You die ...
March 16, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Desktop Dungeons offers an unquestionably unique approach to Roguelike games by taking compactness to the extreme. It distills the entire genre to a few core ideas which pay homage to the greats while forging new ground with gameplay similar to that of Oasis or Tower of the Sorcerer. It also features emergent complexity that rewards truly skilled and thoughtful players.
posted by painquale (61 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Takes a bit to get the hang of but really addictive. I have all the basic classes done, none of the advanced classes or challenge dungeons yet. Of note is that you carry over gold across playthroughs and that exploration heals you so you should try minimize exploration unless your life or mana are depleted.
posted by juv3nal at 4:31 PM on March 16, 2010

Yeah, I had no idea that this would be so addictive when I started playing. I saw it advertised as a quick roguelike game, so I thought it would be a good break game (a minesweeperlike). Now I've unlocked most stuff (still three advanced classes to go) and have finished the advanced dungeons with about three or four characters each.

There really is a lot of emergent complexity, and the characters do play differently. I'm often surprised by how I manage to solve a dungeon. You often have to change strategies on the fly. It's remarkably well-balanced
posted by painquale at 4:37 PM on March 16, 2010

Windows only games, why do you taunt me so?
posted by GuyZero at 4:38 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

How can it claim to be compact? It's got graphics.
posted by darksasami at 4:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Of course it's got graphics! Otherwise what pathetic excuse would they have for keeping it windows-only?
posted by 7segment at 4:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love the idea but yes I would much prefer to be @.
posted by everichon at 4:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

@ where?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2010

everichon reads a scroll of GAGAHECATOMB

ChurchHatesTucker is now wearing pleather!
posted by everichon at 5:20 PM on March 16, 2010

This is good. Damn you for finding me yet another timesink.

not really damn you. More like darn you. Which sounds like you are a sock or something. Are you?
posted by never used baby shoes at 5:27 PM on March 16, 2010

Oh Great. Now I have something to occupy myself in the short breaks I take during the 6+ hours a day I spend playing nethack.

Not to mention the nethack dreams I have nearly every night. I think I'm rewiring my brain.
posted by vapidave at 5:38 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

How do you kill the final boss of the dungeon? They have about 300 hp too many.
posted by TypographicalError at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2010

Not to mention the nethack dreams I have nearly every night.

What are those like visually? Do you dream about sitting at the keyboard looking at the map, or are you the '@' sign?
posted by mr_roboto at 5:45 PM on March 16, 2010

in the vein of simple but awesome roguelikes, if you haven't checked out doomrl yet, i can't encourage you enough
posted by p3on at 5:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

(and even if you have, there's a new version out)
posted by p3on at 5:51 PM on March 16, 2010

This is absolutely wonderful, thank you.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 6:07 PM on March 16, 2010

I'm going to see if these will run in wine in debian...
posted by fuq at 6:11 PM on March 16, 2010

"What are those like visually? Do you dream about sitting at the keyboard looking at the map, or are you the '@' sign?"

Nothing could give me more shame (except that my color memory is poor and my enjoyment was suffering from too much of /y^^^^^<<<<<<<< &c) so I use a tileset of 20 x 20 squares. In the dreams I am inside the game but about 8 feet above my fairly clearly seen character (Whichever one I was playing that night) but my surroundings are only seen in a dim circle about 16 spaces in diameter. Specifics are vague but there is always a sense of tension and mild dread coupled with a need to act. The dreams aren't terrifying though they do interfere with restful sleep but at least I enjoy the game. My activities of the day leak through to that night's dream life quite readily, I've had jobs where I've had workmares regularly too.

Heh, now I feel like I need to get up from lying on a leather couch and write out a check.
posted by vapidave at 6:31 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, This would make a great smartphone game.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:39 PM on March 16, 2010

Ohhh myyy goddd.

Yeah, I pronounced that d three times. That's how happy I am about this link.
posted by Nattie at 7:01 PM on March 16, 2010, doesn't seem to.
posted by fuq at 7:05 PM on March 16, 2010

How do you kill the final boss of the dungeon? They have about 300 hp too many.

Depends on the boss/your class. Not every map is winnable. For starters, if you go with the priest and luck into a zombie boss, it's pretty easy. A more generally useful technique is to get fireball and save up your mana potions and fireball him down to striking distance.

But just you wait until you get to the challenge maps (which I have yet to beat any of) and have to bag two of the bosses in one map.
posted by juv3nal at 7:25 PM on March 16, 2010

Double Ack! Windows only. Don't you read the news?
posted by newdaddy at 7:36 PM on March 16, 2010

I've been playing this for a few weeks now, it's remarkably good game design. Pretty much no random chance other than the initial layout. Lots of thinking. It's amazing how the different classes and races play so differently. 3 key tips.

