“Legend has it there is a treasure on the 26th floor,” and so begins the Legend of Dungeon, a beautiful, dungeon-crawling, action RPG that features permadeath by the small team at Robot Loves Kitty. Armed with only a sword and whatever you can gather from your local tavern, you control a brave adventurer (of whatever gender you may prefer) through the perils of Dungeon. Making your way to the 26th floor and back again, however, is easier said than done. The halls of this Rogue-like adventure are deadly affairs, with each new room holding unknown enemies, traps, and treasures.
At first glance, the most arresting aspect of Legend of Dungeon is the striking 8-bit graphics mixed with dynamic lighting effects. Fire casts flickering shadows and sends up 8-bit gouts of flame, leveling up gives off a small semi-circle of radiance, and lanterns illuminate limited parts of pitch black rooms. Creatures as well as the player’s avatar will cast shadows near powerful light sources that grow or shrink depending on the proximity to said light source. This aesthetic choice lends Dungeon a look and feel entirely unique to itself that is quite pleasing to the eyes.
The audio goes hand-in-hand with the visuals. Featuring music that responds and adapts to the player’s situation within the various rooms. Composer David Dirig created eighteen original songs which were shifted around and reassembled into 244 different tracks that serve as the audioscape for Legend of Dungeon. Dirig’s soundtrack works to hammer home the mystery and danger of the place in which players have chosen to delve for treasure and glory.
The combat, much like other aspects of Legend of Dungeon, functions in a simple, yet elegant manner. You can play with either a mouse and keyboard or a PC compatible controller, and it is a painless task to map out new control schemes in the options menu. My set up used WASD for movement, the space bar to jump, my mouse to attack/use item, and the scroll wheel to switch between items. That’s the entirety of Legend of Dungeon’s control scheme. However, don’t let the simplicity of the controls fool you: Legend of Dungeon is a hard game. In my time with it, I never made it farther than the tenth floor (curse you, zombie-raising skeleton wizard!).
Every time a player starts a new game, the dungeon’s layout is changed, meaning you never know what you will encounter. Maybe the first room you walk into is a shop or maybe it has a switch that releases a powerful Evil Warlock that can kill you in two or three hits. Luckily, the early levels of Dungeon are rarely life threatening. You have ample time and energy to explore and search for useful items and magic. If you are lucky you might find a powerful weapon, hat (hats function as armor), or spell. New weapons and magic drastically affect how players can approach enemies. Did you find a gun? Pepper your foes from a distance. Stumble across a shield? Automatically protect yourself from damage AND use it as a weapon. Manage to scrounge up a magic book? Raise an army of cannon fodder skeleton zombies to act as a distraction. The possibilities only get more ridiculous the more time you spend exploring Dungeon.
It is worth mentioning here that players can tackle Legend of Dungeon solo or with up to three friends locally. No online co-op was available in the version I played and currently there does not appear to be plans for it to be added for the retail release. To have a better chance of emerging from the dark depths of Dungeon alive, I would recommend playing with allies. As players progress, they will accumulate a small arsenal of weapons and having different people fulfilling different roles to combat any and all potential challenges the dungeon might see fit to throw out can never be a bad thing.
I had two issues that occurred throughout my time with Legend of Dungeon. The first one deals with hit detection. The action of the game takes place in a brawler-like manner, meaning you can move up, down, left, and right, but you are usually moving either left or right to proceed. This can make hitting enemies on a different vertical plane a bit spotty and results in players taking additional hits, which can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. The second issue which caused me a small amount of frustration was the lack of a strafing. There were times where being able to face one direction constantly would have been quite a boon. Instead, when fighting off waves of enemies I had to fight, turn away to run back a bit, then turn to fight again. Invariably this resulted in accruing two or three extra hits of damage, which begins to add up the deeper you find yourself within the ever shifting halls of Dungeon.
All-in-all, Legend of Dungeon is shaping up to be an excellent game. The full retail version will be available September 13 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you can’t wait that long to get your hands on it, you can pre-order from Steam or from Robot Loves Kitty’s website and have access to the beta version leading up to the official release.
If you are one of the people who has already bought the beta version and are feeling in need of some guidance on tackling the dangers that lurk below, here is a handy guide on some of the basics of Legend of Dungeon written up by the developers.