One Deck Dungeon

Source: Supporter Donation
Price: £7.19 (Phoenix’s Den DLC :  79p)
Where To Get It: Steam

So… Here’s another one that caught me off guard with the release. Yes, One Deck Dungeon, a game I reviewed about two months ago is out. Its main addition? A gauntlet mode, in which the masochistic can try and beat all the dungeons in one go.

The Lich’s special ability is frustrating. Turns out Liches are like small children playing Cops and Robbers.

Considering I wasn’t sure I could beat the main dungeons without the Hero Progression system they added… I can’t really say much about that.

So, to recap, One Deck Dungeon, a computer game based on the tabletop game of the same name, has up to two adventurers, each with a special ability, try to make their way through one of five dungeons, based on a single deck of possible encounters, random loot, and a boss at the end. Each dungeon has special rules, such as the Lich’s Tomb, which removes all dice rolling a 2 (Combined with encountering an Ethereal, who removes 1s and 3s, this dungeon can get painful) , and a boss at the end. Everything is resolved by rolling dice, fitting dice of the required number or above into boxes with numbers to prevent damage, losing time, or other fun things, and this can be aided with skills, potions, and each heroine’s special ability.

Nice to see a game with all-women protags, to be quite honest.

The Ethereal, similarly, is quite evil. But still, that loot… I need that looooooot!

Everything said in the previous review with the appearance of fairness (Yes, it’s dice, but skills can affect them, multiply them, reroll them… Skills go a long way to helping), the aesthetic (Solid, if workmanlike in places), and the dungeon deck (Could do with some extra variation) still stand. But one thing has served to improve the game, for me, at least, quite a bit. Hero Progression.

See, with the base abilities, the later dungeons can best be described as the sound of a table being flipped through a monitor, which is itself being thrown through a window. They’re punishing. But finishing a dungeon lets you, with Hero Progression on, unlock useful things in four basic categories: Basic, Healing, Combat, and Dungeon. I’ve mainly gone with a Healing build, and it’s been fun to go through the lower dungeons to get basic abilities, do the higher dungeons, just… Levelling up. As you would. I asked, last time I took a look, if the game could be more fair. And the answer, funnily enough, was “Yes, here’s a big step toward that.”

So, in summary, One Deck Dungeon is fun. Its music is alright, its aesthetic mostly solid, and it’s pretty clear to understand and play. It could do with some extra monster variety, but, overall, it’s alright as it is. Just… Turn Hero Progression on if you’re having trouble, eh?

Another 3 Star Dungeon, another… Three armour for every enemy on the third level. Well, good for me I brought the Warrior then!

Dungeons… Dungeons never change.

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Austen Translation (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Austen Translation is an interestingly simple game: Spend four turns (plus some secret events) to try and get your stats (Wit, Ruthlessness, and Charm) close enough that your prospective hubby to be proposes to you, while sabotaging anyone else who might be after your beau (or… Well, just sabotage people so you’re the best match.) That is, beyond some twists and minigames, the whole thing, mechanically. Five players, local play only as far as I can tell, with randomly generated AI players if you don’t feel like filling the roster, and character generation with randomised stats, but you get to customise your lady’s looks.

Everybody got that?

Normally, this would get a “What it says on the tin”, some words about how, once again, Worthing & Moncrieff have nailed a clear, simple aesthetic with a good voice-actress for the round intros (Love the scandalised disgust in her voice when she asks “Did you really just interrupt me?” for clicking through an intro too fast), classical music fitting the theme of the piece…

…But I’ll freely admit, the narrative of the game doesn’t sit terribly well with me. See, Jane Austen was pretty good at critiquing the mores of the time, such as asking that dread question “Why can’t we marry for love, not money or standing?” in Pride and Prejudice… And Austen Translation, by parodying Austen, is almost as if Austen were playing it straight.

It’s pretty clear everyone’s competing, it’s definitely about the fat-stacks of cash the hubbies have, the losers “die in a rat-infested hovel” , and not even the odd winky asides and pleasant classical piano can really distract me from how uncomfortable it made me feel. It’s not played as being romantic, and from the outset, it’s made clear the women are going to be the dominant partners, but I still felt distinctly odd playing a narrative I’d kind of hoped we’d escaped a while back.

Mmmhm.

So, while I can’t personally recommend this, I will say again that it’s easy to pick up, tutorialises well, and has a good aesthetic going for it, with the minor niggle that maybe, just maybe, Wit and Charm could be different colours, or at least one could be made darker than the other so as to better differentiate them? It’s perhaps an interesting party game, albeit one with a narrative that, as noted, didn’t sit well with me.

