I dare you to devise a more generic game name than Quest of Dungeons. Common sense says fairy-tale missions and cold, cobwebby castles represent this game’s sales pitch, but the title and retro visuals – because the terms “indie” and “pixel art style” go hand in hand nowadays – do a disservice to the underlying fun. A role-playing roguelike at heart, Quest of Dungeons breaks the mold. Gameplay offers easy turn-based battles against bats, spiders, and skeletons, then shakes up strategies and the tension before boss fights.
I say “strategy” even though most of my tactics involved buffing my hero, throwing open doors, and blasting bosses with arrows as they shuffled forward. Movement is all grid-based. For every elixir you drink, attack you initiate, or square you tread, each enemy inches closer, tile by tile, or retaliates with an attack of its own. Bosses will slaughter intruders instantly if players squander a turn, but the shortage of long-range villains makes Quest of Dungeons a breeze by roguelike norms. You tiptoe forward, the monsters do, too. You guzzle a potion, your assailants advance again. You fire your bow, your target keels over because you selected the overpowered assassin and had eight chances to fool around before the beast came within striking distance.
Three of the four characters have it easy. The wizard obviously favors fireballs, the assassin should be renamed the archer, and the shaman mixes sorcery and the warrior’s love for close quarters. The assassin – my go-to class – ambushes enemies from a dozen tiles away. That includes diagonally. Zombies, rats, and birds barely budged two steps before I put bolts in their eye holes. One shot, one kill, like a 16-bit Legolas. Quest of Dungeons proved to be the perfect time and place game for me. After recent roguelikes (Galak-Z and Ascendant) tormented my placid demeanor, I cherished any occasion to sit back and spam projectiles for gratifying results.
Only three issues dampened my experience. Quest of Dungeons originated on PCs before arriving on mobile platforms. Now, months later and with superior hardware at Upfall Studios’ disposal, I wish the playable sprites reflected the constant changes to their suits of armor. The wolf-skin cloak the shaman brings on the adventure is the same garment he dresses in until he croaks or clears the dungeon. I would rather witness my characters wrecking ghosts and goblins in blue tunics, red boots, or gold pants. What an abnormal sight that’d be to behold.
Quest of Dungeons is also limited in animations. The heroes and villains alternate between two positions: standing and squatting. As such, melee fighters bump one another until someone’s health reaches zero, and spells and arrows soar straight from a staff or bow – no preparation required. I also suspect the monsters last saw the light of day eight years ago, judging by their tendencies to repeat stale pop culture phrases like “You shall not pass!” or the notable “Come here!” of Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion. I read something about cakes and lies, too, or whatever.
Cringey one-liners aside, I can cut the story some slack. Quest of Dungeons shows a sense of humor when it comes to saving the world. A malevolent lord trapped all the earth’s light inside a lantern, and despite the four heroes you can choose from, just one accepts the task of restoring the land’s brilliance. What do the remaining champions do while you ransack the bad guy’s stronghold? Stand around a campfire mostly, placing bets on whether you add your skeleton to the castle’s growing collection.
The fortresses themselves remain procedurally generated and massive at that. Although my assassin regularly avoided status ailments, I am the one that Quest of Dungeons afflicted with Diablo syndrome. I needed to explore every room, open all locked doors, and investigate each floor to fully sketch out the minimap. The environments preyed on my OCD, which culminated in unstoppable warriors. I accumulated potions, shields, crossbows, greaves, and clusters of coins without exception. without exception. Quest of Dungeons is a looter’s paradise.
One setting I advise players to enable will allow heroes to pick up the items they walk over – no more wearing down your X button to add boots or helmets to your inventory. The clever design decisions get better from there. You can still equip swords and capes or such when selling your spoils to merchants. Health replenishes, albeit slowly, as you traipse around levels, and locked doors appear on the map alongside the type of key(s) that open them. Are you unable to budget the 90 minutes necessary to finish runs in a single sitting? Quest of Dungeons lets players save their progress and resume their plundering later.
Quest of Dungeons refuses to mislead fans as some roguelikes foolishly do. Need to find a miniboss or treasure to complete a side quest? The quest log lists the floor and direction for players to search. Want to know a spell’s cooldown or how many tiles it affects. Simply read the description. Similar rules apply to the enemy variety – what you see is what you get it. The dwarves that wield hammers and shields pose no risk at a distance, in other words, though the rest of the monster roster is a zoo of nightmares. Minotaurs, genies, dragons, ogres, and … tree stumps? Elves, slimes, and bad-tempered onions, too? We’re scraping a barrel’s bottom now.
Although Quest of Dungeons made its name on PCs and phones first, the Xbox One version is not another cheap, broken indie cash-in. Upfall Studios – the one-man team of David Amador – ensures Quest of Dungeons remains a polished product. Diehard tacticians will love the harder difficulties, love testing their knowledge of spell, armor, and weapon stats in life or death chess matches. Anybody with obligations will also adore the freedom to save the game any time, any where, and the streamlined UI. No more browsing menus to remind yourself how to access the inventory or summon lightning.
Okay, let’s wrap this up. I hear Quest of Dungeons calling me. Damn loot withdrawals.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided.
The lenient difficulty, procedurally generated levels, and promises of plentiful loot prove that Quest of Dungeons has something for any roguelike or dungeon crawler fan.