Published on July 1st, 2013 | by Kristian Ivanov1
Pixel Dungeon Review
It seems like rogue-like games are constantly increasing in number, especially on Android. Over the last year, quite a few have popped up, some of them good, some of them bad. Pixel Dungeon in particular, is a pretty interesting one. It’s a turn-based rogue-like, with pixel-art graphics, developed by watabou.
The gameplay is what you might expect – you roam the floors of a randomly generated dungeon, fighting monsters, collecting items and trying to make it as far as you can. Once you die – your character is deleted and you start back from square 1…however, the developer decided to add one interesting twist to the standard formula – item effects are also randomly generated. Just because on your first playthrough the red potion healed you, that doesn’t mean it’ll heal you on the second one, its function could’ve been swapped with that of a fire potion. Weapons and armor also use an interesting mechanic. Once you find a new weapon, it’s displayed with a “?” next to it. When you equip it, one of multiple things can happen: it can be a regular weapon, upgraded weapon, or cursed (which you can’t remove unless you upgrade it first).
While adventuring, your character will eventually become hungry and if you don’t find food soon, you’ll endup starving, which leads to loosing HP every time you move. On the plus side, food is usually easy to come by if you don’t slack off when it comes to exploring the dungeon floor. Other cool things you can find range from special rooms that heal you or identify items, to scrolls which allow you to see where enemies or items are, upgrade your items, reveal the whole floor, or simply teleport you to a random location. Many of these items are found in hidden rooms that you have to look for…but be careful, there are also hidden traps out there!
All that seems cool? Well, that’s not all. The game also offers you a choice of three character classes:
- Warrior – starts with higher strength, better sword, knows which potion improves strength and eating food restores his HP
- Mage – starts with a better wand, the wand-charges regenerate faster, eating food restores wand charges and knows which scroll identifies items
- Rogue – starts with a ring that increases evasion, missile weapons are more accurate, can last longer without food and knows which scroll reveals the floor map
If you make it far enough, you can also upgrade each of the classes to one of two subclasses, making it a total of 9 character types by the end of the game.
The design of the game is something I personally like. Being it a turn-based game, this allows you to relax a bit and plan strategic actions even when in tough encounters. Unless you perform an action, time doesn’t pass in the game and other enemies can’t do anything. Enemy designs are cool too, with a nice variety even in the start of the game. As you progress, some of them disappear and new tougher ones start showing up. There are also a few bosses to spice things up a bit. The dungeon also changes its appearance the deeper you go, which I personally find really cool…gives a feel of the old-school dungeon-crawlers, despite not being a first-person game. Sound-wise I think it’s a bit lacking…the hit-effects are pretty much the same, and the music can get repetitive if you don’t progress much…however, they still do a great job enhancing the feel of the game.
There is also one interesting thing that caught me off-guard – the game uses some “realism” elements. If you’re set on fire – walk over water to put it out instantly (applies to enemies aswell). Locked door and no key? Throw a fire potion and burn it down! However, you should also be careful since grass also burns and the fire spreads, which can turn against you pretty fast.
Last but not least when it comes to design – the business model…it’s free. No ads, no IAP…just free. It’s also constantly updated with new features, tweaks and other really cool stuff too. I personally think the developer deserves recognition for this, he obviously put a lot of work and soul into this game to make it something really awesome that we can all enjoy…well, except if you hate rogue-likes, then you won’t like it…but I know I love it and I highly recommend you give it a try yourselves.
Summary: Pixel Dungeon is one of the best rogue-likes on Android. It's highly randomized experience and regular updates almost guarantee you'll have lots of fun with it.