• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

A Dungeon Crawl!

The author of Dungeon Crawl, Liberty, is in-touch with the spirit of amateur game design in that she has a made a game that pursues a truly unique idea. Dungeon Crawl is not really like any other game, and does not pander to genre expectations like most amateur games do. It is thoughtful, well-designed, and genuinely interesting.

Dungeon Crawl is presented from a truly top-down perspective. It is so assertively top-down that the player only see the tops of character heads and none of their bodies. The player can tell which direction they face because their noses stick out. The player do not see walls, but the player do see the space in-between. It is not nearly as disorienting as I thought it would be, and is in fact extremely functional. It also does not actually look bad when the game is in motion, which I was surprised by. Bonus points are awarded for the entirety of the game's art assets (with a few exceptions) being custom-made for this project.

Dungeon Crawl is more of an adventure game than the title would imply. It does not take inspiration from Gold-Box Dungeons and Dragons games, but rather from point-and-click adventure games. There is no combat, and the player will never enter a menu outside of the primary game view. All information is shown in a detailed HUD at the top of the screen. This presentation offers a certain tangibility to the game world; the player are always viewing events from the same perspective, and the player are usually in control. It is similar to the storytelling technique in game likes Half-Life, where the camera never leaves the eyes of the hero; while the camera is placed in a different location, the concept is really the same.

Advancement is done in Dungeon Crawl through puzzle solving and interacting with other heroes. The game's puzzles are not exceptional, but they are not bad either. They follow the usual tropes of finding the right combination of switches or building a bridge out of scrap wood in just the right spot. Puzzle-solving in Dungeon Crawl is satisfying and never frustrating. In a way, it is extremely relaxing. Dungeon Crawl demands very little from the player outside of their time. It does not demand that mastery of the game in order to enjoy it, but rather invites the player in gently. The act of playing Dungeon Crawl feels more like interaction, rather than solution or conquest.

The player’s customized avatar is not the only dungeon crawler in Dungeon Crawl. There are many other AI adventurers, all of whom are in direct competition with the player. Interaction with AI characters is the most interesting thing about Dungeon Crawl; it is the game design detail that makes the game a triumph.

Most competing adventures are completely inept and constantly ask for assistance. The ramifications of player decisions will always come back further down in the dungeon. Some heroes the player helps early on will be grateful and come to his rescue later in the game. Others will be ungrateful, and cheat the player in the end despite his goodwill. It is up to the player to read between the lines and carefully choose who he will help and who he will not. Adding even more interest to the mix are other subtle interactions with AI characters: whomever the player chooses to sit next to during the introduction will become his friend, other AI characters have friends and enemies amongst them, and others.

Dungeon Crawl is not complete, so the full extent of character inter-relationships is not yet explored. The idea has massive potential, and if properly executed, will make Dungeon Crawl a masterpiece.

The greatest achievement of Dungeon Crawl is that, aside from minor technical bugs, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. There is no criticism that can be leveled at this game that has not probably been fixed with a quick patch. Dungeon Crawl will never disappoint or frustrate anyone in some minor way that will ruin the entire game.

Dungeon Crawl is an excellent amateur game because it is a novel experience that will intrigue the player and occupy their mind long after they have finished playing it. There is a certain personality and quirk to Dungeon Crawl that other amateur games lack. A unique visual presentation and oddly tangible sense of personality make this a title that is easy to appreciate.