October 27, 2013 6:35 PM | John Polson
Dungeon Dashers presently appeals the patient and impatient dungeon crawler in me. Developer Jigxor has taken most of the important bits of the genre and made a turn-based, chess-like game that plays as quickly as you want. There are some puzzly and looty bits, but in this Early Access Steam build, the polish shows in its battles.
The first two stages introduce you in pairs to the four character classes you control: wizard, knight, rogue, ranger. You get unlimited moves while crawling for loot and solving simple switch or level puzzles, but as soon as an encounter begins, you must ration your moves carefully. You attack an enemy regularly just by walking into him; otherwise, you use QWER for special commands that you unlock as you progress.
There is no timer to hasten your moves (though, having your moves be more powerful the more quickly you did them would be really neat and fit the "dashing" theme). However, your turn can be over quickly and effortlessly, and you can even hold SHIFT down to speed up the opponent's moves to bypass them. Traversing is also sped up with teleporters that help the rest of the team immediately catch up.
I wish environments offered a little more variety to play to each character's strengths in some way. For now, some columns allow for blocking attacks, and enemies across pits require projectlies to defeat.
After two hours of playing, no battles were particularly difficult for me, except for the boss battle, which seems to make up 25% of the final game. What made the levels easier was that characters resurrected with partial health if I won the encounter they fell in. I suppose this is to aid in the fast-pace and accessibility, but hopefully the latter 75% of the game will feature progressively more challenging encounters.
The animation is aptly minimal, given its entirely turn-based nature, but the sprites and backgrounds are well designed. The charcters can shoot diagonally, so I think four extra frames of animation for those characters would add a nice touch. I asked Jigxor's Andrew Sum about adding more variety and challenge to puzzles, to which he said he wants to keep them pretty accessible for people. "That's why most of the puzzles are somewhat optional, and generally lead to treasure."
As with Early Access games, you are partially buying into a promise. Future builds should include a hardcore mode for those who finish the game and want more of a challenge and online co-operative gameplay for up to 4 players. Andrew said the latter will play out in two ways: "when there are no enemies around, players will all be able to move at the same time, and when you get into combat it will go back into turn-based mode." Hopefully the teleporter won't disrupt players during co-op without asking, if they want to explore.
Andrew also promises consumable items, such as potions, and weapon upgrades using the gold found from looting. This sounds like a good thing, helping to expand the 30+ pieces of armor planned.
All this is to say I'm ready for the rest of Dungeon Dashers and eager to see what suggestions Jigxor implements and how. If you got $10, a Windows machine, and a proclivity for speedy dungeon crawling, this is definitely your game-in-progress.