Let’s take a look at … – The Dungeoning

My default favorite game type is RPG rogue-like platformers, so I didn’t hesitate to review Nick Donnelly’s The Dungeoning, which was released in April of last year. Despite the mixed reviews on Steam, I was determined to give this retro-style game a fair shot.

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This game is exactly what you’d expect from something of this genre- a procedural dungeon map with ghosts, bats, and other creepy crawlies, with chests and boxes to open, potions, and basic weapons to upgrade. Upgrade your character with the experience you get from kills. This is all very straightforward….and then there’s perma-death. Extremely frustrating, but that’s the reason I love these types of games.

The game tosses you in head-first. There’s very little instruction besides some pop-up tips that occasionally show up in the lower right of the screen. No real storyline. Music was nothing exciting.  Graphics are retro and simple, but I liked them immediately. Controls were not as intuitive as I’d liked (I often manage to use potions instead of wielding my sword). Of course, I died almost instantly right off the bat. The few achievements I earned in my following runs didn’t synch with Steam until about two hours of game-play in. For an achievement Nazi like me, that’s a big no-no.

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I decided quickly that I hated the game. It was boring and quirky and didn’t have much charm to it.  The controls (which I refused to even look into rebinding- I like testing the game as-is) and achievement issues bothered me. There wasn’t anything unique about this particular game that would make it more interesting than some of my other favorite rogue-likes, such as Rogue Legacy with its hilarious traits or Binding of Isaac with its black humor or Ascendant with its unique graphics and weapons.

I then realized something. I kept playing it. I couldn’t stop. Despite the lack of anything unique in this game, I found myself going back to it to try again. I still die often, but quickly made it to level nine after being stuck on level six for too many runs. I learned more about the way to react to baddies and how to upgrade intelligently, and my achievements came rolling in. Oh no, am I addicted? I think I am! Who cares about the music- I muted it and put my own on. Yeah, there isn’t anything unique about this particular game, but it does what it should- gets you hooked and makes you want to do better than your last run.

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So, I don’t hate the game. I actually LIKE it. It continues to frustrate me, but for other reasons. Level nine took it from difficult to insane- too many enemies around me to survive. It’s hard to live if you get swarmed and don’t have enough potions and items to heal yourself. I figure this is something else I’ll learn to overcome as I keep trying over and over.

Overall, I don’t think this game really deserves its mixed reviews. I give it a thumbs-up. If you just want a difficult perma-death rogue-like to play, pick this game up. Worried about it being worth it? It’s only £4.99/$6.99, or wait for it to go on sale. I’d definitely add it to your collection. You might find yourself itching to do one more run, one more run, one more run….

TL;dr – The Dungeoning is a very stereotypical RPG rogue-like platformer with perma-death, but don’t be fooled- you’ll be just as addicted as any other game with more bells and whistles.

Rating 7/10

Purchase – Steam £4.99/$6.99

Trailer –

Let’s talk about … – Rogue Legacy

I’m hooked on Indie games because they’re unique and cheap. Developers want to get their name out there, and to have a great game, it has to stand out from the others and not cost an arm and a leg like well-known franchise games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed.  There are so many fun, creative games out there, and you can buy them for next to nothing.  As a PC gamer, I comb through the following places to find my next inexpensive purchases:

As a reviewer for this site, I am also lucky enough to have access to game keys given to us by developers who want us to review their products.

Some games aren’t that great or just don’t interest me. Some games are fun but I stop playing after racking up a few hours. However, sometimes I score the game that grabs all of my attention for hours and hours of play time, leading me to read forums, wiki pages, and guides for more info. Oh, and I talk about it. A lot.

At the end of April this past year, my Steam app on my phone notified me that something in my wishlist went on sale. I was delighted to see that it was Rogue Legacy, a rogue-like RPG platformer released in 2013 by Cellar Door Games that was both recommended to me and I was also warned about- apparently it is difficult as hell. $4 later, I installed this new game and started playing.

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I kid you not, I died within seconds.

Flabbergasted and a bit disappointed, I tried again.

Dead. Super quick.

