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Ugh, stop twitching
dungeons of dredmor -- one-hour review
games Posted 2011-07-19 14:22:39 by Jim Crawford
Dungeons of Dredmor is a roguelike for the PC by Gaslamp Games.

(Yes, I totally ripped this format off of Games For Lunch.)

0:00 Pretty gorgeous art on the title screen. It's in 1080p, which is a lot of p. It's not like someone literally decided on the color of each one of those pixels, but still.
0:00 At the main menu I click on “Tutorial” and it brings up a big list of things the game wants to teach me, from “movement” to “equipment maintenance” to “alchemy.” Probably a dozen items. No way do I have the patience to go through all these before I start playing, but I'll poke at a couple.
0:01 Move with WASD, click to interact with the environment. Straightforward so far.
0:01 I just got a gold star for completing the movement tutorial. Man, how did they know about me and stars!
0:02 The combat tutorial already has me loathing the sound of combat with Diggles. It's like if a rubber duck was attempting to flense my eardrums.
0:02 And the combat tutorial is already over. Maybe I can go through all these in a reasonable timeframe.
0:03 There's a skill bar like World of Warcraft's. Neat idea -- the closest thing I can think of to that in the Roguelike heritage is monks in Slash'EM.
0:03 If I'm reading this interface right, this Diggle just said to me “thou art a hack.” Your mom art a hack!
0:04 In the middle of the “food” tutorial, another Diggle called me a “pus-filled abcess.” Watch your mouth, jive turkey!
0:05 No moving or attacking along diagonals. You know, I approve. It was always a little kludgey the way Nethack et al handled diagonals, and it made the game more complicated without adding that much.
0:05 Dungeons of Dredmor doesn't respect the Dvorak keyboard layout. This is sort of a feature, because if it did I'd have to reconfigure the entire keyboard to make WASD work. But it does mean that to open my inventory I have to press “C” instead of “I.” I'll live.
0:06 This interface is crazy polished, for a roguelike, and the tutorial is decently-written and reasonably fast-paced. They might really have something here.
0:07 I kind of love the close-up of the protagonist's face in the HUD, looking around and blinking, like in Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.
0:08 The armor tutorial has me putting a traffic cone on my head in lieu of a helmet. The icing on the cake would've been if they actually decorated the avatar with it, but that sort of refinement is a ton of work in games with hand-drawn art.
0:09 “Your mother was a radish,” the Diggle in the ranged weapon tutorial asserts. Up your nose with a rubber hose!
0:10 I bump into a thermoblobby while walking down a one-wide corridor. He's completely invisible because his head doesn't poke above the wall between him and the camera. I'm not sure, but I think he got a free hit or two in while I was figuring out what was happening.
0:11 The thermoblobby kills me and the game goes right on to the potions tutorial. Uh, by design?
0:12 After the potions tutorial I back out to the menu to see if I got credit for completing the tutorial I was killed in. Yep, sure did.
0:13 Interesting. Wands don't have charges, they just have an increasing chance to go bad with each use. (Also, the wand in the tutorial was a “Wand of Laser.”)
0:14 Pyrokinesis tooltip: “You're a firestarter, a terrific firestarter.” If you want some fire, it comes out of the hose!
0:15 Nearly through all these tutorials, guys. Too busy absorbing information to have anything to say about them.
0:16 Oh dear, I seem to have confused the alchemy tutorial. Maybe I didn't read the instructional dialog closely enough. The instructions should really stay onscreen somewhere anyway.
0:17 Figured it out! It wanted me to open up the alchemy interface by right-clicking on the chemistry set thingamajig.
0:18 Rust and aqua vitae make a healing potion. The mystical healing properties of oxidized iron!
0:19 The tinkering interface is pretty much the same as the alchemy interface. Was it necessary to have both?
0:20 Hm. The distinction may be that alchemy's outcome is based entirely on what reagents you use, whereas the tinkering interface allows you to select different recipes for the same set of reagents? Not sure.
0:21 And that's all the tutorials! Short game! I mean, now to start the game.
0:22 Is this a difficulty selector? “Elves just want to have fun,” “Dwarvish moderation,” and “Going rogue.” Ah, yes it is, it says so in the title bar. Permadeath is also an option I can select. It's on by default, which is a good sign: it means that they designed the game properly around permadeath rather than adding it as a poorly-conceived afterthought, like Diablo and Terraria.
0:23 Oh boy, now I select 7 skills from a grid of ... please wait, multiplying ... 36. Let's just have a look, shall we?
0:23 A bunch of the skills are types of melee weapons, and a bunch are types of magic. The magics might have some personality to them, but it's hard to imagine the weapons not all feeling identical.
0:24 Okay, I'm going all melee combat this time out. Ranged is for pansies anyway.
0:25 I hit “next” on the skills screen to continue, then “back” to remind myself what I chose, and my skill selections had all gone away. Ouch.
0:26 Light jazz plays as the game tells me the story of the dark lord Dredmor freeing himself from his magical bonds and spreading evil in the world of light.
0:26 Ah, the light jazz is the game's background music.
