Welcome to the cream of the XBLIG crop
Continuing my journey off the beaten indie-track, more specifically the XBLIG trail. Once in a blue moon, this platform has a proper gem as well. “Pun intended”. This is definitely the case with Epic Dungeon. The game was part of 2010 Indie uprising. After all this time I find myself coming back to this still. Quite a good value for something that cost meager 80MS points.
Epic Dungeon is old school dungeon-crawler, in every sense of the word. Player has only one life and sharp sword (or other weapon of choice) and 50 levels full of monsters against him. Purpose is to battle through these 50 levels and escape from the dungeon. Each floor becoming harder than previous. For fans of the genre, dungeon crawler that is. There has been multiple, more commercial offerings of this genre recently (summer 2011). Such as: Realm of the Mad God, Dungeons of Dredmor, Desktop Dungeons. Epic Dungeon still hold it's own next to these titles. By having simple and addictive level up system.
Depending on the class chosen player gets a unique weapon. Four classes, each weapon dedicated to own face button (red, blue, yellow, green). Every few levels the weapon can be upgraded for a powerup for this particular weapon. Or the point can be cross skilled for other classes weapon, or generic all useful regen skill. The four different classes and attacks vary itself. The standard fighter class gets a spin attack that can be used with a timed combination to create a longer lasting combo. The tinkerer's special weapon is a small mechanical pet that helps the player to kill the enemies. Specialty with this is that it can be also detonated making nearby enemies pretty much vaporize. Third class and weapon comes in form mage who can freeze nearby enemies. Giving player more time to handle the monsters. Lastly the thief class has an poisonous attack that causes enemies to slowly die off. The standard attack on every class comes in form of melee weapon that automatically attacks the direction the player is walking towards. This with the combination of the above mentioned weapons give player a slight edge against the endless amounts of enemies who keep re-spawning on each level.
Levels are covered in the typical fog-of-war manner. After covering the whole level, the spawning is not as fierce as when entering new level. Still endless amounts of time can not be used to grind the levels before death comes knocking. A relatively slow moving grim reaper appears that will, well kill. Not too different mechanism from that ghost from Bubble Bobble. Enemies range from small dog creatures to vampires to huge giants. Also an advanced version of each mob is differentiated with a yellow glow. If this is not enough the levels are filled with poison gas tiles and various spiked hindrances. Luckily spikes and poison affect the enemies as well. Various RPG events are encountered in the dungeons that give reward depending on luck and the actions. Such as helping a dying orc with health potion and expecting a reward or ending its misery and taking the gold instead. A further bonus- like level can be entered occasionally where gameplay changes to Canabalt style running and jumping platformer where extra gold can be collected.
Visually game is simple pixelated that reminiscing the better 8-bit times. There are visually 3-4 different dungeon, but with the randomly generated levels these never feel the same. Music is low key organ music that fits the "epic" feel of the trek. Every few level a indoor dungeon comes up and here player can find a shop. The mobs naturally drop gold and loot, but the fierce fighter comes only with limited amount of inventory slots. Here the shop comes in handy for health potions and the traditional RPG identifying loot features and potions and new weapons naturally. Also a fine addition from more recent RPG's where all junk items can be sold at once.
Epic Dungeon has three difficulty levels as if the 50 levels with one life isn't hard enough. Game comes with a save slot so that the action can be resumed. In-game badges are and a high score list is added for more length and re-playbility.
The game might look simple and the 50 levels in one life might sound daunting, but the gameplay is so addicting and has nice range of customization options that make this really stand out. For 80ms points this really is a steal. Shame that XBLI games are not available for all regions.