I’m sorry, but I cannot accept, for my heart belongs to a man with six-degrees of freedom…

The Mad Welshman politely sipped his tea, wallet empty, and thought to himself “Thank goodness I’m a babbage-card critic, and don’t have to get embroiled in such things…”

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For The King (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £4.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Folks, I could tell a long rambling story here, blow by blow accounts of the heroic deeds of a blacksmith, a hunter, and a scholar, normal folks who almost saved the day as the last hope of the kingdom of Fahrul. I could talk about their exploits fighting such evils as the Hangman, the dread King’s Maze, and the seemingly humble (yet devilishly agile) Imps. But a lot of this would distract from the fact that these are stories I made up, based on some damn fine procedural RPG play.

eep.

So yeah, For The King is a procedurally generated RPG, with a lovely low-poly board game aesthetic, where balancing aggressively pursuing quests, and biding time to make sure you can really take on that dungeon. Move too slow, and things get more dangerous, until eventually, you either fall, or the world ends. Move too quickly, and you’ll quickly get out of your depth. Thankfully, the game’s pretty good at giving you some idea which end you’re tending towards, play by play.

And it feels pretty good, with a fair amount of depth to it. Enough that I’d have a little trouble describing it all without this review feeling more like a feature list. Oh, hey, here’s a cast of characterful enemies, from the Triclops Infant that… Well, I feel bad killing these, because their main attack is “Fall over really heavily on top of you.” I have the option of sneaking or ambushing, but that XP is direly needed, because I have to take on the Mind Melter. The animations are great, with visible representation of your equipment on the well crafted low poly models, a real sense of impact to them, and the game tutorialises quite well.

It’s a beautiful world. Even the bits which are decidedly pointy and evil and stuff…

That it also defaults to the easiest difficulty mode is a real blessing, because yes, the game is pretty hard, even on the easiest difficulty. But also, oddly, gentle about that. It reminds you that you aren’t meant to win on your first try, or even your third (My third run on the main campaign, I got about halfway through), but getting further, seeing new and interesting monsters, made me feel… Well, like a badass.

So… Good aesthetic. Good music, fitting without over-riding. A real feeling of impact, both on the world and the fights. Good tutorials. And a hefty amount of replayability, due to unlocks and the extra quests and classes that some of these unlocks represent. Multiple game modes. What’s not to like?

Well, it’s best if characters stick together throughout, keeping close so as to have a full party. As such, multiplayer co-op (Where you play one character) is something that needs a tight knit group to work. Beyond that, though, there’s a lot done right with For The King, both in terms of mechanics, and in terms of feel and aesthetic. I foresee a fair bit of enjoyment with this one.

Yeah, remember what I said about a sense of impact? That *definitely* felt like a finale to the quest. 😛

The Mad Welshman could probably have said a lot more words. But basically, the game is pretty good.

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One Deck Dungeon (Early Access Review)

Source: Supporter Donation
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Adaptations of board games, for better or for ill, generally have to be faithful to the original. And so it is with One Deck Dungeon, a game that toes the line between “Yeah, that’s fair” and some good, old fashioned table flipping. You might be unsurprised to learn that dice are heavily involved. But let’s get into that.

If I’m clever, and my Black Die of General Usefulness roll well… I can still take it. Let’s do this.

One Deck Dungeon is a game where the majority of the deck remains roughly the same. Here, a beetle, armoured up the wazoo, and able to run away with its loot rather than die (as it should) if its armour remains unbreached, regardless of how much it hurt. There, a Wraith, avoided by many an adventurer, not for the traditional reason of life drain, but because it converts items (Which give you dice) into XP (Which, while useful in a fair few contexts, doesn’t give you dice, and gives you nothing if you haven’t levelled up yet.) So, it’s a game where, like a traditional RPG, knowing what something is on first glance (even without things helpfully being labelled and clearly explained on encountering them) means you can answer that age old question: Kill, Flee, Disarm. Every dungeon has the same timer, ticking down by a base 2 per turn, ticking further down if time is spent murdering an enemy (IE – boxes with an hourglass in them aren’t fitted with a corresponding die), and, once time has been used up, staying in that level of the dungeon hurts the adventurers (Presumably they have a bad case of loot itch, a horrid affliction that means not-looking for loot somewhere more powerful than where you were causes physical pain.)

Where does the change come in, the challenge from trying different things? Well, mainly two sources right now: The Adventurers (each with different values of stats-as-dice, in five flavours, and different skills if you play single player or two player) and the Dungeons (Each of which has a different boss, and different, stacking “Bad Things” per level.) My Warrior has, generally speaking, had a good time in the beginner dungeon (even getting me my sole win so far), but, due to a variety of factors, from 2s magically disappearing because of a Weakness Curse to magic based armour and damage, hasn’t done so well in, for example, The Lich’s Tomb, or against the Yeti. So… Everything is understandable, at a glance, and this is good.

