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Dungelot: Shattered Lands

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: tinyBuild
Release Date: Feb. 18, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Dungelot: Shattered Lands'

by Brian Dumlao on April 22, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Dungelot: Shattered Lands takes you on a roguelike dungeon-crawler adventure to defeat zombie cows, splat giant evil mushrooms, and get back home in one piece.

Translating a game from the mobile platform to a PC or home console can go either way. Some titles benefit greatly by having their virtual control scheme replaced by something more tangible and traditional. Other games feel more cumbersome because the replacement isn't as intuitive as the tapping that have become second nature on Android and iOS. Dungelot: Shattered Lands is the third game in the series that was previously exclusive to mobile devices. At first, you'd think that the game's control scheme would be better left to touch devices. Then again, when you see what it's trying to emulate, you realize that it does suit personal computers.

The plot enters into some pretty familiar territory. The inhabitants of Pangeus have advanced their technology with mana that's being siphoned from the world. After the world was drained of most of its mana, it split into three distinct pieces. The mana drain also opened the door to monsters invading the lands. As a Paladin, your job is to delve into these dungeons and clear out those monsters.

As basic as the story can be, it's amplified because of the humor. More often than not, you'll run into monsters that have funny quips or silly situations. Seeing an archer ask you to stand still or a demon cow threatening to kill you is enjoyable and rather surreal. The only time the story fails the player is when it comes to providing any backstory for your heroes. Both your Paladin and the other three heroes you pick up along the way get an introduction, but that's about it. While the story doesn't have a more prominent role in the game, it would've been nice to give it more than cursory attention.

The minute you enter the tutorial and your first dungeon, you realize that this is a dungeon crawler by way of Minesweeper, the classic Windows standby that was on every PC until a few years ago. On each 25-tile floor of the dungeon, you start at a door and only have enough space to uncover a tile in the available cardinal directions. Breaking apart a tile may reveal an item you can store in your backpack or a monster that you can either safely ignore or fight. Ignoring the enemy means you can uncover the other tiles, but since the tiles immediately around the monster cannot be unlocked if it's alive, you may be forced into a skirmish. Fighting requires nothing more than tapping on the creature, but it always performs the first strike. Ultimately, what you're looking for is a golden key that immediately unlocks the door and gives you passage to the next floor. Reach the dungeon's final floor, and you can escape.

It sounds simple on the surface, and the option to ignore most combat scenarios is quite refreshing, but there are plenty of things that make the game more involving. In addition to armor and health meters, you have morale; a player can die if morale drops too low. You also have food, which is rather important since you spend one unit to move to the next floor. You can continue if you run out of food, but you do so at the cost of your health, so you might not want to take that chance unless you're sure you're close to the end and can find a key without engaging in a skirmish.

Enemies are a pain due to their inherent abilities. Some absorb damage from other enemies you attack. Others attack you for every tile you uncover, and some absorb more health for every enemy killed or uncovered. Then there are the traps, like poison, tiles that damage only the player when broken, and a creature that looks like a chain chomp from Super Mario Bros. 3 that will take of a good chunk of health if you uncover a tile or pick up an item in its vicinity.

As with Minesweeper, you'll learn to stop rapidly clicking things and adopt some form of strategy. Depending on your resources, you'll want to avoid fights and try to uncover a key peacefully or clear a floor to ensure you have everything you need to be prepared for later floors. The same goes for the items you pick up or craft, as you'll have to think about whether you want to use them to quickly clear out the floor or save them for more difficult encounters, especially boss fights. Depending on who you're playing as, you may even want to sacrifice an item to power up your special meter. All of this makes a seemingly simple game rather fun, and it's amplified by the random floor layouts per visit and the fact that you'll be able to keep your coins when you die.

The game does do a few things to make the dungeon crawling less monotonous. Every few floors, you'll encounter a shopkeeper with a random assortment of items and a bed where you can exchange food for a small health refill. Other times, you'll reach floors that contain minigames for a chance at gold. Outside of the dungeons, you'll run into a few special events where you may be asked to solve mysteries or disputes for a reward to uncover a shrine that gives you up to three buffs that activate in the next dungeon. More importantly, you have the chance to spend any leftover gold on a variety of permanent upgrades for your heroes.

There's really not much that one can complain about in Dungelot, save for a few things. The fairly high difficulty level and reliance on lucky rolls for item and monster appearances mean that you'll spend a great amount of time grinding to earn those permanent upgrades. With those upgrades at rather high prices, the amount of time spent on the grind can be rather taxing. During our review session, there was an instance when the game started to malfunction because some of the options (e.g., crafting) couldn't be accessed.

The game's visual presentation benefits from moving to a larger screen from its mobile roots. The original Flash cartoon style scales rather well, and while the style has been replicated countless times in other games, it still looks nice. The character designs are well detailed and retain a nice cartoony appearance. On the audio side, the music is dark but not to the point of being morose. It's appropriate for dungeon crawling, but you won't seek it out after you finish the title. The effects are also good, but you'll wish voices were thrown in so the humor could shine.

In the end, Dungelot: Shattered Lands is a surprise. It seems simple on the surface, but the numerous game mechanics make for quite a deep game. The difficulty level means you'll spend a good deal of time grinding to get stronger, but conquering the dungeons is satisfying since you'll open up a few other scenarios prior to making another dungeon run. Those looking for a casual but challenging roguelike should try out Dungelot.

Score: 8.0/10

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