I turned to my husband (also a gamer) in shock. I was starting to wonder if this was even worth $4. He just shook his head at me- he was used to me starting a new game at least once a week. Pretty sure he expected me to give up on this one quicker than usual.

I pressed on, though. Not sure why. I have very little patience, but something about this game drew me in. Slowly, I began to learn how to kill enemies, gaining gold so I could upgrade my skill tree, finding blueprints for equipment so I could get more passive protection and skills, finding runes to make the armor even better.

Within a few hours, probably between 10-20, I was fully addicted. The kills are so satisfying.  The traits on the characters (to be explained later) made me laugh. Grinding wasn’t a chore like it is in most games. In fact, after a death, I would have a hard time NOT going back in for another round.

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Now, 69 hours, 22/28 achievements, and 45 screenshots later, I’ve beat the game THREE times. I’ve maxed out every point in my skill tree, found and purchased every blueprint for every piece of equipment, and found and purchased every rune. After game, game+, and game+2, game+3 didn’t prove to be any more difficult, and I was forced to give up playing this fabulous gem. All I have left are 6 achievements that are insanely tough, if not impossible for me to earn.

Here’s the premise. You play offspring of your previous hero, fighting evil in a procedurally-generated map. That child dies in battle, then you choose between three of their offspring to take into the next battle. This is an RPG, but you don’t buff up one character- you upgrade the entire available set of skills and equipment. Carefully choosing your child each run is important. They will be one of several hero types (assassin, barbarian, etc) and come with none to a few traits. These traits are hilarious in some instances. Your child might have IBS (farting while jumping) or corprolalia (cussing after being hit), for example. Other traits are helpful, like better knockback, or no foot-pulse, which prevents floor spikes from being triggered. Some make your life difficult, like vertigo (the screen is flipped) or ectomorph (you’re skinny and enemies knock you back far).

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The map is divided into four main areas- castle, forest, tower, and darkness. Rooms can be empty or full of enemies. They might contain chicken drumsticks (health) or mana potions.  They might have coins, treasure boxes, containing runes, blueprints, or character upgrades.  You might run into special challenges, games or mini bosses. There’s even a room where you can change the game music. Each main area has a boss. Survive each area and defeat the boss, and the main door at the entrance of the map will light up, signifying that you beat that boss.  Defeat all four bosses and the main door will open. This will allow you to beat the two-part game boss.

Another way to beat bosses, which I haven’t been able to do yet, is in remix mode. After you beat an area boss, you can go back into that room and attempt to battle with a character the game has chosen for you. This is insanely difficult and despite how well I did otherwise in the game, I don’t last more than a few seconds with these guys. If I could, I might be able to get the rest of the achievements.

The game is simple to learn, but you will die, over and over and over again. But it’s ok- each upgrade will inspire you to try again. It’s insanely addicting. After you die, a screen will show up with all of the enemies you killed lined up. It’s fun to try and make the number more than last time.

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The graphics are cute, retro, and colorful. The music never gets old- I even downloaded the soundtrack. This game has full controller support and game play was very satisfying. The RPG aspect of this was extremely fair and even. The platforming is challenging but not something that will make you pull out your hair.  Replay value is great, and even at full price ($14.99), this game is worth the buy.  And guess what!  It’s also available on PS4 and Xbox One!

Tl;dr – This humorous, retro-style RPG rogue-like platformer is addicting and SO satisfying, with great replay value and a great price point, even at full price.  I can’t recommend it enough and can only hope that the developers might consider a sequel.

Rating – 10/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Caves of Qud

Caves of Qud is an early access science/fantasy rouge-like, created by Freehold Games. The best way to describe Caves of Qud is as a massive simulation in which you can play either as a “True Kin” (a human) or a mutated human (More on that later). You play how you want. Want to be a strong mutant with horns who can fly? This game has that covered. Want to be a normal boring human that is awesome with a sword? This game also has that covered. Forge your own path! You can dig through anything. Melt walls into lava and so much more. Seriously, its friggin awesome what you can do in this game.

