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Baby on board!

  • Kylaila
  • 07/14/2014 10:30 AM
"D is for Dungeon" is a dungeoncrawler made for the IGMC 2014.
And indeed, fine dungeoncrawling it is. Crawling through the depths of hell to save humanity! It suffers from balancing-issues, but is otherwise a great, fun dungeoncrawler.

The catch about this one is simple - you are a baby. Yes, a baby. A baby crawling his way through hordes of monsters to eliminate the great darkness.
And no, you do not grow over the course of the game other than in your fighting abilities.
Legend has it, that one chose hero appears whenever the great evil appears as well. But this time, evil came a few years too early. It's as hilarious as it sounds.

And that's about it for the story, this is pure dungeoncrawling, do not go in expecting anything else.
There are four different sections, and 26 stages in total.

The first impression you then get is .. standard RTP, yep. Throughout the whole game, actually. I find the first music is not well-chosen, while it continues the hilarity by being light-hearted, it neither fits into the dungeon you now face, nor is it enjoyable. It gets on your nerves very soon. And since I was stuck there for quite some time (see below), that alone can be very annoying.
The other pieces were far better, suited the atmosphere of each area and wasn't annoying, either.

The other areas were very enjoyable and showed a good sense of progression - you start out into a typical grey-ish cave-dungeon, but then get variety by being outside a bit (we don't wanna be logical here) and continuing onto something more epic.

I love me some forest underground

The puzzles were very good. They started out easy and got more and more difficult.
While the first one merely involved lighting up torches, later ones needed you to time switches properly and then needed your steps to be well-chose.

For example, the small crystal above can be changed to different colors, and according to the color near the counterpart big crystal, something appeared. Be it bridges or treasure chests. Combine this with multiple smaller ones and the hunt for treasure chests inbetween and you already have a nice system on your hands.

And if you really hate puzzles, or the later ones are too much trouble for you, you can also purchase a "Strategy Guide" to finish the puzzle you need to advance further. Great option.
Now that we've covered the body of the game, let's move on to the heart of any dungeon-crawler.

The battle mechanics

First off: when you die, you go back to the last save point/vendor tent you visited. No losing anything regardless of the difficulty you choose.

The vendor tent is healing spot, save and teleportation point and the place of your trusted merchant. Your secret base. And you've got one of those on each and every floor.
Enemies will respawn once you go inside.

Status attributes are almost standard, except you need to level up your max HP and max MP as well. You will not gain any more of it otherwise. You get 5 initial points as well as one lp (levelpoint?) per level up.
There is also an item adding 1 lp, but it is very very expensive.

HP - maximum life. 50 HP added each lp
MP - maximum mana. 5 MP added each lp
Brawn - physical attack damage
Bulk - physical defense
Brains - magical attack + defense
Bustle - speed (more turns, higher evasion/hit-rate)
(you gotta love the baby Bs)

The battles are turnbased with a speed-modificator .. so you wait for your gauge to fill up, attack, and wait again. Using spells requires extra cast-time which depens on your brains contrary to speed for your general turn.

This makes speed one of the best investments you can possibly make. If you can get 4 turns before the enemy gets even one, you know you will have an easier time. It also makes it possible for you to almost completely abandon defense without any major set-back.

The MP point is probably one of the major reasons playing a mage sucks. And, thinking you can regenerate your MP on every floor anyways, I did.
Most simple damage spells use 5 MP, so does a single-target heal. Buffing needs more. So before you can cast more than 2 spells in a row, you need to invest in mana. Since you won't deal any damage at all without brains, you need brains as well. Since you will have an extra-long cast-time, you cannot possibly abondon defense completely. Being slower doesn't help that one, either. See the problem?

Now, I realize playing a mage in any dungeoncrawler sucks, but I tried nevertheless. I wanted to try at least once and it seemed possible. And got horribly stuck.
If you do want to play as one, you can reset your lp for meager 100 gold (potions are just as expensive), so I advise you to do so later on. You will be useful as a buffer and healer if you do. But simple brutes beat all.

If you go for brute with, for example, 2 point brawn, 2 brustle, 1 HP, then you will be able to kill 2 enemies without even being scratched on normal. Or hard. (only tested that one early on, as I played as mage throughout the actual playthrough). Bosses require you to at least survive one hit, or have someone in your party who does (see below).
The first ones were rather hard, but it comes in handy that you acquire very good baby-skills with a stun-chance which affects bosses as well and spells with which you can increase your enemies' cast-time/lower yours.
If you go for the brute, I'd advise to go for hard or you will have a fairly easy time.

Your party will include up to 4 members - although you need to summon them in your base. Summoning requires rare gems that you only get before progressing to the next major area (read: before the next big boss). There's lots of customization possible.

You can purchase "souls" to summon. These souls include mages, tanks, buffer, archer and plenty inbetween, there are 12 in total. You can summon these any time once you've purchased them. You can also summon multiple characters with the same soul. You can also set their lp freely.
I went for a tank-class called "Sentinel" and 2x "Swordace" for extra speedy damage.

Each of them has a different skill set to learn. And each of these skills can be learned by you via skill scrolls. They are conveniently named after their respective class.
You can either find these scrolls in treasure chests (they are of higher level than the ones you could purchase), or you can buy them at the merchant. With each new sections, new equipment will be stocked up, including scrolls of higher level. But you can only use up to 6 skills in battle, so you should choose wisely.

There are a couple of different magic elements, fire, curse, magik among them with different affinities. Exploiting them did not seem vital, though, as they make little difference. You do not have any multi-target spells for most of the game, except heals. You have a baby-multi stun spells very late in the game, but other than that: nothing (unless I overlooked something?)
There are many buffing spells, but few debuffing spells. Status ailments weren't much of a problem, though, as you can negate the ones hurting you the most with accessories.
Equipment, too, can be found in treasure chests, but usually buying them was the faster and better option, as they are fairly cheap. Your best equipment, however, needs to be acquired through limited items and bosses.

Once you had a larger team, battles became a breeze and the last bosses, too, are fairly easy, as you get many lp-boosts, good equipment and so on. As long as you focus on bustling brawler, of course.

You could easily ignore skills and instead have one buffer and 2-3 auto-attacker.
And early game is near impossible if you go for a mage-build.
It is rather disappointed that while you have the ability to freely form a party and character, you have only few ways to go that actually work.
Nevertheless, you can focus on different strategies if you so choose and you can get away with it.

While battles generally can be easy, the transition from area to area works really well.
There are no random encounters, but there are many many battles you cannot avoid in order to advance to the next level.
Some enemies are stationary and block treasure chest, others are on the look-out to ambush you once you are in their vision, others patrol randomly. It adds to the dungeon atmosphere and gives a little bit more variety.
Monsters usually form groups of 2-4 and sometimes 5 enemies or single enemies can be encountered.

In short

"D is for Dungeon" may not have its own music or custom-graphics, but puts them together very well. The dungeon design, the puzzles and the general gameplay is wonderful.
You can freely develop your own party and strategies, but the battle-system is unfortunately rather imbalanced and can easily be exploited.

It's been very fun to play nevertheless, but I would advise to go for the hard difficulty right away.


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Baby on board, how I've adored
That sign on my car's windowpane.
Bounce in my step,
Loaded with pep,
'Cause I'm driving in the carpool lane.
Call me a square,
Friend, I don't care.
That little yellow sign can't be ignored.
I'm telling you it's mighty nice.
Each trip's a trip to paradise
With my baby on board!

Thanks for the review Kylaila!
Exactly what I had on mind :)
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