“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
This philosophy applies to Legend of Dungeon and all the recent indie releases featuring distinctive roguelike elements. These games manage to avoid the boredom of inherent repetitious design with engaging mechanics and unique items/power-ups. Legend of Dungeon executes when it comes to the sweet randomized loot, but tedious combat mechanics and odd design choices hold it back from its full potential.
As the title indicates, Legend of Dungeon involves the exploration of randomized dungeons in an effort to accrue gold and post new high scores. The randomized theme also applies to the various items scattered across each floor/dungeon. On one run I found a series of mysterious potions that all seemed to make my character vomit rainbow colors, while the next time I came across an awesome miner’s cap and a fast scythe that allowed me to slice up foes in quick succession. The sense of discovery when players come across powerful and often unexplained items stands out as Legend of Dungeon‘s greatest strength. But once the mystery wears thin, the game’s flaws become glaring.
The need for distinctive loot proves critical in the face of overly simplistic level design. I understand that dungeons are naturally dark and dreary, but the only attempts at artistic innovation are glowing lights and the occasional fire pit. Fortunately many levels contain well-placed switches that reveal hidden passages and maze-like sections with multiple doorways. These further the previous sense of discovery and once again capture Legend of Dungeon in its finest moments. But along the way players will kill numerous enemies, and this is where the true tedium manifests.
All kinds of nasty foes, from snakes to floating apparitions, stand in the way of players on their way through the dungeon’s 26 floors. Let’s just say they pack a significant punch, and some of the tougher enemies can end a successful run in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, the tools at one’s disposal involve the use of a single attack button. Actually, attacks can be charged up, but aside from that it’s all about mashing that attack button and moving around. Also, moving around the map can be difficult because players have to line up perfectly with enemies to execute attacks. It makes for boring and repetitious encounters that fail to engage the player no matter how difficult they may be.
Even more egregious is the game’s poor inventory management system, which amounts to a single scrolling menu. This wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that players will pick up a ton of items while exploring each dungeon. I had multiple encounters in which I nearly survived a tough battle, only to be killed because I couldn’t scroll to my healing items in a timely fashion. Perhaps the aid of some friends would have helped me in my quest to explore each floor of the dungeon, but the game only supports local co-op, which isn’t exactly ideal for computer games. It’s unfortunate, because Legend of Dungeon seems like a game well-suited for online cooperative multiplayer.
Like any decent roguelike game, Legend of Dungeon has its moments: moments when players have magical runs with incredibly rare and powerful item drops and heaps of gold. But those moments simply hint at the game’s potential, while the underwhelming combat and poor inventory system make starting from the beginning that much more of a slog. The result is a decent game that could have been much better.