"Dungeonmans is already a great game, so I look forward to the finished product."
In the last few years, the roguelike genre has made a massive comeback in the indie market. Considering the large number released on a regular basis, it's no surprise that only a few achieve critical or commercial success. It may still be looking for funding on Kickstarter, but tongue-in-cheek roguelike Dungeonmans already looks as if it may take a place on the podium. Even in its early stages of development it's filled with endless hours of fun... and permadeath. I had a chance to play the pre-alpha demo this week, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
True to its genre, Dungeonmans has no shortage of, well, dungeons, or "mans" to delve into them. Character creation is as simple as picking from a table of rolled stats, choosing a class and a couple of traits, and setting off. In the demo, I could pick from a "Fighterman," "Rangerman," "Wizardman," "Dungeonman," or the unlockable "Necromanser," and there will be additional classes upon release. You can customize each character by using skill points as you level up. It's a great system, because you can either play a classic lightly-armored, agile ranger, or a heavily-armored, mace-wielding ranger. There's plenty of customization freedom to be found, and each class has interesting abilities such as a fighter's charge or a wizard's ice block.
The stats, however, have odd names: Stremf, Skills, Science, Foom, Bombast. This is my only major complaint with Dungeonmans, as I could never remember each stat’s function. Each stat has a descriptive paragraph dedicated to it when you create a character, but it's way too much to remember, considering the unusual terminology. I'm sure many players will have no issues with this, but forgetting what my stats did slowed the game down as I tried to remember or checked the reference. While I normally encourage originality, sticking to classic names such as strength and dexterity may have been beneficial.
Once the game begins, your task is to furnish the newly founded Dungeonmans Academy. It's a rather bleak institution to begin with, but by exploring the overworld, finding dungeons, and bringing back books and alchemy tools, it can be turned into a place to be proud of. Even though all deaths are permanent, any progress you make with the academy is retained between characters. As the academy improves you gain bonuses too, such as automatic identification of scrolls and potions, and these bonuses are retained across characters. It's a great system that aids in relieving the potential frustration of death. What's lacking, however, is a greater purpose. After a few hours, my motivation had nearly run out. An ultimate goal or destination would help the game's pacing.
Dungeons provide great variety. Iron fortresses, musty caves, graveyards, tombs, bandit hideouts and more are waiting to be found and conquered. New enemies are in abundance, so combat and exploration never gets old. It's all randomly-generated too, so there's the potential for endless entertainment. Combat is clever and strategic, and this is where Dungeonmans truly shines. Positioning is important, and each class has unique ways of dealing with foes. Fighters can charge in and hit hard, while rangers can leap around a map, shooting arrows as they go. The game is turn-based, so it's easy to stop and think about the best move to make, or look through your bags of loot for a potion if you're in a tight spot.
Dungeonmans is already a great game, so I look forward to the finished product. The gameplay is well-designed and smart, and combat is strategic and entertaining. Backed by an awesome soundtrack and stylish old-school graphics, Dungeonmans' randomly-generated world is an interesting place to explore. Dungeonmans is definitely a game to watch out for in the coming months. If you're interested in backing the project or finding out more, take a look at the Kickstarter page.