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Review: DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon July 7, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , trackback

Game: DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon
Developer: Caravel Games
Version: This is a review of the full version of the game.

I’m having a little difficulty classifying this game. Certainly, DROD (Deadly Rooms of Death) is a puzzle game. But when I’m waist deep in enemies that are out for my blood, and I’m swinging my sword around like a maniac, it definitely feels more like an action game.

You play as Beethro Budkin, and you’ve been sent by King Dugan to clean all of the vermin out of his dungeon “so that the prisoners can receive their torture in a clean and safe environment.” (Quote from The Story of Beethro.) Your only weapon in this mission is your sturdy sword. (You’ll run across some invisibility and mimic potions, but since they are room specific and you can’t carry them with you, you’d better get used to swinging that sword around.)

DROD is completely turn based. You take an action, then all of the enemies get an action. It looks like it all happens at once, but if there’s an enemy standing near you, you can turn to stab him before he gets a chance to get you. The actions you can take are: Move one square by using the number pad arrows, turn 45 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise with the Q or W keys, or do nothing by pressing 5 on the number pad. Two more buttons are also important. If you press R you’ll restart the current level, and Backspace will undo your last move. It’s pretty simple, though from other games I’ve played I’m used to having my movement keys under my left hand, so sometimes I’ll get confused and turn when I meant to move diagonally and get myself killed.

Fighting the enemies is pretty straightforward. Move or turn so that your sword, which is always in front of you, is sticking into the square an enemy is in, and they die. Since you get to move first, and an enemy will never willingly walk into your sword, there is a good amount of strategy to discover. When I first started playing, I’d try to get all of the enemies into a straight line, and then rush forward through them all. If an enemy ever snuck around behind me or came at me from the side, I was toast. Now I’m dancing around like Errol Flynn.

But the game’s not just about combat. In fact, while killing all of the monsters is your main goal, you’re going to spend a significant amount of your time hitting switches to open doors, or trying to find your way across a room where the floor crumbles under your feet while leaving yourself a patch back out.

What I liked:
As you might have guessed, I really like the combat mechanism. I also like the puzzles. Sometimes they’re tricky enough that I’m ready to pull my hair out. But that just makes it all that more rewarding when I finally solve it. The music is really nice. Good enough in fact that there was a strong demand for a CD Soundtrack which you can order from the Caravel website. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

What I disliked:
I really dislike the image of Beethro at the top left of the interface. And it’s not just that he’s ugly, which is true, but it’s that I don’t like that drawing very much. (That’s the only bit of art I didn’t care for, though.) I’d like to see a little bit more in the way of in game tutorials. I enjoyed discovering the joys of combat on my own (which is why I didn’t give much strategy above) but there are some things that I’d like a bit more info on. For example, even after a couple of levels of fighting rooms full of wraithwings, I’m still not sure about how they act. Sometimes I’ll be totally exposed and about to die and they’ll run away, and other times I’m toast. (I’m sure they follow some rules, I just don’t fully understand them yet.)

Games it reminded me of:
The combat (at first) feels slightly like The Legend of Zelda, with the way your sword is always out in front of you, but once I got better at it, the combat feels more like a turn based role playing game mixed with chess. There are puzzle aspects that are sort of like other games, but when you add in the mimic potions, I don’t think I’ve played anything quite like it before.

I played the demo all the way through and then quite gladly bought the full version. I’ll most likely grab the next DROD game (Journey to the Rooted Hold) as well when I finish all of the King Dugan’s Dungeon levels. I highly recommend this game to anyone who likes puzzles and a little strategy in their combat. Plus the demo is nice and long. There’s no reason not to at least give it a try.


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