Dungeons of Dredmor is not a new game, by any means. It was released on July 13th, 2011. However, it wasn’t until at least a couple years later that it ended up in my Steam library, and not until just this month that I ever played it. I was missing out.
Listen, I know what you’re thinking – a 2011 game that looks like it’s straight out of the ’90s. And, no, you wouldn’t be very wrong about that. But you’d be wrong if you automatically assumed this game is no good. It’s a roguelike RPG and that means that most people won’t enjoy it. There is permadeath (at least, if you want there to be – but let’s face it, who wouldn’t?!) and the game does not hold your hand. You can spend (as I did) half an hour or more exploring the first ‘floor’s rooms, or you could be magically transported to Diggle Hell where you will die, swiftly and mercilessly, surrounded by things called Diggles.
Of course, I like a challenge in my games, so I started off on normal with permadeath (I said a challenge, I didn’t say I’m a lunatic). After some intro text (not a real cutscene, per se, as nothing moved) I found myself staring at some definitively low-fi graphics. I was in The Abattoir of Bookshelves, which really doesn’t sound all that bad when you think about it. However, I was here to kill things and loot things and away I went.
Dungeons of Dredmor is truly an RPG; your character levels up and gains ability points; there’s a character sheet that you can use to equip things like helmets, chestpieces and weapons; and you fight by either using those weapons or employing magic spells. Unlike most RPGs, though, Dungeons of Dredmor has a decidedly light-hearted tone about it. The first piece of headgear I came upon was a Traffic Cone (as you can imagine, it didn’t help much with the blocking of attacks, but come on – it’s a traffic cone, what do you expect). The first ranged weapon I picked up was a stack of baseballs. The game is, at its heart, just silly and fun.
Until, that is, you run into your first Enraged Diggle, which I did fairly early into my first playthrough (about 5 minutes in, in fact). I died and learned that sometimes it is better to leave levers un-levered. With permadeath enabled, that was it. Game Over.
Of course, I still had at least another half hour to put into the game before making any decisions, so I started anew with Scaurus2 (the previous Scaurus the Adventurer having racked up just 200+ or so points). Scaurus2 had a far better time of it. When I came upon a jail cell full of enraged level 16 Diggles, I decided to leave the lever un-levered and moved on with life.
I lived so long, in fact, that I started to discover some of the limitations of the game. Managing inventory leaves something to be desired and, as far as I could tell, the only way to pick things up off the ground and put them into your inventory was to literally click on the item on the ground, then click it into your inventory. A small problem, but a laborious exercise in looting that has been solved for at least the last 10 years. It also was not often very clear whether something I picked up was an upgrade or not.
Choices in gear don’t feel particularly important right off the bat. There was no real difference between a level 2 polearm or a level 1 wooden sword, from what I could tell. However, these could all be small concerns in the longer game – getting just an hour into things isn’t enough to solve all riddles, after all. For instance, what’s the deal with the wizard’s magic mirror that sent me to Diggle Hell and got me whacked in one hit by a particularly large, angry, and Thirsty Diggle?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that I had a surprising amount of fun in just one hour of Dungeons of Dredmor. This one, I’ll be adding to my ‘to be completed’ list in Steam and who knows, maybe one day I’ll do just that!