOS, yet feels like a shoehorned port for mobile. Any game that uses perma-death as a mechanic needs to be a slave to good control, and unfortunately Dungeons never feels as such. The bulk of my time was spent playing on my iPad, which is not the way to go as my hands were constantly dancing up and down the tablet instead of being fixed in place. For me, it never once felt like a natural fit.
Procedural generation is the name of the game when it comes to level design. As you progress through a level, you can use the pop-up map, which unfolds as you enter a new room, to keep track of where you have been. The floors are massive, and the difficulty spike between floors is surprisingly steep, so exploration is key to hunt down absolutely everything possible.
Speaking of difficulty: bosses are utter bastards and serve to highlight my biggest issue with the game: the combat. There is a quasi-turn-based mechanic on display, where you move and then your opponent immediately makes a move, which creates a fast-paced, rapid-fire flow. The major problem here is that instead of triggering a battle scene for combat - like your traditional RPG – you simply hammer at the square where your opponent is placed and hope your offensive are good enough. The creeping sense of repetitiveness that plagued Sacred Legends is ever present here, but that at least had some fancy animations to create a vague semblance of interest. Also, because of the procedural generated layout of each dungeon, you tend to stumble into boss fights as opposed to building up to a grand crescendo. This hurts the pacing and adds to the frustration of never being fully prepared for a boss fight, which would be fine if escaping was a viable option, but once a boss - and for that matter most enemies – locks on to you, getting out of a fistfight is difficult.
In regards to the aforementioned update, a new level, Rackan, is included with different enemies, alongside various tweaks and fixes. The two levels available do not feel wholly different, and the frantic nature of the combat means most enemies just attack in ambush, aiming headfirst for your general direction with no regards for their own well being. Also included is the ability to create custom levels, but the options are limited to the amount of floors you would like and the difficulty setting you want. It always feels harsh to criticise the efforts of a one-man development team, but the update does not feel all that significant - though the cost for the update and added content isn't unreasonable.
This is one of several rogue-likes I have covered since joining Pocket Tactics, and though none I have reviewed have yet to truly win me over, I have at least found either the mechanics were executed strongly enough or they were attempting something unique enough that an investment seemed worthwhile. They at least managed to get their hooks in for a short period of time. Quest of Dungeons never grabbed me. Instead, it only furthered my interest in what it takes to make a good rogue-like dungeon crawler. I try to find time in my reviews to give some kind of selling point, even if it is trapped under broken mechanics or poor production, but sadly Quest of Dungeons– though fully functional – just ends up being an uninteresting endurance.