Published on May 26th, 2016 | by Justin Giza0
Dungelot: Shattered Lands
Dungelot: Shattered Lands is the third installment in the Dungelot series, which blends turn-based dungeon exploration with RPG elements and a healthy dose of Rogue-like shenanigans.
The game starts you off with only one playable character, and tosses you into a dungeon that’s organized like a grid. A door leading to the next level is locked, and you’ll take turns clicking around the grid to remove dungeon tiles to reveal what’s beneath: treasure, monsters or nothing at all. One tile hides the key to the aforementioned door, necessary to dive even deeper into the dungeon.
When you find a monster behind a dungeon tile, in most instances it won’t fight you right away. It locks out the ability to explore the tiles immediately adjacent to it, but you are otherwise free to explore the rest of the floor first. If you happen to find the key, you can even skip the fight completely and head to the next level.
Combat is one of the trickier things that takes a little getting used to in Dungelot. Monsters strike first, which means if you’re low on health, you might want to reconsider fighting the monster head-on. Throughout the game, you’ll acquire spells and items that can be used at a distance. Your starting character, the Paladin, has a handful of abilities that help him survive encounters, including a healing spell and a damaging stun which has saved me more times than I can count.
If you find that your inventory starts to fill up, you can Salvage most items to power up your Charge bar. At maximum charge, you’ll gain a chance at some sweet passive benefits. After finding a monster, I giggled madly as the gigantic fist of god slammed down from the heavens and crushed my newly revealed foe. Other items can be sold to a trader which appears in each dungeon, or you can discover recipes and use them for crafting.
There’s a lot of stuff to explore, traps to avoid, monsters to slay and easter eggs to find. There are coins and goodies hidden around the map, so CLICK EVERYTHING.
Now, perhaps I’m just not very good at Dungelot, but I hit a soft brick wall pretty early on. After crushing a couple early dungeons, I had a lot of trouble completely clearing the ones I attempted. Sure, I got a little further each time thanks to some benefits that are carried over (main equipped gear, gold and stats), but the difficulty seemed to ramp up considerably, softened only by the Gods of Random Number Generation when I’d run into squishier monsters or luck into better equipment.
This sort of game design, unfortunately, is what sets certain Rogue-likes apart. I often call it “Die to Win,” and it involves inevitably crashing and burning over and over again despite your best efforts, as your future characters bulk up and so they can stand a chance. You aren’t necessarily learning from your mistakes, you’re just dying because the game decides that you shouldn’t go any further yet. It’s what makes a lot of games like this tick, but there are some players who will feel frustrated that they’re playing more of a numbers game than a game of pure skill.
I’m a longtime and avid player of Nethack, one of the very first Roguelikes (created in 1987). The fun in that game lies in the fact that in order to beat it, you don’t actually have to die a million times. Of course, you’re almost guaranteed to die due to the game’s intrinsic difficulty, but it’s entirely possible for a player to, based on their skill alone, crunch through the entire game in one pass without requiring any previous runs. Dungelot does not seem to share that characteristic, though I could be mistaken.
Despite any of my nitpicking above, Dungelot: Shattered Lands is in fact a wonderfully stylized game with great mechanics and a lot to do, and is well worth your $9.99. It is currently available on Steam and iOS.