Before I go any further, I feel it’s fair to say that I don’t play a lot of rouge-likes. I loved Dwarf Fortress and have played that hell out of games with rouge-like elements to them, so this is a bit of a new experience for me. So with that in mind let’s continue onwards my fellow Indie Gamers!

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The first thing you’ll notice when you fire up the game is a complete lack of audio of any kind. As someone who works with audio on a regular basis, I feel it’s an important part to any game. However, I’m more than happy to let that slide for the time being given the game is in early access. The graphics are very reminiscent of oldschool 2D RPG’s and have a similar feel to Dwarf Fortress without the harshness of ASCII art. The graphics are simplistically beautiful for a game of this type and can’t fault them at all. If you are used to Rouge-Likes you will pick the mechanics of this game very quickly. However, Caves of Qud is horrifically brutal, especially if you don’t know quite what you are doing.

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I spent a short while trying to figure out the controls, but they are easily learnt and once you have them sussed you’re good to venture out into the land. For example, Crtl + Numpad is how you attack, and pressing “L” is how you look at objects. Just don’t look at the “Watervine farmers”, whatever you do, don’t look! My first hour involved me dying not once, but four times from looking at “Watervine Farmers”!

The first character I created was a mutant human called “Garkun the Badass”. I feel it is only fair I tell you his story so his death wasn’t in vain. I loved him like Dr Frankenstein loved his monster. He had massive horns that could impale even the biggest giant, big wings, night vision and massive muscles that could stun even the most stubborn watervine farmer.

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Garkun spawned into the world at a place called “Joppa” along the far rim of “Moghra’yi, the Great Salt Desert.” His first mistake was looking at the locals. They don’t like to be looked at. They really should put a signs up around Joppa about how offended the locals get when you look at them. Or maybe it was because he was a hideous looking mutant, I don’t know. The farmers came at him and he ran south towards a great plain. A small pond with two glowfish lay before him. So he did what any self-respecting mutant would do. He jumped into the pool and eviscerated those fish, then ate what remained.

Now feeling full from those lovely fish, Garkun decided to head west. This was a big mistake as more watervine farmers (two of the scum) were there. Garkun looked at them and tried to communicate but just like the locals in Joppa, these watervine farmers weren’t nice people. They struck Garkun with their steel vine reapers. Garkun the Badass struck back with ferocity and badly wounded one of the farmers, but it was too late. The second farmer had hit Garkun in the back which bought him crashing down. And there he died at the hands of those evil watervine farmers. Those are the trust monsters of this game. Don’t let Garkun’s death be in vain. Always remember, don’t look at the locals, they don’t like it and they will hunt you down and kill you with their vine reapers.

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If you have as much imagination as I do and you love RPGs/Rouge-Likes then you will truly fall for Caves of Qud. It holds such depth and immersive character building that you can play it any way you want. I don’t think I even remotely scraped the surface of the game having only done a few quests. But I do know that I will be playing it a hell of a lot more for weeks to come. I can’t wait to see how this game progresses as extra things like music and sound effects are added that give it even further immersion. A game to certainly watch out for in the upcoming months!

TL:DR – Caves of Qud is a truly immersive early access game with lots of depth and harsh difficulty. Any lover of Rouge-Likes will experience pure joy from playing this. The graphics are reminiscent of Dwarf Fortress without the harshness of ASCII art. There is currently no audio in the game but doesn’t detract from the immense depth and size Caves of Qud brings to the table. Keep an eye on this game in the next coming months. Screw watervine farmers, they killed my friend! R.I.P. Garkun the Badass

Rating – 7/10 (Will easily be 9/10 when it adds music and audio)

Purchase – Steam £6.99 ($9.99)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Monstrum

Monstrum is a survival-horror title from Team Junkfish. Released in Early Access in January, it’s now transitioning into a full release, with an accompanying price increase from £9.99 to £11.99. With procedural generation and insta-perma-death, it promises to offer a fresh take on the genre. Let’s take a look.

