In anticipation of Steampunk Empires by the same developer as this title, I decided to give another dungeon run, for old-time’s sake. Dungeons of Dredmor is another game that I wish existed when I was a kid. In a way, this game did exist when I was a kid, but this is a modern reincarnation of those games it takes after whose places it takes over. Surely, it couldn’t have existed when I was younger considering many of the elements of what makes this game fun, but that is ok. We have it now, so let the shenanigans begin!
Take Zork: Grand Inquisitor, Diablo, a dash of Lovecraft, and the combined shenanigans of Ghostbusters, Firefly, Monty Python and you are still only getting started. Dungeons of Dredmor is a pixelated masterpiece that splices click-to-kill dungeoneering with the humor of a by-gone era. Then they add in all kinds of fun and exciting features that make this a game you are sure to play for hours on end. Its pixel graphics and isometric view allow this title to have the complexity of gameplay that make it one of my top “do not uninstall” games. Its procedural dungeon designs, loot and enemies also make it fun in a way that only slaughtering hordes of monsters in a dark, dank dungeon can deliver.
When you start you make your character, and the options to do so are pretty mind-boggling. The three standard types of character are there: Mage, Rogue and Warrior. But every character you create will be a combination of all three, whatever the division of powers. As you level up, this division will fluctuate between the classes. There are 45 skills that you have to choose from at the start, after you iron out your difficulty setting. These range from polearms, shields and wand lore to archaeology, mathemagic and emomancy. I wish I had time to talk about all them, but I don’t. My favorite combination so far starts me off as a rogue that drives toward a magician as he levels. When you select your skills, you have to pick apart the grand list of 45 fucking abilities and whittle it down to your 7 favorite. At first you might pick all the neat ones, but that will get you killed. You might avoid crafting, but that will also get you killed. My favorite combination so far is definitely Staff-fighting, wand lore, fungal arts, alchemy, tinkering, rogue scientist and archaeology.
I like this combo because the abilities cooperate well. First off, I just like the staves. They tend to add defense and crushing, so it makes for a fun fight, if they get close. My main skill is wand lore. This is a tough one to focus on, though, because you will find yourself out of wand parts (and inventory space) by the 3rd level. So, you will need something to back yourself up when enemies close in. Fungal arts and alchemy work together well as alchemy lets you draw resources from various fungi that you cultivate on the bodies of the dead. This gets you a number of good secondary weapons right at the start. Tinkering is good, even if only for the bombs you can create. These fuckers will take out an entire room, and there are mines too, if that is what you’re into. Rogue scientist is a steampunk mish-mosh of tinkering, wand lore and alchemy that gives you some good hold-out moves and catches the bonuses of those three disciplines and lets you benefit from them. Archaeology is a good way to get some miscellaneous experience. Killing monsters is good and well, but I am not looking to be that guy that is grinding his ass off to get to a place where he can fight further down. To put it into perspective, using Archaeology I have gotten to level 9 and I just started floor 3. Yea.
These skills extrapolate out to the character’s 28 stats. Yea, 28. So, you can see how diverse in abilities you can make your character. My character is a rogue-based wizard, essentially, and as such has remarkable dodge and counter-strike. He also critical hits and gets haywire hits (magical crits) on a regular basis. Of course if he gets hit, he dies fast, but I can make life potions, cultivate healing shrooms and there is also food as a final fall back. I don’t like to let enemies get close enough to need fight hand-to-hand. But when I do, I beat them with a big fucking stick. Literally. That is what the animation looks like and I love it. Only thing about that I take issue with is I feel there should be a more face-crunching sound effect, you know?
