Every so often there comes along a game that makes me not only want to play it, but truly desire to improve my skill in the genre. Often, these games are simple in their design; there aren’t a lot of complicated moves or fancy graphics. And yet, they can keep me playing for hours. The Dungeoning by Nick Donnelly is one of these games. The graphics are pixelated and charming, and the atmosphere is dark, yet inviting.
Opening the game for the first time, I was greeted by a 2-D environment with a small knight character awaiting my command. Using the Xbox controller for PC, or the keyboard, players can move and attack the various monsters found in the dungeon. For those who like to have specific key layouts too, their controls can be remapped on both the controller and the keyboard. Also at the player’s disposal are a sword, a shield, a bow, and a slingshot. There are limited shots for the bow and slingshot, but the ability to knock down an enemy’s health significantly before it even gets to you is vital. And of course, your shield is invaluable. In regards to storyline, there doesn’t really seem to be one. Quite simply, players take on the role of a small knight in a dark scary world. The only goal is to see how far one can get before the environment overwhelms them.
The gameplay works as a roguelike game; each new dungeon presents a randomly generated level with helpful items scattered throughout. Thus, by it’s very nature, players can only get better at the game by honing their skills and not by memorizing where the best items are. There are even merchants to buy items from. I found myself more frustrated with trying to ping-pong my way between walls to get to higher ground all too often. Along with all these things are monsters galore. Even after playing many levels, I had yet to find a monster that was a complete pushover. Each one has considerable health, and most of them are vulnerable to one kind of weapon; even the bushes can kill you in this game.
There are also special moves to help take enemies by surprise. My favorite was the “pogo-stick” attack. Basically, it allows the knight to jump in the air while players press the attack and the down buttons at the same time. When times correctly, the knight can bounce right on top of the enemy and (hopefully) do some damage to them. All too often I made the mistake of not carefully planning my attacks and getting myself cornered, which inevitably led to my death. And speaking of death, it’s permanent. Upon the player’s demise, the game is over and the level is destroyed. Death can be delayed with the use of potions and food that you will find along the way. As players progress, they will level up and be able to increase their brave hero’s stats, including strength, vitality, defense, and magic. Finally, on the opening menu there is a statistics option, where current stat points and current progress are clearly visible. These numbers can be used to improve the gameplay, or help secure bragging rights among friends.
While players battle it out against the odds in The Dungeoning, they will be accompanied by a rather soothing soundtrack. The music offers up a smooth and unhurried sound, which is helpful because so much of the game is based off of timing and patience. Sometimes it can be frustrating to play a game with an intense, driving wave of sounds careening at you. In some cases, it forces the player to feel like they need to play the game at a more intense rate, but that is not the case here.
Altogether, the straightforward gameplay and constantly changing environment kept me interested and wanting more. Timing, planning, and prioritizing will be the main skills to develop in order to survive those players that like to go in blindly swinging will find nothing but frustration. This challenge is the only reason I would caution people about the game. I had an amazingly fun experience playing The Dungeoning, and I know I will be playing it for a long time to come. So, for those in the market for a fun and difficult game, be sure to pick up The Dungeoning for PC, Mac, and Linux from either Steam or Desura for $11.99.