The free-to-play Desktop Dungeons Alpha (for PC or Mac) has always been a game I’ve depended on for a quick 10- or 15-minute crawl, especially when I only have 10 or 15 minutes to play anything. Get in, slash ’em up, grab the treasure, level up, buy a few trinkets… and then try to take out the Lvl10 Boss before retiring and (hopefully) opening up a new race, class, or one of the many special dungeons included to help build a bit of the background story.
Knowing that I would continue to play the game, I figured I’d go ahead and chip in the money to sign up for their Beta release. Well, it’s out, and I’ve been enjoying this much-improved version so much that I’ve completely ignored the Alpha version where I left off. And I don’t care.
If you only look at the pretty pictures on the DD website, you’ll probably just think it’s only some visual and audio improvements that have been added. And you’d be wrong. Because the developers have really put some thought into the gameplay, including a much more interesting backstory and a well-done character interface that spin off some interesting side quests and twists to the game that didn’t even exist in the Alpha version.
The game is in Beta, so obviously there are many bugs that are being ironed out. But a quick read of any of the last half dozen or so blog posts will show you some lengthy lists of bug fixes, enhancements, new features, and game balancing. The developers are definitely listening to the testers and must have someone manning the forums 24/7 because the Beta is quickly reaching polished game status.
For those new to Desktop Dungeons, the small number of tutorials have been refined and do a much better job of teaching you the basics of dungeon exploring, fighting, leveling up, and more. And then you’re released to go and explore wherever you like.
You’ll start out with access to the lone Human race. Only after completing certain specific dungeon quests will you open up access to new races. As for classes, you’ll open up those by gathering gold coins to purchase buildings (Guild for fighters, Thief Den for thieves, Church for priests, and Mage Tower for wizards) that will be built in the kingdom and will attract these new classes. And after purchasing and building an establishment, you’ll want to continue to save your gold to upgrade the buildings so they offer up even more specialized classes (The Guild offers the Fighter class at first, but later you can buy the Berzerker class followed by the Warlord — each class has different benefits in a dungeon, but the more advanced classes are definitely the way to go for the harder dungeons). And some later dungeons can only be attempted by certain classes, so don’t ignore building these new facilities when the funds become available.
You’ll access the Tavern when you want to find open dungeons to tackle, but you can also click on the Explorer’s Guild to take part in special “trick” dungeons that typically involve some sort of special movement or timing on your part when it comes to attacks or magic use. There’s usually a special trick involved to correctly solve one, but doing so provides gold and other surprises that I won’t give away here.
The Taxidermist is a special feature that rewards you with more gold should you bring back certain items dropped in the dungeon. For the Bank, the Bazaar, and the Blacksmith, these are buildings you’ll want to purchase soon as they allow you to take certain items into the dungeon (basically outfitting your character with a few basics rather than forcing you to find them or buy them in a dungeon — carrying an extra 25 gold into the dungeon can make the difference between life and death when you just used up your last healing potion and a merchant in the dungeon is selling one for 20 gold).
I’m really not that far into the Beta yet… Lvl 1 on most of my buildings and only a few extra classes purchased. But there’s even more of an incentive for me to keep playing the Beta (over the Alpha) given how the game saves your progress and continues to provide quests just difficult enough to require some strategic thinking and planning. It really is even more addictive than the Alpha version. (And it makes me wonder what the final release is going to look like and offer since so many players are offering up some great suggestions for game improvements and new features.)
You can get access to the Beta for just $10… and believe me, you’ll play it enough to get your money’s worth. Throw in an extra $10 (for $20 total) and you’ll get some added quests and a special bonus class.
The idea behind Desktop Dungeons is simple — quick quests. But even when you can play a single quest in 15 minutes or less, you’re likely to find yourself saying Just one more. The dungeons are fun, the user interface allows for many variances in how a game is generated (and completed), and the leveling of not only the characters but also the buildings is a novel approach that’s keeping me playing.
If you want to know about the Alpha, read my earlier review of Desktop Dungeons Alpha. No word yet on an official release date, but I’m not concerned about that as I’m having a blast with the Beta. When the final version is released, I’ll give it a spin and report back.