There are certain elements any self respecting Roguelike RPG needs to have in order to considered for the moniker; things like randomly generated maps, turn-based battle systems, permanent death and…rats.
Yes, every RPG worth its salt begins with you fighting rats as a level 1 Mage. Heck, I think this should be a prerequisite for all genres of game. I hate rats. In this regard, ‘Dungeon Plunder’ ticks the right boxes…or should that be the rat boxes? Whatever.
An evil archmage is using a magic orb to conjure an ice age which is slowly enveloping your land in a layer of snow. Because you’re a summer baby, your job is to wipe this guy out, and presumably find out why he’s trying to create a massive ice-rink. Some people are so difficult. Can’t he just pop down to the local sports centre?
After picking a class (Mage, Warrior, Rogue – all the classics), you head out into the progressively frozen wastelands to do battle with a ‘rogues’ gallery (hoho) of monsters and bosses.
Stepping out for the first time onto the isometric grid, you’ll notice it’s not exactly a looker. First off, everything is garish and kind of just melds into each other to the point where you’ll have a hard time differentiating your character from the scenery, and the scenery from your enemies, and your enemies from the buildings which are patently too small for your character to enter (I know this is a retro 8 bit title, it just looks weird when you walk up to a hut with your head peering over the top of it). But hey, I’m probably being too harsh, would I have had these same concerns in 1985? Well yes, actually. I just don’t think I would’ve been able to articulate them as well, being a five year old.
But maybe it’s not even fair to comment on the graphics, it’s not even about that. N.O.V.A. is about that, Modern Combat is about that. This isn’t. It’s about the differences ‘Dungeon Plunder’ brings to the table to the genre. And what are they? Well let me tell you Eugene!
The combat consists of a slot-machine style system where spinning the wheel and selecting multiple symbols define your moves. Land on a heart and you might gain +3 health…or you might lose 8 health; tap on a sword and prepare to strike your enemy…or get hit. I’m not exactly sure how the maths work, but it’s fun for a while. With ‘for a while’ being the operative phrase.
After the fifth time, you begin to tire, and to notice that it takes you completely out of the spell of the game, being more of a distraction to progress than an engaging part of the narrative.
There’s also the legacy system which is pretty cool. This is a roguelike, so death is permanent; if you snuff it, that’s it. Hardcore baby. Unlike most rogues though, ‘Dungeon Plunder’ throws you a bone by allowing your next character to inherit some of your previous swag such as magical items, money and runes which provide level-ups among all your characters.
The other thing is the music, which is hands down the best thing about the game. Produced by a dude named Matthew Pablo, it’s well done, with a great suggestion of adventure. The title screen tune might sound like a shlocky US daytime courtroom drama, but I dare you to tell me you don’t like it.
This is a pretty classic hardcore experience down to the perma-death, annoying mechanical movement (you MUST go AROUND this small pool of water that any human could simply step over), and unhelpful menus (get four layers deep into a menu and you have to press ‘back’ four times to resume your game). But it didn’t quite come together enough to tickle my tugboat, guess I’m just not hardcore enough.
Get on Twitter. Follow Kevin @KevThePen. Avoid the rats.