As far as dungeon crawlers go, they revolve pretty much around the same formula, save for a few exceptions which may introduce a new mechanic or two. They all feature you as the main character, going through multiple floors and killing all the enemies that pop up in your face, looting items and hoping to get out of there safely. Guild of Dungeoneering, an up and coming game from developer Gambrinous, is promising to turn the tables and bring about a massive change in how this particular Dungeon is played.
First of all, Guild of Dungeoneering radically changes the game by taking away control of the character. Yes you just read well, you are not in control of your character. You are in control though of everything else; rooms, loot, even enemies, except the final boss which you have to clear, and to which you must construct a path. Let us go over things step by step to avoid confusion. You start the game by choosing an adventurer, a dungeoneer, who will venture into the game. At the start of the level you are shown the most valuable places which you can visit, for example the boss and mega chests. The adventure starts with you receiving 5 cards, of which you play or discard two. I honestly did not understand how you discard cards, so I played all three each time. These cards can range between enemies, loot, corridors, dead ends, and a host of different rooms, all available for you to place on the map. Going over the basics of each, enemies can only be placed on one built square, and only one enemy can be placed on that particular square. By built we mean that you have already put a room or corridor or what have you in that place. Loot, which is normally gold or silver coins, works like enemies, and can be placed on any built structure. As for structures, it pretty much works as one would logically expect, meaning you can only build adjacent to existing buildings. The availability of the structure may change, so for example you can have a dead end on the right so you cannot place it vertically or horizontally, or on the left of any structure since that would not be valid. In other words, it must feel as if you are placing another piece of the puzzle which must fit perfectly with the others. Most of the time you will not have the perfect pieces to reach your goal, but making the most of what you are given is the key to the game.
One very important aspect of the game is that not being able to control your character, you cannot decide where your character will move next, which is shown in blue footprints at the start of the next turn. In order to try and have your say on his next destination, you can place loot in places which he can see, so that he is more likely to go wherever you want him to. Placing enemies can also have a similar effect, since these dungeoneers seem to love fighting and thus will not back down from a brawl. With this said, it is important to state that putting loot and enemies will not always result in your character moving to wherever you want him to be, and while this may be a little frustrating, it adds to the unpredictability of the game.
Combat works on the same philosophy as above as well; upon encountering an enemy you switch to the battle deck, which contains a series of moves which your character can carry out in order to defeat the enemies. Combat is turn based, and damaged is applied to both sides simoultaneously, so if you each have 1HP left and attack each other, you both die, which will mean game over and back to the start. You will see what your opponent will do before you you’re your move, so you can negate his attacks or go on a counter offensive; the decision is all yours. Speaking of attacks, there are four types of attacks which can be performed in the game; normal attacks, quick attacks, which take precedence over your opponent’s and in the above situation would result in you winning the battle, physical attacks and magical attacks. There is no difference between physical and magical attacks, only that you can have block cards that block either one or the other, or a set number from both. There is even a block all, which is pretty self-explanatory by itself. As you defeat enemies, you are awarded with cards to add to both decks; you get one card which boosts your character, increasing his maximum HP by one and maybe adding a special ability such as Tenacious, which prevents your character from dying if your HP is not 1; and one or two cards which are added to the battle deck to be used in future battles. Each battle will generate these rewards, so you will build your deck fairly quickly, which is quite welcome when the boss fight is drawing closer with each turn. Fights can also be frustrating at times since card draws are random, and hoping for a block magic card to come out when you are with 1HP left is incredibly painful; having the card reveal itself to be a block physical is just twisting the knife then. If you manage to get to the boss before the countdown ends, the fight favours you, but if you do not manage to get to him and the countdown ticks zero, he will come for you and will have better stats than if you faced him in his initial place. Again, this adds to the strategic part of the game, so wandering about trying to collect every little goodie will result in facing a tougher cookie than you expected, so compromise is essential.
Certainly one of the best features of the game is its artistic style; the game is represented as a charming hand drawn piece of art, with each new addition being almost scribbled in real time. It is quite gorgeous, and one could admire the levels all day long. Their fitting together as if they were pieces in a puzzle is also impressive, and the little details in rooms, such as pieces of wood or blacked out sections are very much appreciated. The music is also an excellent choice, one which complements the charm and cuteness of the game while at the same time keeping with the theme of the adventure.
Guild of Dungeoneering is certainly one of the most interesting games on the horizon. It combines typical mechanics of the genre with a twist which changes the whole scope of the game, and while having everything randomized is a risky option, it seems to work out well for the title. Maybe some future customization options and upgrade paths could be added to the game to bring a more tactical sense into it, unless it is already there and I was too keen to go out exploring. With everything said though, this is definitely a game to keep an eye out, and with a prospective launch date of 2015, we should not have to wait that far to get our hands on it.