1: your most valuable resource is unexplored map. Exploration heals and restores mana. Do not explore until you need to heal or restore mana.

2: cast a lot of spells. whenever you have spare mana, cast.

3: you'll probably be only level 8 or 9 when taking on the boss. Potions are the key.
posted by Nelson at 7:37 PM on March 16, 2010

how dare you post a game that can only be played on 90%+ of computers
posted by p3on at 7:50 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]

Depends on the boss/your class. Not every map is winnable. For starters, if you go with the priest and luck into a zombie boss, it's pretty easy. A more generally useful technique is to get fireball and save up your mana potions and fireball him down to striking distance.

Not every board has fireball. And even if you're priest v. zombie, it's still not always easy to get to level 8/9.

This game is pretty shitty for new people, all told, and it doesn't help me that the creator is in this thread badmouthing the shit out of people who aren't cool enough to play his game.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:06 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a fun little timesink, and decent if you're already have death callouses from playing a ton of roguelikes.

Yeah, it kinda sucks that not every map is winnable or even clearable, but when games take around ten minutes, it's not that big a loss.

Seconding that this would do really well as a smartphone game.
posted by fnerg at 9:35 PM on March 16, 2010

fuq: ", doesn't seem to."

Interestingly, though it is based on Wine, the game runs just dandy on my Mac with CrossOver Games. I used the latest build (8.2), which is based on a rather recent Wine, so maybe it's worth digging a bit deeper. I'm intrigued by the game...
posted by dylanjames at 10:09 PM on March 16, 2010

Can someone explain what a "roguelike" is? 'Cause I have seen this term a lot and have no idea what it means.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:32 PM on March 16, 2010

(Yes, I read the link, I still do not have a clue, as I have not ever played a "roguelike")
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:34 PM on March 16, 2010

posted by juv3nal at 10:35 PM on March 16, 2010

it's a game like rogue
posted by p3on at 11:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nearly every map is winnable. I'm at the point where I can pretty reliably beat the challenge maps with certain classes, and when I don't win, I can usually tell that it's because I misplayed something.

The most valuable resource is not obvious: it's monster level. Fighting monsters above your level nets more xp than you get from beating them at your own level. If you only fight monsters at your own level or below, you'll often find yourself at level 7 or 8 with most of the map explored and only difficult monsters left to give you xp. Trying to beat a level 6 monster at level 2 or 3 can be a good strategy. But it's often tough to figure out how without consuming a ton of resources, like unexplored map.

Also, I think every map has fireball. I look for it every time and I don't think I've ever seen it missing.
posted by painquale at 11:33 PM on March 16, 2010

Yes, I read the link, I still do not have a clue, as I have not ever played a "roguelike"

You should give it a try! The learning curve is steep, but it's one of the best computer game experiences I've ever had. You should start with Nethack, probably. You can play here. Spoilers/instructions here.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:42 PM on March 16, 2010

runcibleshaw, there was an excellent post about nethack on Metafilter back in 2005 that you can find here, The post has plenty of links and commentary. Whether or not you choose to play the game reading about it is fascinating I think.

(apologies to painquale for my derails and thanks for the game)
posted by vapidave at 3:08 AM on March 17, 2010

runcibleshaw: “Can someone explain what a "roguelike" is? 'Cause I have seen this term a lot and have no idea what it means.”

"Roguelike" roughly means: randomized levels that are laid out differently every time (so you can play it over and over and over) + ridiculously difficult challenges within those random levels (so that you have to play it over and over and over). Roguelike games also often have a sort of nostalgic harking back to old 8-bit games of the 80s.

Roguelike games are interesting and fun because they lack a few sometimes-annoying features of many mainstream video games – the muddying-up of the gameplay with lots of plot elements, for example, and the existence of "combinations." Many games have a set route to winning, so all you have to do is master that one "combination" - left, right, left, left, a, b, up, and you've beaten the boss. Do that combination a dozen times and you'll beat the game every time. Roguelike games won't let you do that; every time, it's a different map, a different route, and a different jump you have to make, so you tend to get better at all aspects of the game, and learn skills in all circumstances. The best roguelike games have slightly funky physics engines or a few quirks in the interface that take a while to master, so that jumping, running, killing this or that, etc, takes more of an art. That's really the point of roguelikes, I think – to recapture and heighten the artfulness that it took to be good at video games in the 80s. Drop another quarter in and show the kid next to you just how gracefully you can manipulate your little five-pixel character as he alights softly onto a two-color ledge, and all that.
posted by koeselitz at 3:38 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

So I've been playing this a bit this evening and fffffffuuuuuuu-
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:46 AM on March 17, 2010

Windows only games, why do you taunt me so?"

