Post Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:19 am

Desktop Dungeons: A Review

Another paper I wrote for my video game class. :D Enjoy!

The environment of Desktop Dungeons is different every time someone replays the game. Whenever you die, which you most likely will, you will not be given the same chance as you had before. You are a character that is very small in comparison to his surroundings, but can move around through the tunnels rather quickly. The dungeon is randomly generated so that the coins, power-ups, enemies, pathways, potions, and other parts of the player’s surroundings need to be sought for. On top of that, the dungeon is blackened so that the player cannot see his environment until he adventures out and expands his viewing area. Every new game, there is a new map, shrouded in secrecy and mystery. The actual scenery, however, is different depending on what kind of character you chose and how far you got into the game. For instance, I chose a gnome fighter, so the colors were earthen and dark, and the area very closely resemble a dungeon. If you progressed, you would eventually come to a forest level, a tower level, etc. Where you actually were at in the game made no difference in how the game played out. (Except in regards to the increasing difficulty of the levels.) On the right-side of the grid-board/map, a basic menu is present. It holds information for how much health you have, what items you are holding, how much money you have, and a few other things. There is not much to distract you from the actual gameplay of this dungeon crawler in that section because everything on the menu panel is easy to find.
Desktop Dungeons goes for the fun of exploring by challenging the player to a new exploration every game. There is a big sense of mystery involved with this game and for everyone, opening up and discovering what is hidden will invoke different emotions. Some will be pride, some will be excitement, but I felt like I was actually solving a puzzle. There is no story involved with this game; you are just put into a dungeon and you have to fight your way out, leveling up along the way.
Major gameplay elements are the play area, the enemies, and the items. As you navigate your way through the level, you will light up your surroundings to find enemies that you must fight in order to become strong enough to beat the boss of the level. At the beginning, you are given a choice to make a few minor stat adjustments, but the bulk of your stats come from fighting creatures. It is very simple to do in this game (just walk towards them), and the level curve is steep, but luckily you gain health and regenerate your stats quickly. Finding items will increase your stats and replenish health and mana. You can also find gold to buy stuff when you find a store, and magic talismans. These special coins give the user a special ability. They are randomly picked from a list, so it is never guaranteed that you will get the power-up that you’re searching for. Also, going into new sections of the grid-board map will replenish health and mana.
The player walks around in a grid and does not have any physics to him- He even moves at very extreme speeds, depending on your computer. The creators obviously do not want you to get distracted with the physics of this game, as it is not intended to be life-like or realistic. I believe that the designer’s choice to use these elements was fantastic. This game is a very fun and addictive game that I hope more learn about in the future. The designers really hit the nail on the head and were very effective. I believe that they wanted to use these specific elements within the game in order to create a unique run-through every time you play the game. There are many ways people try to achieve this, such as a huge, interactive storyline, but the creators did not for this game because it is one of those games that you can pick up and quickly get thrown into. In fact, there is no storyline in this game. It is just for the fun of exploring and seeing if you can strategically maneuver throughout the level to survive. Randomly generating every aspect of this game really adds to the uniqueness of the game. You can play through it and have a very easy game or a hard game, so you can start over. Eventually, you can learn special tricks to make the levels easier, but there is no one definitive set of moves to follow to win. In fact, because of this randomness with every game, every person that plays it will not only gain their own unique experiences, but also will develop their own idea how to play and how to go about winning.
I do not believe there is a far-out abstract point that the designers of Desktop Dungeons were going for in their game, but I do believe that they wanted everyone to enjoy their own kind of game and they did a very good job with that. There are no cutscenes, the designers are not trying to be cinematic. The core graphics of this game are not that great. The designers do not want to distract you; they just want you to play through a very fun game.