When a powerful and evil lord steals all the light from the land of Virul and traps it inside a magical lantern, four heroes join forces to defeat him and illuminate the world once more. Except, gathered around a fire together, they, somewhat amusingly, decide that only one hero should go it alone.
Whether you choose to play as the mighty warrior specialised in handling swords, the wizard that can use powerful magic and spells, the assassin that lurks in the shadows and uses ranged weapons to attack his prey, or the shaman who can mix spells with hacking at his foes in close combat, Quest of Dungeons can be an unnerving experience.
That’s because this turn-based dungeon crawler is a roguelike, meaning that once your character dies you have to restart your quest from scratch. That setup makes you fear what lies behind every door, which could either be a room filled with bats, mice, skeletons and other enemies hell-bent on cutting your adventure short or even an empty space with a lone pot to smash to pieces.
Seeing as Quest of Dungeons is turn-based, it lends you time to react to whatever you encounter in each room. I found the assassin more suited to how I wanted to approach the game, picking enemies off from afar with a bow before they ever have the chance to become a problem. Each step that you take counts as a turn as does an attack, and this style of play will be familiar to those that have tackled the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or Etrian Odyssey games.
With enemies to vanquish, traps to dodge, and quests to take on, it isn’t surprising to learn that there are RPG systems whirring away that underpin Quest of Dungeons. Earning experience will see an orange bar steadily fill across the top of the screen that, once full, will see your hero level up reward them by strengthening their stats across the board.
There’s also equipment that you can recover that let me equip my assassin with a far stronger bow and be kitted out in sturdier armour. Potions can be used to replenish your health when necessary, and precious stones that you gather can be sold to a cloaked figure to buy more to sit in your inventory until they are needed. With your goal being to discover the stairs that lead down to the next floor in the dungeon, this hunter-gatherer approach will see you checking every room before moving on – which is necessary to earn more experience to level up, too, as the enemies you face become tougher the lower you get.
Your hero’s eventual death will come as an annoyance, but then, I guess that’s the point. After their demise, stats will run down how long you lasted, how many turns you had, the distance walked, number of traps triggered, objects broken, and so on. It’s good to have the chance to reflect on what you have, or haven’t, achieved, and if you finding that you aren’t surviving for long on each quest then you can always lower the difficulty – with your choice being between Easy, Normal, Hard, and Hell.
Seeing as every run in Quest of Dungeons is procedurally generated, no rooms, items, or enemies are ever in the same place. That helps to keep the experience differentiated over time, the player learning the intricacies of the gameplay mechanics but never knowing which they will need to call upon from room-to-room. The in-game achievements, called Feats, will help objectify your time, while each run will reward you with Adventure Points depending on how well you do that will see you score a place on the online leaderboards.
Beneath its 16-bit look, Quest of Dungeons presents surprising depth and a worthwhile challenge to those that are willing to brave its neverending rooms. In learning through repetition, I’m sure that most will stand a chance at restoring light to the world.