by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Neat little package
Deep breath. Guild of Dungeoneering is part dungeon crawler, part dungeon builder, part RPG, part Rogue-like, part tactical card game, with a style that reminds me a lot of the board game Munchkin. And while it doesnít exactly excel at any of these elements, everything comes together in a neat little package that is fun to play in short bursts.
Everyone doodled a bit on their notebooks when they were in school, and that art style is exactly what Guild of Dungeoneering is going for. Everything is hand drawn on blue lined graph paper, and the game is just as much about creating dungeons and putting monsters in them as it is about killing the monsters and looting the rewards.
All about cards
Everything in the game revolves around cards. They might have bits of dungeon drawn on them, or enemies, or gold pieces. When you are in a dungeon, you get a random hand of five cards every turn. You can use up to three of these per turn, so you might want to place a corridor between your hero and a loot chest so they can run and get whatever is inside. You donít tell your hero where to go, instead it either goes in a straight line, or becomes enticed by treasure that you might have placed somewhere.
Enemy cards are a double edged sword. They will slow you down, and of course have a chance to kill your hero, but fighting monsters is the only way that you can level up and become more powerful. Most levels have monsters in them already, but if you want to give yourself a boost, you will have to put a fire imp or a gnoll in that room with the treasure chest too.
Combat with cards
When combat begins, the game switches to a simple card game. Both your hero and the monster has a deck of cards. You draw three cards a turn, and select one to play against whatever comes off the top of the monsterís deck. There is a decent variety of cards. Some do simple damage, others can block. Some increase damage in subsequent turns, and others are powerful magic attacks. You have to choose the best one to suit your situation. If you see the enemy is going to block incoming physical damage, you probably want to use magic, or perhaps pump yourself up for the next turn.
Most enemies will have some sort of trait. It might be frail and take more damage when you hit it. Or it might only be able to be killed when you reduce it to one health. Different classes you can use also have traits. For example the barbarian has a death wish and seeks out higher level enemies, but it does get a health bonus in combat against them. When you defeat an enemy, it will drop a number of items which you can choose one from. These items will generally give you more cards to use in combat or more life. These arenít permanent bonuses however, as when you leave the dungeon you leave all your loot behind for an unexplained reason. Starting afresh every time you enter a dungeon is integral to the game, but a little frustrating when you have been collecting items.
The card game is the core part of the game, and while itís easy to understand, itís too simplistic to be compelling for any real length of time. You eventually unlock new classes with different cards in their decks, but they mostly revolve around the same themes: attacking and blocking. Early on you will probably be using the same class a lot, and combat becomes a grind, as does getting enough gold in your dungeon runs to unlock new heroes.
Your heroes are pretty expendable, and will die a lot if you are not careful, and sometimes even if you are careful you will succumb to a bad bit of luck with your card draws. There is no real penalty for death, so itís never that frustrating unless you were quite far into a dungeon. However most levels are pretty short anyway, so you will probably never lose more than five minutes of progress. Each level you enter will have a quest you have to complete in order to finish it. This might be as simple as killing a certain number of enemies, or you might have to kill a boss, or complete an objective in a certain number of turns. Again though, these objectives become repetitive if your play session extends beyond twenty minutes or so.
If you are just playing for a short period of time though, itís easy to be drawn in by the cute art style and simple gameplay. Everything is quick and snappy, and you are always progressing towards your next goal, even if itís just a little bit at a time. The narrator comes in the form of a bard who only communicates with folky ballads. Some of these songs are fairly witty, others miss the mark a bit with forced rhymes. However everything fits in with that idea of someone doodling lyrics for a fantasy song in a notebook during a math lesson.
Guild of Dungeoneering is easy to get into and understand thanks to its simplicity, but it is that simplicity which ultimately prevents it from being something great. You can jump in for a few minutes at a time and bash out a few dungeons, but itís doubtful you will be compelled to keep playing and grinding until you can unlock the highest level of dungeoneers.
Cute style, simple to get into.
Too simple for its own good, feeling of progression is too slow.