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Dungelot: Shattered Lands Review

Dungelot: Shattered Lands Review

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon introduced me to the roguelike subgenre of games, and I have had something of a soft spot for them ever since. I enjoy challenging tactical gameplay that rewards commitment, and I like to feel that my exploration is genuinely worth something; to that end, I had high hopes for Dungelot: Shattered Lands.

The game is light-hearted, colourful and doesn’t take itself all too seriously. I chuckled much harder than I should have when the zombie scarecrow cried for my grains, or when the paladin invoked the might of God’s Monty Python style finger. Dungelot takes the roguelike formula and injects it with a healthy dose of Minesweeper; every dungeon floor is made up of a five by five grid of breakable blocks, with players exploring the dungeon by carving out a pathway.To progress to the next floor, they must find a key hidden underneath one of the stones, repeating this until they reach the end of the dungeon. Every time a floor is passed, a point of food is consumed, and the player will begin to lose health should this number reach zero. All of this is done while combatting the denizens of the dungeon and struggling to survive every encounter.

Although there isn’t a huge amount of variation in terms of gameplay, every enemy type in this game is unique, and the player must figure out the best way to kill off enemies without taking damage themselves. Attempting to take out a slime with a bomb will cause it to explode, dealing damage to every other character on the floor; the ghoul, on the other hand, will take damage in place of another monster, and the player has the option to either wail on the enemy that does the least damage, or pay the ghoul to go away. Combat is as simple as clicking on an enemy when it’s your turn; the creatures of darkness will never attack first, meaning that working your way past them is just as viable a tactic (provided they haven’t blocked off your available paths). Should you decide to kill an enemy, they will always attack first and do damage to your player. This obligatory damage can be mitigated by using one of the bombs or other ranged weapons that are scattered throughout each dungeon: you can only carry a certain number though, meaning that choosing your mark wisely is deathly important.

I really like this seemingly experimental format, but I don’t believe it works as a roguelike. With only twenty five possible spaces to click on any given floor, caution is not something that can realistically be expected from the player. I’ve found myself mindlessly clicking on every available space to get through the dungeon as quickly as possible, only to find that I had died several seconds ago from a chain-chomp that appeared too quickly for me to react; the game demands great care and attention, but the repetitiveness of the actions that it requires you to perform leads to this automatic mindlessness that will inevitably see you dead. Dungelot does work to remove that irritating back and forth through convoluted mazes that can be seen in most roguelikes, but it fails to replace the sense of discovery that makes the genre as charming as it is. Randomisation in this game comes from enemy placement and the location of the key, but because we only have those twenty five possible locations (twenty four, if we aren’t counting the starting gate), every floor feels exactly the same as the last: when you’re trying to force your way through a thirty floored dungeon, the game really is just as much fun as sweeping minefields.


Dungelot desperately tries to make every run through a dungeon feel significant without spoiling the player, and so although every collected coin is added to an overall total, items and wearable artefacts are lost both on death and completing the dungeon. Once the player reaches a certain point in the game, these coins can be spent on permanent upgrades that will buff every subsequent run with any character that the player chooses: these upgrades range from increasing the value of found coins to applying extra health and armour. I really like this idea of upgrading characters in between runs mainly because, despite the lack of any experience or levelling, amassing huge quantities of cash never feels compulsory; it’s an optional added extra, rather than a cheap method of forcing the player into extra playtime. Unfortunately, this also leads to the general feeling that no run is significant. There is no risk that comes from death – no fine, no scars: even the death statistics have to be manually searched for – and I found myself carelessly clearing out floors, paying no heed to my life points or hunger, because I could just restart immediately after death. Granted, the prospect of clearing out those same twenty two sets of twenty five blocks again was a pretty frightening prospect in itself, but I shouldn’t be feeling as though playing more of a game is a punishment, and in this context I really do.

Dungelot has potential, but in its current form, I couldn’t in good conscience call my experience with it fun. Although I love the story that has been set up and the characters that I have so far been introduced to, the repetitive gameplay and lack of real investment doesn’t incentivise me to see it through to the end. Every dungeon feels more like a slog than an adventure, and seeing a new, untouched floor appear on my screen feels closer to having more paperwork put on my desk than having fresh snow to step in.

4.00/10 4

Dungelot: Shattered Lands (Reviewed on Windows 8)

Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.

This unique and charming take on the rougelike subgenre has a huge amount of potential, but is unfortunately marred by dull gameplay mechanics that are uninteresting and don’t work in their current form for what it’s trying to be.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Ben Robson

Ben Robson

Staff Writer

Owner of strange Dr Moreau-esque pets, writer of videogames.

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