So… Close, dammit! [dies]

You would think, at this point, that I’d then point to the dice and cry “BULLLL!” But no. Mainly because, while victory against a boss is only assured if you’re both good and a little lucky (and, in cases like the Yeti, heavily weighted toward hitting things while also having some dice to take care of, say, Magic and Agility), getting to the boss is, generally speaking, okay. The majority of the dungeon deck doesn’t change, as noted, so there’s a careful balance between taking damage to Get Cool Stuff (XP so you can hold more stuff, potions so you can live long enough to get stuff, or use special abilities in your quest to get stuff, stuff adds to your dice, skills to more easily turn crap dice into good dice, so on so forth) and knowing when it’s good to Just Run (The Wraith, for example, I generally avoid or potion out of if I can. No stuff for you, mister Wraith, only meeeee.) The feeling of being fair is important, and, for all that it is, at its core, a game about rolling dice and hoping for high numbers, One Deck Dungeon mostly feels fair.

Could it be more fair? Quite possibly. As implied, without a bit of luck, some good stats, and preferably a potion stashed away, the bosses of each of the five dungeons will mercilessly muller you. But then again, I’ve come so close… So close… So I know that these bosses can be killed, they can be beaten. Is it fair enough to keep me coming in without a friend to play with? Maybe. It does have a two player local mode at the moment, with each player’s stats and Heroic Abilities halved in effectiveness, but a good mix (Warrior/Rogue, for example, has served me well so far in Yeti’s Cavern) goes a long way, and that “X skills/items per character” wears thin slower (normally, in a single player run, I don’t bother going for items on higher floors.) I can even build synergy, so it helps.

5 Classes, 5 dungeons, and the only one I’ve not felt cool with so far was the Paladin. I more put this down to being a vaudevillain than any mechanical demerit with their play, though…

Overall, One Deck Dungeon explains itself and its rules quite well, seems mostly balanced and fair (for a given value of fair), and, if there were anything I’d maybe get tired of, it’s the main dungeon deck. Oh, right, another Goblin. Two flame traps in a row? Yaaawn. Still, it’s an alright pick if you like two player local play, or a single player game where you’re relatively free to expand your tactics in interesting directions. We’ll see how that progresses as time goes on.

The Mad Welshman appreciates well how the appearance of fairness is just as important as actually being fair. The game, thankfully, is both.

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Lost In The Dungeon (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Lost in the Dungeon is one of those games where the art is quite nice. The intro cutscene is a short motion comic, and it’s nice. The card art is nice. The music, while a little bland, is nice. Obvious work has gone into the assets.

I will die in two turns, counting this wasted one. I feel, somehow, this sets the mood.

It’s just a terrible shame that not nearly as much was put into the game. Let’s start with the basics: Sound control? Sort of, you have music on, music off. That’s your lot. Windowed mode? Sort of, you can alt-tab to have a full screen window instead of full screen. Accessibility? Well, here, it sorta wins out, as it’s a turn based game, everything is via the mouse, and there are few enough options (with “Click again to confirm” on things like quit) that it doesn’t take terribly long to learn them. Forced tutorial every single time you start a new character, with no option to turn it off? Yup!

These are minor niggles, it is true. But these are, if you will, an aperitif, a little starter, for, regardless of your character class, the difficulty curve begins at “No fuck you.” And it surprises me how the characters fail in the early game, more than the fact that they do.

Mood.JPG.

The warrior, for example, does great damage. Hell, when he has the energy to use his best attack, and rolls well? He cleans house, taking even the armour of giant spiders off (That’s 7 armour at start, as an aside.) But his own armour is very prone to coming off, not just because, when energy is low, he’s unable to do more than defend, but because enemies like removing armour in the first dungeon, and one of his best early options for quickly barrelling armour… Costs armour. This is before we factor in that poison and bloodsucking, two abilities common to enemies in the very first dungeon… Completely bypass armour. Hope you’ve got an antidote card handy for that damage over time with your health, friend, and hope the snakes and spiders don’t decide to poison you all over again, because antidotes and potions cost 5 gold a pop, even if you got ’em in your hand of 3 cards!

Okay, how about the mage? Usually, when the warrior suffers, the Mage makes bank, right? Well, they have superior armouring options, and a good spell for removing armour… But when it comes to damage, somehow, fireball does bupkiss. It’s got some damage over time, but you’re not going to get very far when nothing is dying and everything is still poisoning or leeching or attacking you. Welp.

Be it vendor trash or new, good or not, the same, flashy presentation awaits your hard earned chests. There’s a lootbox joke in there somewhere.

I get where the game’s going with this. It wants me to grind those first few rooms of the first dungeon, again and again and again until I have Good Stuff, enough money for my potions and antidotes not to embarassingly run out (along with my money, making for a potionless grind of… The first few rooms), and some extra, better cards under my belt from its limited toolset (perhaps mixing classes, since there appears to be no restriction on that beyond… Well, starting from First Cards of varying utility. Thing is… I don’t want to do that. I don’t particularly care if it Gets Better Later (and I’m informed it does) , because what I’m experiencing now is some of the most painful, joyless grind I’ve experienced in a long time. And I’m not down for that.

The Mad Welshman is an adventurous type. He just prefers to be able to conquer early dungeons fairly easily. As tradition dictates.

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