Just when I thought I’ve played enough rogue-likes to well and truly scratch that itch for the rest of eternity, Dungeonmans comes along and blows away the prospect of me ever stopping playing the genre. It’s a title cut from the fully graphical rogue-like cloth but fashioned with enough new features and ideas to make a veteran of RL’s like myself excited. Dungeonmans is planned for release March next year and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign (hopefully a successful campaign will bring that date forward). It comes from Jim Shepard whose been a developer in the AAA realm the last few years and has since moved over to the light-side of indie game development. A summer preview was recently made available, and for fans of the rouge-like it’s well worth checking out. I’ve spent a number hours loot gathering and dying in Dungeonmans already and have some thoughts on it after the jump.
Although each character you make in Dungeonmans will suffer from perma-death, the world that they adventure in is persistent. The game takes place on an overworld map that is littered with randomly generated dungeons. Each game the overworld map will stay the same, meaning that the locations of each of the dungeons will remain, but the each time you re-enter a dungeon with a new character it will be generated anew. Along with the same persistent world (which you can choose to re-randomly re-generate) the Dungeomans Academy is the thing that links each of your perma-death characters together. Bringing back books and relics to the Academy with one character will make all subsequent characters more powerful through increases in base statistics and pre-identification of items. This thread linking all your character together makes the inevitable deaths easier to bear. It also adds a nice element of risk/reward to each adventure, do you head back to the Academy with the books and relics you have now? Or push through the next couple of levels of the dungeon to get a few more?
You’re free to travel the wide overworld map of Dungeonmans as you please. The danger level of enemies increases relative to the distance you are away from the Academy. This avoids the age-old rogue-like problem of having to re-do the same repetitive levels of a dungeon over and over again with each death of your character. If you’re sick of starting each character in the Scrobbold cavern’s next to the academy, just run off and spend your first levels in a nearby tower instead. It also means if you’re feeling cocky you can attempt to best dungeons that are above your level. Character development also has a free-roaming quality to it. Each level gives you a point to spend on unlocking abilities, which can be picked from any school of Dungeonmans mastery regardless of starting class. This allows a nice amount of customization to the characters.
There’s still a fair amount of work that needs to be done before the game is released next year. Towns and shops are currently bereft of purpose, not selling much outside of very basic arms and armour. The dungeons tend to get a bit samey, only offering 4 or 5 different styles. The art in particular is a bit all over the place, some sprites are looking pretty good but others are completely devoid of either style or quality. Regardless, Dungeonmans has the basics in place to be a great addition to the hall of rogue-likes. It’s similar to everything you’ve played before but through the clever addition of the Dungeonmans Academy linking each character together and a wide open overworld it feels like a fresh new experience. Fresh and very addicting.