This is as good a place as any to revive a link from an ill-fated post of mine: FreedroidRPG, which is essentially Paradroid crossed with a roguelike in the Diablo style, with a whimsical open-source geek theme.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:40 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paradroid is one of the games I used to play a lot back on the c64, and looking at those screenshots makes my brain hurt. How the hell do you get from "an RPG based on Paradroid" to "You have found a Cursed Meat Cleaver"? And of course aggh Tux, all free Linux games must star that lumpy penguin, it's a law… but what the hell are you doing playing one single character instead of hopping from one host bot to another? The constant flow of host bodies was the meat of Paradroid, the major unique game hook that made it stand out; take that away and all you have is… floor tiles that echo the original game.
posted by egypturnash at 8:44 AM on March 17, 2010

Wizard needs food badly!
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:12 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

but what the hell are you doing playing one single character instead of hopping from one host bot to another?

You need Freedroid Classic, which is supposed to be a faithful remake.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:30 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is fucking awesome. I just wish that hitting Escape did a quicksave as well as quitting the game...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:34 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

People, I have work to do! Also, paging JHarris from the FarCry 2 thread.
posted by ersatz at 12:44 PM on March 17, 2010

Yep, I'm here ersatz....

TypographicalError: What do you mean? Your link requires a log-in. And frankly, while I can't read the thread you link to, Desktop Dungeons is awesome enough that I kind of agree with what you say he says.

I actually had a nice long IRC chat with Rodain Joubert, creator of the game, and Keith Burgun of 100 Rogues a couple nights back. Cool guys. In that chat, Rodain revealed that, in fact, the Fireball glyph is guaranteed to be generated on every map now.

I've played the game rather a lot and unlocked most of the basic characters. Most times when you beat the Normal dungeon with a new class the game adds one more kind of item that can appear in shops, and adds one more kind of monster to the generation mix. Both of these things, in my experience, make the game subtly harder. The item generation (at least in the short run) because many of the early items introduced are a bit worse than the ones that start out generating, diluting the useful stuff. (Rodain states that the later items that are generated are better, although some are rather pricey.) The monsters are a mixed bag mostly; Medusas are surprisingly easy when handled right and a good source of experience, but Goo Balls (yes, they are a reference) have 50% physical resistance. And don't get me start on the Ultimate Horror that is the goat boss. CURSE YOU GOAT BOSS AND YOUR ATTACK OF 227!!

Here are my own strategy notes/opinions. These could well be considered


First and most importantly, pay attention to the battle prediction you get when you mouse over a monster. You need never die if you follow those reports unless you're relying on dodge skill, which is generally a bad idea even if you have great Dodge.

You get first attack if you have a special first-attack ability, or of higher level than the opponent. That means, if you kill the monster in one hit, you take no damage at all. However, if the monster has First Attack himself, then that ability supersedes yours, even if you have First Attack too. These monsters (that I've seen so far) are Goblins and Medusas. The First Strike glyph-spell might enable you to overcome this, but I haven't tried it out yet.

You want, whenever possible without using up undue resources, to kill monsters of higher level than you. You get an experience boost for doing so, which increases your power sooner, which saves you from having to explore more of the map before you have to. Kill monsters of slightly higher level first if you can (usually in the mid-to-late level range, depending on class), then mop up the weaklings.

Always try to avoid exploring map, when you can, for when you have to heal or gain magic. Every space you explore when either of these values is below max is resources wasted. Sometimes you have to explore; when you do this, try, as far as you are able, to focus on open spaces and not wall spaces, so you can maximize the opportunities you gain relative to refreshment given up.

The Attack Up and First Strike glyph effects persist after casting to the next physical attack you make. In the case of Attack Up, there is rarely a situation where you don't want it cast, so it's usually best to do so right after using it.

Max HP gain effects are a little weird. When you gain from the HP increase tiles or from spending a glyph as a Dwarf, the gain you receive depends on your level at that time. I don't think (but have not had confirmed) that, when you achieve later levels, you get additional max HP for each previous gain source. Because of this, for more effect you want to use these sources the moment you achieve the highest level you'll reach for maximum effect. Note that this doesn't matter with Max MP gains.

