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How many geek dads these days actually have time for a full-on dungeon crawl experience? Not this one, for sure. Between job, family, and the whip-cracking from the GeekDad.com editors to keep delivering thought-provoking, award-winning blog posts, I don’t have enough time to take Level 1 Monster Bait and level him up to Level 15 Master of Swords. Or do I?
In between books, blog posts, changing diapers, and driving to t-ball practices, I’ve found a weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) fix called Desktop Dungeons. This little gem of a game promises fast rewards, even faster battles, and treasure galore… all in 10 to 20 minutes. And what’s even better is that the alpha version of the game is 100% free to download and play. (And, surprisingly, the alpha version is fairly bug-free, as it’s gone through a good bit of playtesting and updates.)
If Desktop Dungeons looks somewhat familiar, then you’ve likely played Rogue or any of the dozens of Rogue-clones sometime in the past, often referred to as Roguelikes. The big difference between most Roguelikes and Desktop Dungeons, however, is mainly found in the playtime. Rogue and its cousins were typically never-ending digital dungeon crawls that would go on and on and on… until you were killed or just beyond bored.
Not Desktop Dungeons — after playing the tutorial and getting familiar with the short list of rules, you’ll be on your way to battling baddies, collecting potions and spells, and leveling up your character. What’s unusual, however, is that all of this, including leveling up, is done in short bursts of play. You really can complete a dungeon in under 15 minutes. Sometimes less. Your goal is to defeat the highest level monster in the dungeon (usually level 10), but because the dungeons are randomly generated, there are times when you’ll either find yourself blocked and unable to navigate around to easier monsters or simply out of health and mana (which you recover by exploring the dark areas of the dungeon or leveling up). If this happens, you simply click the Retire button — gold is carried over if you wish to try again (allowing you to buy some of the more expensive weapons and treasures for sale in random spots in a dungeon) — and try again.
There are plenty of tricks the developers have put into the game, and you’ll stumble upon these as you play, frequently at the worst moments or at the most opportune. The game is addictive, and you’ll find yourself going back and trying different classes and different races along with trying to unlock many of the hidden dungeons, races, and classes that remain unavailable until you achieve certain goals. (I’m still trying to finish a few of the harder quests so I can finally reach the 3-level Lothlorien Quest… argh.)
Should you find the free alpha version of the game enjoyable, do consider upgrading to the Full Version (not yet released at the time of this posting) and supporting these indie game developers – there are three tiers of support — $10, $20, and $75 (sold out, unfortunately). I’ve been enjoying the alpha version for some time, so I was more than happy to cough up the $20 to get a few extras such as a bonus class and a few more quests. All three support tiers provide access to the Full Version Beta when it’s released… rumored to be near the end of July 2011. You’ll also find the company has a great online community, with a wiki and discussion forum — tons of strategy can be gleaned from a few minutes (or hours) digging around.
I’ve enjoyed playing the alpha version, and I just can’t wait for the Full Version to be released. I’m including a handful of images here from the alpha version and the Full Version so you can see how they compare. And, of course, do visit the game’s main website for more details about the game, including news about its coming release.
Read on for an interview with one of the game’s developers…