I began my journey in Guild of Dungeoneering by diving into a dungeon with my first hero: Plom. Plom was a Chump. As in, that was the name of his class. You know, like Mage, or Warrior, or Rogue. Plom the Chump looked pretty cool and I began to get attached immediately. This was a pretty bad idea because Plom died during his first battle. As did my next Chump, Oldarse. I quickly stopped becoming attached to my characters realizing that this game wasn't really about its disposable heroes, but about the Guild. Rather than focusing on leveling a character, Guild of Dungeoneering tasks the player with building a great guild. And the process, like the guild, is casual friendly and drama free.
Guild of Dungeoneering is a pretty cool little indie game created by developer Gambrinous. Although Guild of Dungeoneering (henceforth GoD) defines itself as a “Turn-based dungeon crawler”, I’d argue that definition isn’t quite complete. There is a bit of strategy involved, but not enough to make it a strategy game by any means. There is also a card battle element, which plays rather static not allowing the player to have input toward the deck’s design. And while your heroes do indeed crawl through dungeons in a turn-based manner, your input is more about the dungeon construction than the hero’s journey.
Each turn in GoD presents the player with a selection of five cards. The player chooses from three of the five cards each turn. The cards are a combination of Seek, Dread, and Hope cards. Seek cards are various dungeon paths such as four-way halls, dead end caves, or meandering passageways. Placing these cards allows the player to nudge the hero along either toward or away from monsters, loot, and ultimately the specific dungeon’s goal. The Dread cards are monsters of various levels. From Bear Owls, to Fire Imps, to Shades. Each Seek card has a space for loot or a creature and placing the Dread cards ties into the strategy of the game which we will look at in a moment. The third card type: Hope cards, consist of treasures like a gold pouch or a massive gem to add to your collection once the dungeon is completed.
The dungeon crawl itself varies based upon the designated goal and dungeon level. One adventure tasked my hero with looting a couple of chests while another gave me an eight-turn time limit to prepare for a battle with an evil boss named Embro. At first, I prioritized completing the dungeon’s goal without giving myself too many monsters to battle. After dying a few times against the greater enemies, I began to realize that the best strategy was to place Dread cards a bit more frequently. When you kill a monster you are able to choose from different equippable items for your hero. Each hero has an open head, offhand, weapon, and body slot. Looting chests also nets your hero an item. Leveraging the cards for better equipping of your hero is the best way to complete dungeons and defeat more difficult enemies. This, choosing what card to play and where, is about as deep as GoD gets.
Combat in GoD plays a bit like the placement phase of the dungeon building. Your hero is given three cards to choose from at random and you play the one you feel will help you defeat your foe. Both your hero and his or her opponent have a number of hearts. Once these hearts are depleted the monster or hero dies. Working to reduce your foes to zero hearts has a little bit of spice thanks to the randomness of the card draws and the interaction between what your opponent draws (which is viewable before you have to choose) and the gear you have equipped. Each piece of gear presents the player with new cards and better abilities. But the player cannot construct the deck or have any direct input as to how it will play out. Choosing the best of three battle cards is the extent of the game’s battle tactics.
The sound and look of GoD is stellar. A sarcastic bard greets each hero’s demise with a witty song. The background music fits the mood as the player battles through the dungeons. Visually, the game reminded me of Card Hunter, another stylistic dungeon crawler. The cards are hand crafted with an attention to detail and simplicity that fits perfectly with the games aesthetic. As a fan of the style and the genre, I am glad to see more games like this.
GoD is casual friendly because, despite the interesting concepts, the game is pretty light on gameplay. Choosing from a small selection of cards doesn’t require much thought and, despite there being a hint of strategy as you move through the dungeon, I rarely felt my choices directed my hero’s decisions. But as far as jumping into a bit of a mindless dungeon crawl, the experience delivers. Additionally, GoD has a terrific look and feel. Each dungeon tile is handcrafted with details that will remind Dungeons & Dragons fans of the days they spent drawing up maps for hours of adventures. The heroes are a bit more static but do have enough variety considering they die a lot.
This is remedied with equipping them with gear as you proceed through the dungeons. If you win a scimitar, your character brandishes it immediately. Sadly, the gear is removed at the end of each dungeon and your heroes look just as they did when they joined the guild. Each of these elements lends the game an easy accessibility to focus on the fun and leave the details behind. The problem here is that most RPG players want to be involved in those details. If might even be argued that those “details” are the heart of RPG games in general. But GoD is a dungeon crawler, not really an RPG, so it’s tough to fault it there.
GoD is also drama free. I only encountered a couple of bugs while playing. A few times the monster’s battle card didn’t show up on my screen. This was a problem because of the already delicate nature of the heroes. Not being able to strategize my cards put me in a pretty big bind. That said, GoD is pretty solid and works as intended. There is also little drama in the way your heroes navigate the dungeons. Although it felt like I could place some treasure to guide my characters around, there were plenty of times he or she chose to go their own way. This was frustrating and often ended with my demise.
The drama was high as I started the game. Every battle could have meant death. There was a palpable fear with each draw of the battle cards. But as soon as I unlocked the barbarian class, I rarely faced a foe I couldn’t defeat. The pacing of the game needs to be sharpened here so that GoD maintains that edge of your seat fear, or at least a challenge, once you’ve upgraded to the advanced heroes. One of the biggest omissions, and places where I though Gambrinous may have missed it, is the lack of multiplayer.
I can imagine taking on the role of another dungeoneer working through the dungeon against or cooperativity with my friends. Even better, let one person take on the role of the dungeon’s minions. There appears to be much potential for a multiplayer component in DoG and I truly hope the developers work to make this happen. One last thing I believe would take this game to the next level is a mobile version. This game is truly perfect for mobile. The interface, ease of gameplay, and nature of the dungeon crawls all lend the game to a perfect mobile experience. It would be THE game I played mobile if it ever makes the jump. Please Gambrinous? Make it so.
GoD is a nice little game. One I would have no problem recommending for anyone even slightly interested. It won’t be a game you spend dozens of hours with, but it will be one you can jump into for some good quick fun. The Guild of Dungeoneering may not be the most dominate guild but it is casual friendly and drama free. Give it a go, it's worth the cash.
GAMEPLAY - 7: While the strategic depth leaves something to be desired, GoD offers a pretty fun, streamlined experience.
VISUALS AND SOUND - 8: The best thing about GoD is the art and sound. The sarcastic folk stylings sound like what I would expect to hear in an old tavern – in a Monty Python movie. The hand drawn art fits the game to a tee and pushes the overall experience higher than it would be in any other format.
LONGEVITY - 7: As a player builds his or her guild, the dungeons could go on forever. I put a dozen hours into the game and felt like I had plenty more to do. Additionally, the developers can easily add on to this game with new DLC or even tweaks to the existing content.
POLISH - 8: GoD is pretty polished. The game works, looks great, sounds great, and does what it sets out to do. Some balancing would be helpful in order to truly make the experience perfect. I only encountered a couple of very minor bugs in my experience.
VALUE - 8: Guild of Dungeoneering is a very affordable $14.99. It really is worth every penny based upon charm and character alone. A deluxe version is $19.99 which adds a download of the soundtrack. Normally, I’d skip an offer like this, but GoD’s music is epic and well worth the additional $5.
Final Score: 7.6
- Witty fun
- Refreshingly unique gameplay
- Subtle but addictive guild progression
- Balance needs tweaking
- No multiplayer