Dungeons of DredmorESRB:
Platform: PC Games
If you've never played a Roguelike before, even one as (relatively) pretty as this, you're in for a bit of a shock. Roguelikes are, in a sense, RPGs, but the story doesn't matter... It's score attack roleplaying, where only the best players can finish the game, and how far you get unofficially places you on the pecking order. But roguelikes, as you'll see from Dungeons of Dredmor, are also highly addictive. Just... one... more... try!
The plot is fairly simple. You are The Hero, sent by the King to defeat the evil lich Lord Dredmor, who has once again risen from the grave. Thousands have tried, each time he rises, to defeat him once and for all... are you powerful enough to put him to rest again?
Like most roleplaying games, the game is easy to learn (walk around, pick stuff up, use it to kill monsters and get more stuff), but hard to master. It's different from a lot of roguelikes, in that there are no classes, just a selection of skills to choose from and build your game around. Will you go for magic, constantly having to run away? Maybe just weapons skills, flexing your biceps and your hero's ridiculous eyebrows, grunting as you hack and bash the monsters back into their graves? Or maybe you'll take a craftier route, quite literally, making potions and traps, crafting your own weapons, and relying upon the whim of the uncaring god Krong to bless your toys through his anvil? The choice is yours, and there's a fair amount of depth in there. But don't expect it to be easy, because roguelikes are, by their very definition, hard as sin... and this one's no different.
You may scoff when I say that DoD has a lot of playtime, even with “only” ten levels, but the difficulty curve starts at “steep”, and stays there for most of the game, occasionally going into “Just... I need to cry... to myself... for a while”. If you don't like the sort of game that constantly tells you you're up against it, I can't recommend this or any other roguelike, which, unsurprisingly, makes it a niche game. But if you stick with it, you may find it interesting, and definitely worth the 8-10 dollars it costs.
Graphically, it takes its cues from a mix of old-school roleplaying games (Ultima VII immediately springs to mind), and 90s webcomics, with a healthy dose of gaming parody thrown in. There are references here, not just to roguelikes like Dwarf Fortress and Angband, but also to things like traditional Dungeons and Dragons, Quake, Portal, and even old Genesis games like Golden Axe. The music feels right, and the sounds are as you'd expect in a fantasy game (CLASH! THUMP! SQUEAK!) But not all is perfect.
The crafting system, for example, is rudimentary, although the devs are apparently working on this and other things, and players new to roguelikes may find it frustrating when they die in the first few rooms once every few games. Finally, it's a little difficult to work out exactly what does what at first, as there is no manual. You quite literally experiment to find what works best. Luckily, the difficulty can be toned down, not just by standard difficulty level, but with the option of removing Permadeath in your playthrough. Normally, in a roguelike, once you die, that's it, and the save is deleted, but with permadeath off, you can reload from save. There are some areas of the game where it currently gives you an easy time, such as the fact that I have yet to find a potion with a bad effect.
In short, it's a good example of a roguelike game, with the added bonus of having some eye-candy to make it clear what you're looking at (most roguelikes use ASCII graphics). It isn't for everyone. But it is definitely a lot more user friendly than other examples of its genre, and, for the price, is potentially a good introduction to this sort of game.
For those interested in watching what I'm talking about, there is a Let's Play by Lord Iacobus that gives a good idea of gameplay here: http://www.youtube.com/user/lordiacobus?feature=mhee#p/c/0/DwGmEiGGDSs