Most of the time it's a bad idea to attack a monster to get its health down, then run away to heal up exploring then return to the fight. Monsters *also* gain hit points back when you explore map, at the same rate as you (one hit point per level, per space revealed). Since the monsters you'd need to use this tactic with are usually higher level than you, this is usually a losing proposition. But there are times when it can still be helpful. When your attack strength is considerably greater than that of the monster, and when you have an ability that provides for extra healing per space recovered (such as from a class with extra regeneration, a Healing spell, or are able to heal from blood on the ground), those are cases where you might be able to eke by in a close fight by making clever use of explore-healing.

If you kill a monster three levels higher than yours, that is usually enough for a full experience level by itself. It's hard to do though. The best opponents to try it with are Medusas. Make a plan for how to do it; compare your attack strength to hers and see if you can kill her in two attacks (or more, if you have other sources of healing). Beware of her Petrify ability, although if you're following battle reports you will have ample warning. Petrify happens if you're at half health or less when attacking. (The Medusa boss, however, petrifies you if you're not at FULL health.)

Whenever you gain a level, your health and magic are refilled and all status ailments are cured. Don't neglect this! It is an important source of magic regain. It also means, if you know killing a monster will earn you a level (you get the monster's level in XP when you kill one, +1 for being a Warrior, +1 for following the Pactmaker, plus a bonus if the monster is higher level relative to the difference) then it doesn't matter if the monster is a Snake, and if you can also kill it in one hit or won't need magic then it also doesn't matter if it's a Wraith.

Try to conserve potions for the boss in general.

Notes on Gods: Most of them are best when picked up as early as possible in a dungeon, as their benefits accrue over time. I've not written any of these down before so I'm going by memory, and so there may be some minor errors here:
The Pactmaker docks you a little in several stats but gives you a +1 to experience for every kill. This is the only way I've ever been able to actually achieve level 10.
The Dwarf god gives you money for digging.
The Thief god grants a potion of healing upon joining up, heals status whenever you kill a monster in one physical hit and also adds 1% to dodge.
The Glittering god forbids using "evil" magic (I think that's only Blood-to-Power) but makes you immune to poison, grants an attack strength bonus for killing undead, and if you kill enough undead grants a one-time Lifesave.
The melee-only god grants a permanent attack bonus for killing things, but punishes you for using magic.
The magic-only god reduces your attack strength to 1 *permanently*, but rewards you for killing monsters with magic (and also from attacking as well, as far as that goes) with maximum MP.
The Earth god likes it when you turn monsters to stone, but hates it when you dig.

On glyphs (my own, effect-based glyph names provided since I can't really remember the game's names that well):
Most useful glyphs: Fireball (especially!), Attack Up 30%, Healing (introduced when you win with a Paladin)
Useful in some common situations: Summon Monster, First Strike, Blood-To-Power, Life Save, Reveal Map Squares (a poor-man's Healing, but nice to have at the end of a map if you've explored the whole place and need health back)
Least useful glyphs: Anything involving teleport, Petrify Monster, Digging (unless you've found a Dwarf god altar)

P.S. Thanks, juv3nal, for pointing me to this game in MeMail last week!
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

P.S. Thanks, juv3nal, for pointing me to this game in MeMail last week!

*tips hat*
Was going to even post about it, maybe, but I didn't want to do it until I had beat it at least with one character, and by the time I did that some other things came up.
posted by juv3nal at 3:35 PM on March 17, 2010

A few more tips:

I replenish gold reserves between battles with a goblin wizard. As a wizard you can see where the glyphs are, as a goblin you can turn them into ten gold. Just run through a couple of maps and grab nearby glyphs.

It's mandatory to go after enemies three or four levels above you. Once you hit level 3, you should avoid killing anyone at your level until you hit level 7 or so. Unless they are in your way, the only reason you would kill weaker enemies is for xp, and you want all your xp to come from stronger monsters... otherwise there isn't enough xp on the map for you to reliably get to level 9 or 10. The poison glyph and healing glyph (both unlockables) are extremely useful in killing enemies above your level. On the factory map, try to find a level 9 animated armor and the fireball glyph right away, so you can blast it, explore a few squares, blast it again, etc. You can jump 4 levels with one kill.

Not sure about this, but it seems like different monsters have different recovery rates. You can use that to your advantage... hit a slowly regenerating one a few times, explore, then return. It's better to do this on a strong guy and eat up a bunch of the map than it is to kill weaker guys.

The only gods I really use are the undead-killing one, the glittering one for gold, and the tikki thief god. They're the only ones with decent benefits that don't seriously restrict your playstyle. Sometimes for fun I'll use the melee-only or magic-only ones. I didn't realize that the pactmaker makes you gain experience more quickly (I had no idea what the benefit was)... I'll have to try using it.

