REVIEW: Dungeons of Desolation

Dungeons of Desolation (80 MSP) is a roguelike (think plumbing the depths for ever-greater loot, living and fighting in constant fear of death) in the vein of Cursed Loot or its slightly less-serious PC namesake, Dungeons of Dredmor. Its creative indebtedness to both titles means it doesn’t ultimately differ much from them, but it’s still a nifty dungeon crawler to while away the hours in.

Visually, it’s a downgrade from the aforementioned games. The art lacks any kind of pop, and the animation (for battles and characters) is nearly non-existent, but all the other aspects of a roguelike make the translation intact. Using the town of Desolation as your hub ‘mall’ to purchase and sell goods, you travel below its surface to spelunk the dimly-lit caverns and cellars, running into all manner of monsters you must defeat, which drop all manner of enchanted armor and weapons. Equip and explore, then equip and explore again. Put it all on repeat, sprinkle a hardly-there grade-school plot on top, and you’re all set.

Though with multiple up / down staircases and randomized floor layouts, no two playthroughs are ever the same. The game does its best to keep things fresh too, including a wheel of chance, manned by Death Himself, that you’re forced to spin with every demise met. You’ll usually lose a portion of your acquired XP or gold from that run, which hurts (your pride), but it’s not as completely progress-destroying as some of the other roguelikes that came before it. You’ll be thankful for its mercy early. With literally hundreds of items, potions, weapons, and equipment, finding a good configuration is awesome and equally heartbreaking if you fail to save before a tough room or floor.

Dungeons of Desolation lends itself more toward RPG than action with the inclusion of skill trees that branch out from four areas of expertise; weaponry (stats), black magic (offensive), grey magic (buffs), and white magic (healing). Spend some time bullying the smaller game and you’ll be rewarded. Leveling up gives you the points required to upgrade, allowing you to tailor the game to your proclivities and tackle the bigger, meaner crowds that come later.

Level 1? What is this, amateur hour? Go home, son. Call me when you get your ‘holy aura’.

Those skill trees expand the game’s depth, but can also oversimplify your progress. By the time I had leveled into the mid-30s, I was effectively a walking tank, resisting all elemental attacks, steeped in White Mage power, thus regenerating / healing at a ridiculous rate, and smashing any enemy I came across. I descended each new staircase with ease, finding better equipment, confident that death couldn’t find me no matter how far down I ventured (25 floors in total), and I was right in that assumption. With the game no longer a challenge, exploration lost much of its allure. The final boss was a pushover (and a bit underwhelming).

Roguelikes are won and lost on their ability to kill you off and keep you coming back for more. The challenge trails off towards the end, and it comes in a less-attractive package, but Dungeons of Desolation holds it own amongst the others in its class, offering you plenty of customization, looting, and equipment-comparing for the buck. If you haven’t yet tired of staircases leading endlessly down, it’s worth the time.

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9 thoughts on “REVIEW: Dungeons of Desolation”

  1. DoD looks great, except for the aforementioned lack of difficulty. That is a deal breaker for me I think. I need a stiff challenge. I heard there is a “hardcore” mode for this game. Does anyone know whether it just simply adds perma-death only or does it make the game as a whole more challenging? Also, is there any XBLIG roguelikes you would recommend over this one? 80ms points hang in the balance!

    1. I like DoD for its variety in skill-building, but yeah, if it’s a challenge you seek, DoD gets way too easy towards the end. I’m not entirely sure what Hardcore mode entails, might just be perma-death like you mentioned.

      Cursed Loot is a very similar game, and the one I’d give the edge to. Difficulty-wise, you’re far more likely to die in that game than here, and it is a little more fun. There’s more on XBLIG, I’m sure, but those are the only RPG-like roguelikes I can think of off the top of my head, If you don’t mind your roguelikes more action-oriented, there’s always Diehard Dungeon (https://thexblig.com/2012/09/14/review-diehard-dungeon/) or Sushi Castle ( https://thexblig.com/2012/07/15/review-sushi-castle/). Both can be pretty merciless, and both are 80 MSP.

    1. That’s probably the same choice I’d make with a 2 / 3 option. Battlepaths will give you a HUGE return in terms of hours spent on it. Dungeons of Desolation isn’t bad though. The skill trees are a nice incentive to try some combinations. I never did use much of the Black Magic tree in my run through. Might go back to tinker with that.

  2. You are spot on with your review. I found the game to be a lot of fun to begin with, but once I’d levelled up a few times and had some decent equipment I found the challenge was completely gone. As a result, the last 10 or so floors were kind of dull. Shame really, since it’s otherwise quite a decent game.

    1. Leveling up unnecessarily has always been my M.O. in RPGs. The best moments for me have always been walking into what would-be a tougher area, then just overpowering everything. It saps the challenge, sure, but that’s why I put in the work beforehand. Just the way I do things. 🙂

      It would’ve felt more rewarding in DoD had there been a little more to do or see, but it’s pretty bland throughout. Cursed Loot had those random, sometimes funny, encounters at least. Bottom line, it did its job, I agree, and it’s still fun 90% of the time.

    2. I’ve just reached the point in my first serious attempt where I’m just ripping through everything without breaking a sweat. I suspect a mage build might offer more challenge thanks to the feebleness of the spells.

    3. That’s what I’m thinking. The few points I put into magic, I never found a spell that I -had- to have / use. Always worked better just to buff up stats and equipment. March to the Moon was like that too. There’s ways to make it harder to play with the upgrades you buy, but should I really try to neuter my experience for the sake of challenge if it’s not what I want?

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