0:27 Here I am at the dungeon entrance! Directly to the east and west is a pair of vending machines, one labeled “F?d,” the other “Drink.” Mood: set!
0:27 I don't see money in the HUD, but I'm pretty sure I don't have any, so I don't try to buy anything. Instead, I pick up a ring off the floor and put it on without thinking about it. Hold on! Does this game have cursed items with negative effects, like Nethack? I guess I'll find out.
0:28 I open a door and totally murder Lil Betty the bat. She started it! I think.
0:29 Wandering around the dungeon noticing traps with my boosted Perception skill, and sometimes accidentally triggering them anyway.
0:30 I kill some Diggles and steal their eggs. The diggle egg tooltip says to “watch out for salmonella!” That sounds like a joke, but if you've ever gotten food poisoning in Nethack, that shit is no joke, son.
0:31 I kill a couple more Diggles and get the “berserker rage” buff. That's one of the skills I picked. “Do it,” the tooltip says. “Do it for Crom!” I kick ass for the Lord!
0:32 I just kicked down a door to meet a big group of monsters: two blobbies and seven “Lil Batties” -- huh, maybe that's what fought a few minutes ago, not “Lil Betty.”
0:32 Normally in this situation you want to move into a tight corridor so enemies can only come at you one at a time, but unfortunately I can't make it to such a corridor, so I wedge myself in a corner, eat some Fresh Steak to do the heal-over-time thing, and start whaling away on these dudes. Berserker rage, don't fail me now!
0:33 The bats are talkin' mess about my dad, now. Actually, they called him a “quivering side of man beef.” I think that's almost erotica?
0:34 I did it, guys, I killed the roomful of bats! I also figured out where my money is displayed in the HUD, while picking up all the zorkmids comprising my just rewards. Maybe it's time to hit up those vending machines.
0:35 The music just changed up! I'd noticed it wasn't playing light jazz any more, but I hadn't determined whether it was contextual or not. It seems like it just has a playlist. That's cool by me.
0:35 All the drinks I'm finding are booze. Since the purpose of booze is to refill your mana, and magic is for pansies, I don't need that shit.
0:36 Okay, is this song a reference to the Doom 2's map01 music? A vs. B. Since the Doom 2 soundtrack turned out to be mostly illicit covers of 80s and early-90s metal, I wouldn't be surprised if this is a third-hand Slayer song or something.
0:36 Level up! There's a splash screen visible for about half a second and then the game pops up a skill selector over it. I wanted to see the splash screen! It looked amusing and/or condescendingly encouraging.
0:37 Assassination skill tooltip: “Something about a creed. Honestly? You just kill better.” Tee hee!
0:38 Lots of skills to choose from here, but I'm on a time budget so I just pick the next item in the Sword skill lineage. By the time I close the skill selector, the splash screen is gone. I missed out!
0:38 Oh, this room is full of goodies, though. Bituminous coal: “Some call it 'the thinking man's coal.'” After playing roguelikes, the thinking man's video games, for a while, I'm sure I'm going to be longing for some action-man's coal.
0:39 I can tell this robe I found is crappy by hovering over it and visually comparing its stats to the stats of what I'm wearing, but for a while now the standard in these interfaces has been to automate the comparison. Hopefully there just isn't enough equipment wrangling in this game to warrant that feature.
0:39 Hm. Another reason they might not automatically compare is that there are so many different stats armor can modify, comparison becomes meaningless. That might be a design flaw. All these icons are tiny and hard to read, and since the armor information shows up in a tooltip, I can't hover over them to get their names; I have to visually search the grid of icons on my character sheet.
0:39 I also find six softballs in a barrel. Thrown weapons.
0:40 I've got some ore now but I can't figure out how to use the mold-form smelter that's in the room. Maybe it's just decoration, but I can hover over it and see a tooltip. That's how I know it's a mold-form smelter.
0:40 In the next room, I see “Chrjokull, the Ignoble Friend” -- an axe -- surrounded by a moat. No idea how to cross water in this game. But I'm a sword specialist, so I didn't want you anyway, Chrjokull!
0:41 Found some more Diggle eggs. Should I just start gorging on this stuff to regain health? I say we do it, and salmonella be damned!
0:41 This room has lava in it. Straight to the money shot, huh? Nethack held back on the lava until the quest. That's what I call pacing. (Nethack also has only one “quest” per game.)
0:42 Monsters keep getting what they deserve by triggering this gargoyle arrow trap. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get to the next room without triggering it myself. 45% chance to disarm, says the disarm interface. Should I try, and probably take an arrow to the face with each failed attempt, or just walk by and take the hit once?
0:43 Succeeded at disarming the trap! Then stepped on an acid bolt trap that hit me for like 40% of my health. Though I don't know how much it actually hit me for because the message log only shows combat-related messages. Thanks, message log!
0:43 Shit, I think I'm still dissolving in acid. Yeah, I've got the “acid burn” debuff. Is that a “Hackers” reference?
0:44 Stepping on more arrow traps, and nearly dead, but that treasure in the next room looks so delicious!
