Riding on the excitement of The Binding of Isaac, I decided to dive right into another roguelike, this time from indie developer Gaslamp Games. But unlike Binding of Isaac, Dungeons of Dredmor is a more traditional, turn-based dungeon crawler, complete with character classes, skill trees, item forging, and the hack and slash-style fun one would expect from classic franchises like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate. Well, maybe not that traditional. Dungeons of Dredmor is perhaps best described as a spoof of classic computer roll-playing games; nothing takes itself seriously...
Three other writers here posted their impressions of Dungeons of Dredmor last week in our new series: Indie Impression. You may consider these my extended impression that turned into a complete review.
Welcome to Indie Impression, a brand new type of article for 2012. As the name implies, these articles will be impressions on some of the numerous indie games that have been rapidly appearing recently. We here have built ourselves very large collections through cheap package deals via Steam, Humble Bundle, Indie Royale, and more. Some have amazing production values, some don't. Some are incredibly fun, some aren't. But without question, these indie games generally offer creativity vastly beyond anything you'll find in mainstream gaming and will likely be the main driver behind industry innovation for a long time.
And as our indie backlogs have grown exponentially, we've decided to start sorting through our games and trying them out to get a good impression of each. To add credibility to our impressions, we will try to have at least two people play each game until they feel they have a solid, concrete opinion for writing. Impressions may be from ten minutes of gaming to ten hours, but in this case, we feel like it's important enough to have multiple strong opinions on each game. With that out of the way, let's continue to our very first candidate, Dungeons of Dredmor.
Dungeons of Dredmor is a roguelike from Gaslamp Games, released in July, 2011. Each writer has written impressions independently from each other.
Following in the wake of the widely popular Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen’s latest entry, The Binding of Isaac, takes its name and narrative from a story in the Book of Genesis. In that tale, Abraham is called to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a proof of his devotion to God. Isaac is bound by his father and placed upon an altar on top of Mount Moriah, where an angel appears to stop Abraham just before the slaughter.
The Binding of Isaac has players taking control of the titular character, whose mother is called to kill her son as a sacrifice to God. In this story, however, there is no angel to stop the fanatic parent; it’s up to Isaac to survive, fleeing the clutches of his murderous mother in the basement of their house.
The artwork and style are synonymous with that of McMillen’s other works, such as Super Meat Boy and Gish (both of whom make cameo appearances), but, taking a break from platforming, level design and gameplay share similarities with The Legend of Zelda. The interface also shares a resemblance. However, unlike the series from which it seemingly draws inspiration, The Binding of Isaac features fully randomized levels, items, enemies, and even bosses. Another key feature is the aspect of permanent death. You have one and only one life to clear the dungeon-like levels and defeat the final boss, which serves to make The Binding of Isaac a very challenging and nerve-racking experience.
A few months ago I was emailed from a reader requesting I give Dwarf Fortress a try. He described it as “pretty complicated” but asked that I follow a series of tutorials written by a devoted fan. I gave the game a look, skimmed over the tutorials, and shelved the idea of playing it. Dwarf Fortress seemed a bit overwhelming and having been on a bit of a NetHack kick last year I was feeling a burned out with ASCII gaming.
I decided it was finally time to give it a chance though, so here’s my first hour playing Dwarf Fortress. The game is currently in development (and has been for the better part of the last decade), but since the tutorials I’ll be following are for a specific build from back in 2008, that’s what I’ll be playing. So keep in mind that while I have never played Dwarf Fortress before, I will be following the walkthrough site pretty closely (and using the included saved game, though nothing has been built out).
This seems like a great time to visit Dwarf Fortress, with the success of another indie darling, Minecraft, generating huge waves and sales; super-deep sandbox games are big right now. So let’s get this started and dig into Dwarf Fortress on the PC.
NetHack is a classic, Roguelike computer game infamous for its permanent death and complex gameplay. The free and open source game was released over 20 years ago in 1987 and the game is still in development. There's a huge community still playing NetHack, producing patches, and even forking the source to make new and wildly different games. The game has been ported to just about every platform known to man, and can be played online on any machine that has telnet. I could go on and on about the depth of its gameplay, challenging puzzles and enemies, or its ASCII graphics, but there are so many other resources which can do it better.
NetHack is not the first Roguelike I've played at the First Hour, that would be Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer. Mystery Dungeon is a popular series in Japan that finally made it stateside last year. While death is not quite permanent, it's still a much bigger setback than in most games. Speaking of Roguelikes, if you've ever played Pokemon Mystery Dungeon or even ToeJam & Earl for the Sega Genesis, you've played a game in the genre. Being Roguelike can mean a lot more than ASCII graphics with vi-like controls.
I started playing NetHack just a couple of days ago, much to the demands of a friend and an intense interest on my own part. The game is known to be notoriously difficult, being a Roguelike computer game, death is permanent. It's a long, arduous journey that requires tremendous item management, tough gameplay decisions, and a little luck (or to the naturally unlucky, a lot of luck). People die after minutes, hours, or days of playing the same character, and sometimes for very pathetic, foolish reasons. NetHack fans call these Yet Another Stupid Death (YASD).
For reasons of personal record keeping and a bit of public self-deprecation, I will be Twittering all my NetHack deaths. You can read them all at twitter.com/firsthour over the next coming weeks. I can't promise I'll ever ascend (beat the game), but I can promise that you'll probably have some laughs and remember fondly back to your own YASD's if you've played the game.
A first hour review of NetHack is also just around the corner, keep an eye out that.
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a new Nintendo DS adventure that is actually a port of a 1995 Super Nintendo game released only in Japan. Shiren's gameplay is based off the classic computer games Rogue and NetHack. This means randomly generated stages, turn-based gameplay, and harsh character death penalties. Games today are wussified to the point of being able to save anywhere and three hour long tutorials that wean you into the game, Mystery Dungeon is kind of a breath of fresh air. Even if it is a 13 year-old breath, it mixes up the portable scene a bit.
Not much left to say about Mystery Dungeon, I think the review and screenshots will explain the game pretty well.