More often than not, you stumble across a new game that seems to be deep and complex only to find out that it's actually pretty shallow after a few hours of playing. There are also these joyful occurrences where the opposite is true. You look at a game thinking it's rather simple and probably only entertaining for a few hours just to find out that it's actually rather deep and filled to the brim with enjoyable content. To me, one of these titles has been Desktop Dungeons, a game that I fully expected to only play for a couple of hours before looking for something else but ended up playing for almost 136 hours before finally finishing all its content!
All images taken from Steam
At first glance, you could think that Desktop Dungeons was just a lowly mobile game. It's graphics are low res and even though I love the game, even I would call them bearable at best. In best roguelite tradition, you send hero after hero into dungeons to fight monsters, cast spells, collect loot, and more often than not... die. If your hero does manage to survive, he will return with the spoils of war, allowing you to slowly build up your town. This in turn unlocks new items, new classes, and in general more options for your daily dungeoneering needs. It's a concept you've already seen a hundred times and you'll see a hundred times more. There's a lot more beneath the surface than you might think, though.
First of all, the actual dungeoneering is a lot deeper than what you get in many other titles. This is mostly because there is zero randomness involved in anything you do. You explore the dungeon one step at a time. At the beginning, you only see you direct surroundings. Every time you discover a new tile, both you and the monsters regenerate a fixed amount of health and mana. Each time you attack a monster, it will strike back at you. You can always see how much damage you and the monster will deal, what the effects of a spell will be, and so on. This makes the game extremely strategic and thus pretty enjoyable. Understanding all the game mechanics and utilizing them as best as possible is key to victory, especially in the later dungeons. Often times you are looking for the perfect flow of battles that will allow you to kill all the monsters while barely surviving and regenerating just enough to allow you to go on.
The game also features an extremely well done progression system. The first dungeon is super easy and straight forward. As you progress, more and more systems are introduced to the game. You gain access to more spells, items, and classes. On top of that, there's a worship system that allows you to follow different gods. Each god has it's on unique likes and dislikes. One god will punish you for casting spells while another one will favor you for taking damage. Discovering what each god is expecting from you is part of the fun and later in the game, you will sometimes change allegiance several times during a run to make the most of each gods blessings.
There's also a nice background story to the game explaining why you do the things you do. The good thing is that the whole scenario doesn't take itself all too serious, there are a lot of puns and silly jokes along the line, making the whole thing pretty enjoyable to follow. Progress is mostly achieved through completing quests although you are never forced to follow them if you don't want to. If you prefer, you can just go out exploring the dungeon of your liking with the hero of your choice. Chances are, you'll eventually complete the quest just by accident. There are also a ton of secrets buried within the dungeons, new encounters, items, and spells to unlock. As you can see from my 136 hours played, unlocking everything does take quite some time.
How long a single run is going to take you depends a lot on how far into the game you are and how long it takes you to make decisions. Usually, I've finished a dungeon within 10-15 minutes, but to beat the most difficult ones, I had to do a lot of planning and thus I sometimes took as long as 30 minutes to finish a run. Even at that, Desktop Dungeons is the perfect game to play whenever you have a bit of time to kill. Beating everything is going to take you a long time and if you don't care for any of the secrets and just follow the story line from start to finish, you are still looking at 60-80 hours worth of playtime.
Considering that the game is sold at 13.99€, which should be about 18$, that's quite a lot of entertainment for your money. The game originally was released in 2013 so if you wait for the next sale, you should basically be able to get it for 3$-4$ at most. The game is sitting at 89% positive rating on Steam right now and a lot of the negative reviews seem to come from people that either expected something else or found it to be too difficult. Indeed, that's something that you need to be aware of if you pick up the game - there's no grinding through the game. Since there is no randomness involved in the fights, you either get it or you don't. If you miss a key concept you simply won't advance until you have the right idea. Some players might find that to be rather frustrating, but to me it's just great! There's a bit of hand-holding in beginning but after a while you are left on your own to figure out how to best deal with a situation.
As you can see from my hours played, I can only recommend getting the game. If you are anything like me, you'll get dozens if not a hundred hours of entertainment out of it. It's even one of the very rare games that I see myself getting back to to finish again in some years - it's just that good!
And that's all from me for today. Thank you all for reading and see you next time!