February 3, 2014 5:00 PM | Lena LeRay
When we first covered Guild of Dungeoneering, it was little more than a promising game concept. Colm Larkin hasn't been idle for the past three months, though. The game's development is progressing with improved graphics, an improved user interface, and the addition of some new mechanics that really spice things up.
Some things haven't changed since October. You still can't control the dungeoneer directly. You have a hand of five cards drawn randomly from one of three categories: treasure, monsters, and rooms. Your job is to build and populate the dungeon by playing cards from your hand. How you build the dungeon and place treasure and monsters affects how the dungeoneer chooses his paths, and he moves at the end of every turn. Every movement of the dungeoneer is accompanied by a funny comment.
There were a few downsides before, though, since the game was still very early in development. Once you learned that the dungeoneer would always drift towards loot if given the choice, you could expand the dungeon in a way that put the monsters on one side and the loot on the other and lead the dungeoneer away from danger. The only limit to this was that eventually you would run out of places to put rooms and not get as many treasure cards as you wanted, leading to having to fill everything up with monsters. The dungeoneer's doom was inevitable.
Now, however, there are a couple of mechanical changes that make the game more difficult to master and make the gameplay more interesting. Firstly, the dungeoneer will not always go straight for the loot; there's a chance he'll miss it and go another direction. Secondly, and more importantly, two resources have been added. Dread builds up at the rate of one point per turn and is needed to place monsters. Hope is gained upon defeating a monster and is required to place treasure. Better treasure costs more hope to place; harder monsters require more dread. Lastly, cards can be discarded instead of being played. This allows the player to bide their time with the limitation that they can only carry two cards over into the next turn. It also keeps the game from forcing players to resort to laying out a sprawling dungeon with separate monster and loot wings. The net effect is that card placement choices feel more important.
There's also, now, greater transparency about player and monster stats. You can't see a monster's stats before playing it, but in battle you can see everything and watch hit points go down round by round. It gives the game an edge of discovery. Unfortunately, in several playthroughs I have found no equipment or items to raise my stats or restore hit points to make taking the tougher monsters on possible at all. But then, the game is still in development.
Top that off with a lovely sketches-on-graph-paper aesthetic and it's exciting to see how far Guild of Dungeoneering has come in three months and Larkin hopes to have the game out for Windows, Mac, and maybe Linux (if he can get Adobe Air to cooperate) in just three more. When the game releases, it will cost $19.99, but at the moment it's available for preorder with early beta access for just $9.99. If you want to try before you buy, that's okay, too. You can play the alpha version or preorder the game right from the Gambrinous web site.