Dungeon Mercenary


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Sword & Sorcery / Fighting
English, Deutsch

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Mr Creosote (2016-08-05) [hide]

Avatar So-called Roguelike games are having a bit of a revival right now. With a lot of these projects being Open Source and even generic libraries which do the heavy lifting concerning the basics (level generation, input-output routines, pathfinding…), many new ones keep popping up. In fact, so many that it's hard to keep track, let alone tell the worthwhile ones apart from the rest. Dungeon Mercenary's first version has only been released this year, and it's been improved & extended since then (it is in active development, so this review may not reflect the latest status). Still, it's currently (at the time of writing) only a ten level dungeon, so overall play time is definitely short. Good, because that makes it much less scary to give it a try!

The first thing noticeable about the game is that it uses a very stripped down interface. Instead of relying on a multitude of memorized keyboard shortcuts, almost everything is rather performed in an object-centric manner through the inventory menu. The introductory hurdle is therefore manageable, but it comes at the cost of restricting the player to a fairly low number of possible actions.

Graphically, it goes a similar way, with a generally clean, slick look. Likely inspired by Brogue, it uses a pseudo-character-based display, but without supporting actual text terminals. Light and colour effects make for a non-static impression. Generally pleasant, if only the constrast were a little higher – some monsters can easily be missed, because they blend in with the grey of the background a little too well.

Gameplay offers only few features (for now?). Collect armour and weapons, equip them and bump into monsters to dispose of them. Like in Brogue, equipment can be enchanted with what is called "Runics" here. This can either provide the items with special abilities or generally make them stronger. It's also possible to improve the Runics themselves with other Runics first, to optimize a special ability even more.

The latter is apparently considered a big selling point according to its author. Whether it is actually a good thing, I have my doubts. Certainly, this concept leads to strong procrastination effects on the side of the player. Always, you will think that you may come across an even better basic weapon, and if that happens, but you spent all your Runics to improve your current weapon before, you will end up frustrated. So you may end up never using the Runics at all, eventually dying, because the enemies became too strong for your non-upgraded equipment.

And really, that's about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Dungeon Mercenary. It's a good, viable game, which you can use to pass your lunch hour with. However, at this state of development, there is also really nothing to set it apart; nothing which would make you choose it out of all the alternatives. It is, in fact, so close to Brogue (but minus many of the more advanced, fun things and also minus the difficulty balancing) that it is almost superfluous for now (it even shares Brogue's biggest irritation: the buggy "emulation" of diagonal movement which fails to work when the player is standing next to an obstacle).

A recent version added special modes, like running, a dash attack etc. Maybe that will be a promising way to pursue. What it already does do pretty well is that there is no hunger clock; instead, it simply removes the usefulness of waiting by having no "natural regeneration" of the player character (healing is solely done through items). However, as of today, the main impression nevertheless is that Dungeon Mercenary is overly focused on its pointless "achievements" system and similarly useless graphical fade-in/fade-out effects rather than things which may make the game more unique and interesting.

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