Once you get down to the dungeons you will notice that there is a vast variety of enemies from diggles and undead aethernauts to evil vegetables and flying, spell-casting skulls. It is mind-boggling all the foes you will flay, but it never gets old. Especially when you hit the zoos. These are rooms filled wall-to-wall with enemies. They could be as small as a former monster-collector’s personal burial chamber or as vast as ancient cisterns. In the end, you will shit yourself when you bust the door down and pray you have some good AoE attacks. For me I blast them with my acid wands, save up my Odious Puffballs and toss in a couple acid flasks. Mosolov Cocktails in this game (basically molotov cocktails) also leaving a lingering fireball that other enemies walk through. Bombs will also help out and kill giant holes in the crowd, but it is seriously just a monster convention in there. IF you successfully complete the zoo without dying, you will receive a powerful loot item, too.
Each floor has its own theme, too, but you will always see the diggles. These little rubber-nosed bird-creatures are omnipresent in the dungeons, so Dredmor must’ve personally subsidized them. Either that or they breed like cockroaches and act like subterranean pigeons, infiltrating every crack and crevice they can find and reproducing like dirty, little, drill-nosed rabbits. Dredmor, in case I forgot to mention him, is the ultimate boss of the dungeons. I think I am supposed to kill him at the end, but I haven’t seen that guy yet. When the game first came out, you had to beat the game before you could load after death. Yep. So when you died, the game would delete all your save files for a specific character. It was infuriating, but the rush after getting to the lower floors was unparalleled. Today I was able to play after dying once, so either the DLC that was released allowed me this feature, or I beat down to a level where I could unlock said feature.
This game references almost every facet of popular sub-culture that it will make your head spin. It has more video-game/movie references than every season of Big Bang Theory and Family Guy combined, past present and future. There are Zelda and Braid jokes, Dragon Ball Z get one in, Firefly quotes echo through the dungoens, skill trees mimic the life and times of Indiana Jones, stats are named after Pirates of the Carribbean slang and I swear there are Monty Python jokes lingering around each corner. You spend your days counting Zorkmids and you character’s portrait even decays exactly as in the original Wolfenstein 3d at the same levels of health degredation. Conan the barbarian, emos, vegans: you name it. It’s fucking in there. There are also a number of puns that mostly only the British should get, but they’re obvious enough to be funny to us Yanks, too. Overall, this game’s treatment of sub-culture and popular culture references are so far-reaching, expansive and awesome that this really is a gamer-culture work of art. Every time I play, I find more references and jokes, too. It is truly remarkable.
Then there are the little things that fill in the corners of this piece quite nicely. Everything else is procedurally generated, why not the side-quests? You pray at the shrine of Inconsequentia, the Goddess of Side-Quests. Place your weapons on the Anvil of Krong for nice upgraded loot items. Gallivant through the hordes of monsters wearing a roadcone and liederhosen. I can’t say anything comedic. I don’t need to. This game is hilarious as hell all on its own. Play through this title and you will be equal parts amazed, entertained and pissed that you missed so much free time indoors. Buy Dungeons of Dredmor complete on Steam now for the summer sale! That shit only runs you 2.93$ for the DLC that isn’t fucking free! Just go get it. This is one that you’ll be glad you bought.
Among all the games I have played so far, this one shines on top of the pile like a star, but it still has its rough spots. What is it this time? I played this game for FOUR FUCKING HOURS and only got to the 3rd floor. You have to be ready to commit a good weekend to this game just to get far enough to even fucking smell Dredmor! I have owned this title for literal goddamn YEARS and I have played it on and off and never ONCE saw the guy. That fucking perma-death element went a long way toward keeping me away, but now that I can reload after death, I should be able to get that bastard. Of course now I feel like a piece of shit that can’t hack the lower dungeons without dying once! And what did I get killed by in my last play on that deep, dark level in an alternate dimension? Hmmm? A GODDAMNED BUFFED-OUT DIGGLE! The mickey-mousey comedic enemy of the ENTIRE FUCKING GAME! You have no idea how hard and loud I raged. I was in the army at that point and my roommates thought I was giving birth to a fucking watermelon out my ass. AGH! Whatever, I am killing me some fucking buff-assed diggles this time. Ain’t nothing gonna stop my fungus-eating, stick wielding, wand-sliging Titus Cezarius!