Review: Dungeon Raid
Game: Dungeon Raid [Android]
Recommended price: $1.99 (full)
Metacritic Score: 80
Completion Time: 10+ hours
Buy If You Like: Match-3 games, Time Killing, 10000000
Dungeon Raid is a rather brilliant and addicting “Match 3″ roguelike game in the same sort of design space as 10000000. Whereas 10000000 focused on fast reflexes combined with steady progression, Dungeon Raid has a more tactical focus with only sporadic RPG-esque progression.
The first thing you’ll notice when playing is that there is no timer or other reason to rush. Additionally, while three is technically the minimum number you need to match to capture tiles, there is no limit on how long a chain can run. Even more interesting, you can capture/trace a path diagonally if you like, opening up many more opportunities to capture tiles.
The tiles themselves are relatively simple: potion, coin, sword, shield, and skull. At the end of each move, all the skulls on-screen will deal their damage to your armor and then your HP. You “capture” skull tiles by dealing enough damage to them to bypass their armor and reduce their HP to 0. The damage you deal is determined by your base attack and then increases by your weapon damage for each sword tile you cross; skulls and swords can be chained, of course. Potions tiles refill your HP, Shield your armor, and coins increase your wealth.
The RPG mechanics come in several forms. You earn XP mainly for killing Skulls, and each level lets you pick 2 of 4 random upgrades. Some of those upgrades will be special powers (max of 4) which can have impressive effects like turning all Coins to Swords, or getting an entirely fresh board (Teleport); once used, these skills take X number of turns to recharge. Capturing Shield tiles while already at full armor will increase an armor XP bar, which lets you chose 1 of 4 upgrade options for your current gear. Filling up the Coin “XP” bar will also let you upgrade gear.
Layered on top of all of this are the bonus/penalties that come from your class, your race, and what abilities you put in your pool to randomly pick from. Classes need to be unlocked by defeating boss Skull tiles, which have their own special abilities and necessary tactics. Sometimes they drop nothing but gold, sometimes they drop a new class item, and sometimes they drop class upgrade items instead. The higher level a class is, the more you can customize it by, say, turning your priest into an Orc for the racial bonus (etc). Nothing caries over inbetween games other than these class unlock/upgrade items though, so a run in which no boss drops a token is basically “wasted” (hence the “sporadic” progression). This does suck once you realize it, but the plus side is that you won’t be “beating” the game as quickly as 10000000.
All of this sounds complicated, sure, but it becomes intuitive and fun pretty quickly and ends up feeling more like FTL and Binding of Isaac than a typical phone game. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’ll break your heart when you lose +10 Regenerating, 30 Armor, +8 Poison Weapon toon. But you’ll immediately start again despite the fact that your lunch break ended two hours ago.