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Monstrum is terrifying. Legitimately terrifying. You wake up in a small, dank room of a derelict container ship with nothing but the clothes on your back and a flashlight in the next room. The only guarantee past that is the monsters hunting you from the darkness. Their grunts, groans and footsteps mix with the constant creaking and knocking of the ship. The long corridors, the ends of which are cloaked darkness, promise nothing but instant, permanent death. The atmosphere is horrible from the get go. There’s no respite; no slow build up to the danger. From the moment you start, you’re in danger, and the game does a great job of making you feel that.

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For starters, the location of the game is creepy. Wandering around an old, rusty cargo ship, creaking and knocking comes from all around you. That in itself is frightening. Add to that the sound of footsteps and growls coming from the darkness and holy hell. The first time you stop moving, only to have the sound of footsteps continue behind you … all aboard the nope train.

The goal of Monstrum is to escape the abandoned ship, and if you’re brave and lucky enough, find clues as to who you are and what the hell has happened. Easier said than done given that at all times you’re being hunted from the darkness and the environment is procedurally generated. Throughout the ship there’s a wide range of items to be found that will aid your escape. Some items are used to light the way, such as glow sticks, and others can be used to help distract the monsters, such as coffee cups. The items come with their own mechanics and uses, but with no tooltips, so it’s down to you to figure out how to use them.

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One of the most interesting features of Monstrum is that it’s procedurally generated. Each time you restart, which will be often given the perma-insta-death, you’ll be in a new area of a new ship, with items spread randomly in new locations. There’s no learning the layout of the ship and its items, and no getting a one-up on the monsters hunting you from the dark. With each run, you’re back to the very beginning; in an unfamiliar location, with an unfamiliar enemy that could be anywhere.

This plays a big part in creating the atmosphere. You could play for 15 minutes, as I did on my first run, and not run into anything. Your second run, you could leave the first room and run into those glowing orange eyes. Right from the start, you are in danger, and the creepy environment and sounds let you know it. I’ve run into two different monsters in my various playthroughs, both of which made me fill my pants when they ran at me from the darkness.

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The sounds of the game play a major part in creating the creepy atmosphere. With stereo sound, the best experience is surely to be gained through using headphones. Walking along the grim, dank, and dimly lit corridors of the ship, pipes clattering in the distance, and then the unmistakable grunt of the monster followed by his footsteps coming from behind you send chills up your spine every time.

The graphics are also solid and do a good job of adding the required level of realism to the environment you find yourself trapped in. I particularly like the orange glow of one of the monsters eyes. It shit me up in the trailer, and even more so when I came face-to-face with it for myself!

The graphics unfortunately lead me onto a problem I had with the title, performance issues. Before I get into this, here’s my rig:

  • i5-2500K @ 3.20GHz
  • 16 GB HyperX Fury
  • GeForce GTX 660
  • Steam library is on a 1TB SSHD

In short, I don’t have problems running games up towards their limits. Monstrum however took its toll on my system. I regularly saw the framerate drop to 40/45, and it even bombed out at 8 fps at times. I checked task manager to see what was going on, and Monstrum was using 3GB RAM. Shortly after this it crashed.

There were certain in-game things I noticed in particular that caused the framerate to drop. For example, if I equip the roll of chain, the framerate immediately fell until I unequipped it. The only thing I could think that could because this is all the lighting calculation required with the chain. No Steam reviews seem to share my experiences, but this was certainly not a one-time problem. I’ve run the games on a few different days, after system restarts, and it’s still has its way with my memory and subsequently the framerate.

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Still, for fans of horror titles this one is a no-brainer. A brilliant atmosphere, incredibly punishing, and the procedural generation makes each trip back into the ship a fresh adventure. It’s an intense game of cat and mouse and a constant effort to survive while exploring an unfamiliar environment. While the high RAM usage and framerate drops aren’t ideal, they didn’t impede gameplay too much and the game can most certainly still be played and enjoyed.

Tl:dr – Monstrum is a terrifying, and equally punishing survival-horror game, with insta-perma death possibly around every corner. With no saving, and each run being procedurally generated, a fresh challenge is waiting whenever you feel brave enough. Prepare to be hunted.

Rating – 8/10

Purchase – Steam, £11.99/$17.99/€14.99