0:45 Healed a bit with more Diggle eggs. No sign of Salmonella poisoning yet! Walked up to the treasure pile I mentioned to grab Mlosk, the Thoughtless Bookshelves. Yeesh, what sword scholar thought that one up? Mlosk is a good upgrade over my wooden sword, doing 2 slashing and 2 toxic damage rather than just 2 crushing damage. What kind of self-respecting sword does just crushing damage anyway? If I'd known that, I'd've gone to find the guy who equipped me and done some crushing damage with my fists.
0:46 Had to walk over the acid bolt trap again. Felt bad to take a mandatory hit, but that's procedural content for you. Though I don't remember ever being forced onto a trap I already knew about in Nethack, come to think of it. I don't think Nethack ever puts traps in one-wide corridors until you get to Gehennom.
0:46 I trigger another roomful of bats, but this time there's a one-wide corridor to retreat to so I only have to fight one at once. No problem.
0:47 My health is low. “Your health is low,” the game tells me. Still no problem; I got this.
0:48 Lots more bats than I expected. No danger of dying, but I am now out of Diggle eggs.
0:48 I just walked over a landmine or something. Walking around with low health turns out to be a bad idea. New healing strategy: eat and then wait in place for heal-over-time to take effect.
0:49 Just picked up a “modular alchemy box.” I guess I just need reagents now, and then I'll be drowning in my own healing fluids?
0:49 Stepped on a trap, and now I'm surrounded by poison gas. I walk out of the gas cloud. There are no doors on this side of the room, so after I do my business here I have to cross the room again to continue, but the poison gas is still there. How long does it stick around for?
0:49 Plenty of turns, apparently. But it did go away eventually, so I can move on safely.
0:50 Look, there's the sacred anvil of Krong! “Place your equipment on the sacred anvil of Krong,” the sacred anvil of Krong says! That's so crazy it just might work.
0:50 I drag Mlosk onto it. “Blessed be you, for Krong has added new powers to your artifact.” Sweet!
0:51 And just my luck, here's a roomful of Diggles to try Mlosk's new powers on.
0:52 Well, for the record, Mlosk isn't powerful enough that I can stop paying attention to combat yet. Also I'm totally out of food. Maybe I should run back to the vending machine at the start of the floor.
0:52 Found the stairs down. Judging from the minimap in the corner, I've only explored about a third of the floor. I'd expected a smaller first floor.
0:53 I find a pair of locked chests and click on one of them. “Bash it open?” Doing that in Nethack would often break stuff inside the chest, but let's see what happens here.
0:53 One of the chests breaks. “You smashed it up good,” says the pile of debris. The other chest opens, and I get a knitted cap that gives me 6 Hyperborean resistance. That means the resistance is beyond the Boreas, right?
0:54 Finding a lot of booze I have no use for.
0:54 Is that an altar? No, it's a “Satanic Displacement Glyph.” I'm a bit scared to step on it, but this is for science.
0:55 The glyph teleported me into another room, with more Diggles in.
0:55 Diggles dead, and I level up again! This time I get to see the splash screen, including my new rank, “Meddling Kid.” Jesus, the protagonist sure has enormous eyebrows, have any of your beta testers given you that feedback yet? I pick the “Knightly Leap” skill from the Artful Dodging skill lineage, because jumping added an interesting bit of tactical depth to combat in Nethack.
0:56 “I hate you so much,” the blob says to me. Get in line, pal!
0:56 Here's another displacement glyph, so I step on it too. Bonanza! This room is full of booze, potions, bookshelves, a Gouda cheese wheel, and an “UberChest.” Oh man, I hope it's not locked.
0:57 The UberChest doesn't seem to react when I click on it at all.
0:57 I get it: the message that the UberChest is locked shows up in the combat log. I stand by what I said about the interface being polished -- emphasis on “for a roguelike,” -- but still they need to seriously work on consistency of conveying information.
0:58 I learn the recipe “frag bomb” from one of the bookshelves.
0:58 Here are some lockpicks on the floor. Maybe I can pick the UberChest lock? Right-clicking on them in my toolbelt does nothing. Do you need a lockpick skill to use them?
0:59 I just noticed, when I open regular chests I automatically use up a lockpick. But I can't open the UberChest that way. What am I missing?
0:59 Here's another F?d vending machine. It's full of delicious cheese!
1:00 I just realized, all these mushrooms I've been picking up are edible, so I've never been low on food after all. But eating random mushrooms is a terrible idea in real life. For science!
1:01 I eat a Grunge Ear mushroom and it confers on me “The Power of Plaid,” which totally gives me a bunch of resistances for the next N turns. Yay!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yeah! I'm totally exploring a dungeon and fighting stuff and discovering neat items. The developers have clearly played roguelikes, so there's hope that it'll end up interesting and well-balanced, too.

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comments
no subject
Posted by Anonymous (Adam) on 2011-07-19 23:55:30
Great review! :-D

PS. A and B are broken links.
re: no subject
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2011-07-20 17:22:06
Thanks and fixed!
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