Do you dream of delving deep into a dungeon on a quintessential fantasy adventure?
Do you love brutally unforgiving gameplay? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then you need to play the rogue-like dungeon crawler that is Dungelot: Shattered Lands.
Dungelot: Shattered Lands is a dungeon crawler set in the land of Pangeus. It is based on a simple premise: survive every level of a dungeon and defeat the boss at the end. There’s nothing complicated on offer here; the game is all about getting back to basics. Just your hero and the dungeon.
First things first, you pick your hero, starting with only the Paladin but slowly (and I mean slowly) unlocking other characters, each with their own powers and defects. Then you pick your dungeon to work through on an overhead map, and crawl through it, floor by floor, by breaking blocks in a five-by-five grid in order to find the key to the next level. Under each brick could be the key, some supplies or a monster. The monsters then block the bricks around them from being broken.
The monsters are fought by either clicking a basic attack in which you take damage or by using a selection of spells and provisions. This is where the game becomes interesting. How do you approach each enemy; do you use your provisions now, or save them for a potentially harder enemy later? Do you risk fighting an enemy to get another provision or do you move on and make do with what you have?
There are also random encounters that the game throws at you. These encounters each present you with a puzzle: do you leave, or do you do action A or B? Like much of the game, it’s a trade-off of risk versus reward; sometimes you get rewarded for that desperate risk you have taken, and sometimes you get slapped round the face with a -10 HP. Every decision that you make affects your provisions, health and other items in some way, and each one really does feel like a life or death decision. It’s not all so serious though: there are a fair few mini games that you can randomly encounter, including an interesting “Simon Says” puzzle, that provide a welcome respite from the intensity of the rest of the game.
The world of Dungelot: Shattered Lands is very interesting; the developers have really tried to create a fun yet eerie experience, and largely, it pays off. The game is full of light-hearted comedy, but although you can tell the effort was there, I do feel it is a bit hit and miss. I found a skit about a scarecrow union amusing, but some of the dialogue between the characters is a bit bland.
However, the lacklustre dialogue is more than made up for by the visuals: the dungeons are well designed, but it’s the cartoon sprites with real character that really make the game come to life. Despite its cartoony aesthetics however, Dungelot: Shattered Lands has a distinct tone of a dungeon crawler. This is mainly due to the great atmosphere that’s carried through the game thanks to the brilliant soundtrack. Even though it can be quite repetitive at times, you barely notice as you’re likely to be more focused on how it slowly tingles the hair on the back of your neck. It really does this game justice.
While Dungelot: Shattered Lands does do a lot of things well, I did find it repetitive after a while. The alleged “random” encounters eventually boil down to being the same, and most enemies fall into the same few types. Fans of the rogue-like genre may relish the slog through each levels and love the harsh challenge these dungeons present, but for me, I didn’t enjoy having to face identical challenges again and again. After being defeated by a dungeon several times – sometimes through nothing but sheer unluckiness – I felt defeated and did not want to carry on. I may or may not have rage-quitted a fair few times.
But that is what Dungelot: Shattered Lands is really about. It’s a return to the basics; a proper dungeon crawler with a bit of attitude. It doesn’t hold your hand through the game, but asks you to struggle through. Despite its basic nature, it hides a lot of depth and you have to really judge every decision. It doesn’t tell what to do; instead you are free to choose how best to tackle the challenges that each dungeon presents you with. It’s up to you to break the losing cycle by trying new things, whether that means risking yourself to save a cat for a much-needed provision or whether you save your bombs for the boss. I definitely couldn’t recommend this game to everyone but if you like a tactical, turn-based dungeon crawler then do give Dungelot: Shattered Lands a go. Even if you get frustrated with the challenge, I promise that you will come back for more!