Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: One More Dungeon [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

As a huge fan of roguelikes the Switch has been like a cornucopia of pain and suffering thus far, but in a good way. What’s great about them is that they allow for the recombining of the same elements to produce an experience and outcome that is a bit different every time. Finding the right balance of randomness, risk versus reward, and difficulty is always tricky but for fans they’re almost always a good time. One More Dungeon takes its crack at the formula on the Switch mixing an old school FPS along the lines of Doom (weirdly with 2D figures in a 3D space) and a few action RPG elements as well. The result isn’t too bad but it certainly has some quirks you should be mindful of.

You’ll start out by choosing your mutators (if you have sufficient points from your previous run) and from there you’re pretty well on your own. You always start with a dagger and a staff that will shoot one of 3 elemental attacks and everything else you’ll have to work with on the current run will be a matter of luck in what you find or salvage from slain monsters. Your melee attack can be tricky at best, with your attack range being limited, and you’ll likely sometimes struggle to line up your enemies well from left to right. Smaller targets like bats or rats, in particular, can be a real nuisance. Each level will have a “boss monster” of some sort that you’ll need to kill in order to get a seal that will open the door to the next level.

While the style of play sometimes feels a bit like an RPG there’s no leveling so in some ways it can seem a bit strange and lacking in progress. You’ll happen upon a random piece of gear to help you out every once in awhile but for the most part you have the core of what you started with to make work for you. While I understand the nature of roguelikes is some degree of randomness the situation with what you’d encounter or find seemed a bit more haphazard than normal. I would consistently find locked chests but not necessarily ever keys, I’d have some runs with plentiful potions and others with nothing to speak of. The somewhat wide swings would produce some interesting and productive runs but that also would make you feel less skilled in the process, that without the good luck you wouldn’t do nearly as well. Just something in the formula seems to need a little more normalizing.

In terms of criticisms the first and foremost would be that even quite a number of runs in there were elements of the game I didn’t understand completely. There are orbs you can pick up, and if you find a portal you can get quite a few of them, but I wasn’t ever entirely clear what they were for. The game has a rudimentary mini-map, and you’ll likely find you’ll need it, but since it is centered on the screen it obscures your view, having it perhaps a little smaller and offset would have made it far more useful. I also wish I was able to better understand the attack range of monsters as well as your own melee attack. Moving in for a hit and then backing off tended to work but in general the animations are clumsy enough that it is unclear when you’re going to connect and with monsters you have no real visual indication whatsoever.

Overall One More Dungeon is an interesting take on how to make a roguelike dungeon crawler that has a look and feel all its own. I appreciate what it is trying to do, and some aspects of the design were unexpected. Unfortunately as a whole there are also elements that feel unrefined and not necessarily complete. With a patch or two I think it could still have room for improvement but as it is I’d say it is likely an acquired taste, even for roguelike fans.

Score: 6.5

  • A unique take on a roguelike dungeon-crawler on the Switch
  • The visuals are retro and pretty cool at the same time
  • Some degree of control over your run at a high level through the use of mutators, though there aren’t very many of them

  • While not having the same style there are better roguelikes on the system overall
  • Some aspects of the game feel under-developed or even unfinished
  • Melee combat feels wonky at best