I picked up Dungeons of Dredmor in a Steam sale. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I notice I’ve played 13 hours, which means it’s doing something right.

It’s a roguelike, which means it’s like Rogue which I’ve never played, which in turn was basically D&D.  You make a character (which consists of picking a gender, setting the name, and choosing 7 skills) and head into the dungeon, where you kill stuff and find loot until you die.  Which you will.  Especially if this happens:

This is not a petting zoo

The first time I ran into a monster zoo, I used an invisibility potion and got away… then died to a single named character (i.e. a miniboss) elsewhere in the level.  Tonight I lobbed some bombs and such into the crowd to thin it out, and then ran.  I wandered around, got back to full health by killing monsters (my character is a vampire) and finally headed back to the zoo to finish it off.

Now, as you can see from the screenshot, the graphics are minimal, about 1995 level.  Also the icons for attributes and such are tiny inscrutable things, and the inventory management is primitive, and the minimap is hard to read.    But you have to forgive such things in an extreme indie game.  (It was made by about three people, IIRC.)

I’m told that the Right Way to play this sort of games is with permadeath on.  You die and you don’t respawn.  You can save at any point, but your saves are erased when you die!  This adds, you know, drama.  To encourage you to play this way, Dredmor only hands out achievements if you keep permadeath on.

The first few times I tried it this way, I died on level 1 and can’t say I liked it.  On the other hand, as the levels are random each time, it’s not that repetitive, and you do end up learning the basic system, and you can try out different skills.

I started a new game tonight, and I’m down on the third level, and there’s certainly satisfcation in being still alive, if only barely sometimes.  My chief enemy at this point is carelessness– even if I run into a monster zoo again, I’ve got potions of health and invisibility.  But it’s easy to run down your health if you run into one monster too many, or just a new aspect of the game.  Anyway, I’m trying to do the right thing and it certainly makes me more careful, but I reserve the right to go back to using saved games.

I got bored of Torchlight after an interminable number of samey levels.  But what Dredmor’s mostly got going for it is its wildly parodic sense of humor.  The early monsters at least are goofy-looking, the rooms and artefacts all have wacky names, the skill descriptions are full of jokes, and there are references to everything from Twilight to Hitchhiker’s Guide to Harry Potter.  The dungeon is equipped with vending machines, mini-fridges, and shrines to lutefisk, and it’s suggested that dwarven craftsmanship generally sucks.  Best of all, the monsters constantly complain (“Help!  I need an adult!”) or insult you.

Anyway, the normal price is $5, so it’s worth a try if you want a simple, amusing dungeon crawl.