Guild of Dungeoneering was one of those indie games I’ve never heard about until it popped in my GOG suggestions, and I always hesitated to get it. The sketch-like graphics had their unique appeal, but the game play itself didn’t seem to offer enough engaging. As you can guess, I got it during one of the sales, when I accidentally watched a trailer video for the game which featured a fun song to match the not-so-serious interface. The game promised building my own dungeon and letting an adventurer in on what seemed like a digitalized version of early Dungeons&Dragons dungeon crawls.
The same song greeted me on the game’s main screen, and it can tell you I listened to it all before I even started the game. Even now I catch myself thinking: “It’s the best thing in the game”—and that’s not good news.
The game’s mechanic is simple and easy to grasp, but it misses the main purpose of any dungeon crawl: getting your character to level up and face more and more powerful monsters in the endless quest for treasures. Since you build your dungeon randomly from the cards drawn each turn, the random factor overwhelms any planning you might want to do, and the dungeons themselves are limited in various ways: you might be able to only kill three monsters, spend there a certain amount of turns (otherwise you lose, and your character dies) or collect certain loot. So if you’re dreaming of ADOM-like experience of endless dungeons and mowing your way through countless enemies… well, dream on.
The battle with the monsters is also a card game, and your deck depends on your character’s class and the equipment you loot from fighting monsters. I can tell you that it’s very entertaining and a lot of fun, even though the random factor made it quite frustrating at times. Too bad that whenever you enter a dungeon, you start from scratch… Sure, I can see how it’s easier to balance the game this way, but it definitely doesn’t add to the fun and satisfaction of slowly building a perfect deck while exploring a dungeon.
There’s some story to accompany your endeavors, but it’s quite cliche and there isn’t enough to get creative juices flowing. Of course, that would be a perfect setup to weave my own story while my character, but… they die a lot. And I do mean: A LOT. I’ve mentioned the random card draw before, and when you pull out only one corridor card and monster cards that are too high for your newbie character to take on while you have limited time in the dungeon—your chances of survival drop. Especially that even after you place the dungeon tiles and monsters, you don’t get to control which way you go and sometimes the character for some reason heads exactly the opposite direction of where you wished her or him to go, and randomly travels either one tile or two (if there’s a monster or a treasure, it’ll always be just one tile, but if there’s nothing in the rooms, it might be one or two).
As a result, I didn’t get attached to any of the characters and my imagination couldn’t fill the frame of the story with ideas of my own, so even though I enjoyed the game play itself, I constantly found myself shutting the game down, bored with having 5 or 6 of characters die due to bad card draw in the beginning of the dungeon or a battle.
So what kept me going back to the game? The music (and songs which are fun enough, though they do get a bit repetitious), the graphics, and the light game play. They made Guild of Dungeoneering a perfect distraction tool for when I was editing, and the low procrastination level ensured I went back to my task at hand soon enough, but part of me wished I could build my own, complex dungeons, fill them with monsters and treasures, and then embark on hours-long quest to defeat them all. Oh well, instead I got to edit another chapter of my novel, so that’s good, right?
If you’re in the mood for something fun and light, and the game happens to be on sale, you can grab it and get a couple of hours of interesting concept game play (that you hoped had been executed in a better way), but otherwise I’m not sure if I can recommend the game. Sure, I enjoyed it when I played it—but it’s not a game I’m ever going to come back to. Or play to get inspired to write.
- Story: Very Low
- Immersion: Very Low
- Inspiration: Very Low
- Relaxation factor: Low
- Procrastination risk: Low
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.