I've unlocked all characters but one, and I've completed each challenge map between 6 and 11 times. Getting there! It gets easier as you go, because stores start offering better items (anyone know what the zombie dog does, incidentally?). It looks like the hardest challenge will be beating the factory level with the half-dragon. I have no idea how I'll take down the iron golem boss when all of the half-dragon's attacks are magical, but he has a cool ability to knock enemies against walls that I don't fully understand yet, and it might prove key.
posted by painquale at 5:13 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Whoa, that Pactmaker shrine is awesome. I just beat the snake pit as a sorcerer without getting a cydstep, healing, or poison glyph, without finding the fireball glyph until half the map was gone, and without using a single potion. And I hit level ten while there were still a bunch of enemies on the map. Crazy.
posted by painquale at 5:30 PM on March 17, 2010

Wow painquale, awesome! You've obviously got a lot more play time under your belt on this one than I have.
posted by JHarris at 6:55 PM on March 17, 2010

Regretfully, yes.

I forgot to respond to this:

Max HP gain effects are a little weird. When you gain from the HP increase tiles or from spending a glyph as a Dwarf, the gain you receive depends on your level at that time. I don't think (but have not had confirmed) that, when you achieve later levels, you get additional max HP for each previous gain source

I'm pretty sure that max HP gain effects give you a percentage-based bonus. When you go up a level, you gain base HP. That's the way that attack points work, and it seems that HP works the same way.
posted by painquale at 6:59 PM on March 17, 2010

Attack points make the increase obvious by revealing what your base attack is and the percentage it's increased by. This is not done with hit points, which is what makes me wonder.
posted by JHarris at 7:06 PM on March 17, 2010

magic-only god works pretty well for a gnome wizard. I'd imagine the battle god works well for monks and fighters.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:41 AM on March 18, 2010

I beat every dungeon with every character! There's no special ending or fanfare (other than this comment).
posted by painquale at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2010

Thanks for this link! I'm really enjoying this game. I really never got into roguelike games, mostly because the sometimes-random death factor got irritating, this is short enough and easy enough to know when to quit out of, that's is perfect.

I'm partway through, and loving the fact that the early classes still have really good abilities- they're not overshadowed by the unlocked classes.
posted by yeloson at 9:38 PM on March 20, 2010

Haha, protip: don't unworship Earthmother. She will turn every empty square into rock.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:49 PM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you can live without converting the digging glyph, the Dwarf god isn't a bad choice for casters- aside from giving you a means to farm gold while exploring, the strength buffs at each level are pretty damn handy.
posted by yeloson at 7:18 PM on March 21, 2010

Hmm, I keep trying the Sorcerer using the magic-only god, but I since you get healed when using magic, I think the Sorcerer is much better suited to a melee/magic combo so I should be using a different god really.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:25 AM on March 22, 2010

Haha, protip: don't unworship Earthmother. She will turn every empty square into rock.

Unless, according to the wiki (yes the game has a wiki), you're a Transmuter.
posted by JHarris at 5:45 PM on March 22, 2010

The magic only god... is really hard to use. You don't want to sign on too early, because you need the fighting skill to get some xp under your belt, but you also want to sign on early-ish to get the most mp from killing.
posted by yeloson at 8:20 PM on March 22, 2010

yes the game has a wiki

posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:44 AM on March 23, 2010


posted by juv3nal at 10:21 AM on March 23, 2010

Awesome, thanks.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:40 AM on March 23, 2010

This is a fantastic game. Thanks for posting it. Thanks also for the red eyes from staying up too late three night in a row.

More Spoilers/tips

Another tip is to sequence your attacks/spells correctly. For example, in some situations, cast spells first, then finish the monster by using first-strike, so it never gets a swing at you.

Also, consider save monsters with mana burn/poison for the end of a given experience level. So if you get burned/poisoned, you automatically get healed as you level up.

Don't use your potions until the end.

Don't explore casually. If you need one mana point, explore a corner of the map that will uncover one square. If you're close to leveling up, decide whether you need more health and mana before you defeat that last monster.

I never though I'd say this, but some gods are worth worshiping, and others aren't. Some gods can kick other gods' asses. The magic-only god is awesome, because you get more and more mana for harming/killing monsters with spells.

You can sometimes poison a monster so that it doesn't regenerate while you run around to get health/mana.

You can use the "see 3 random unexplored squares" glyph to recharge your health and sometimes mana. You also get points for using it at least 5 times. Consider saving it until there's nothing but rock left.

I'm not sure the fireball is on every "library" map. Could be wrong.
posted by etherist at 6:36 AM on March 25, 2010

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