Mento's May Mastery: Day 15: Bit Dungeon II

Whoa, hey there. You snuck on me. Well, to be more precise, today's May Mastery episode did. I'm getting really lackadaisical with the timing of these entries, and it didn't help that we had like five hours of livestreaming today siphoning my free time. But hey, excuses.

Instead, we'll consider what we've visited so far in May Mastery in this, its midpoint. Despite the fact I must've written twenty thousand words or more these past two weeks, May seems to be flying right by us. I think everyone's waiting with bated breath for E3 and the announcements to come. I know I'm more looking forward to the Atari ST's 30th birthday next month, which is why after this daily blog series is over I'll be jumping into another one focusing on the very first video game system I ever played. More on that towards the end of the month, lest we get ahead of ourselves.

In order to keep my contributions to the Spotlight to a sensible number this week, I'm going to briefly summarize what we've looked at this week (8th-14th) here. This way, I can avoid dropping a huge number of links on poor old ZombiePie and his excellent weekly rundown of community content:

  • Day 8 saw us visit Nifflas' NightSky, a physics-based 2D platformer from the same Swedish dev behind Knytt Underground.
  • I prodded, pushed and pulled a bunch of Victorian panels in Fireproof's The Room on Day 9, and barely made any Wiseaucracks at all.
  • Day 10 involved Last Dimension's Metroid/Treasure homage Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge for a spin around the galaxy.
  • I fell over a lot exploring the world of IonFX's Miasmata on Day 11 while an antlered panther let me live, presumably out of pure pity for my diseased and uncoordinated pratfalls.
  • Day 12 and Day 13 was a two-parter for Botanicula, Amanita Design's (present) latest game. It's every bit as delightful as their previous, Machinarium, though considerably more... organic?
  • Day 14 explored the second Shantae game from WayForward, Risky's Revenge, which is presently selling for peanuts on Steam. Its sequel, Pirate's Curse, will be the next Shantae I'll look at. Some day, anyway.

So there you have it: the previous week explored six games and finished four of them. I'm hoping to keep that momentum going for the second half of this feature, but then I'm also eager to fit more games in that space of time. Talking of more games...

Bit Dungeon II

No Caption Provided

The original plan here was to start one of my longer games that I'm eager to see through, but I found myself short of time with today's livestream-mania. Instead, I decided to take a gander at one of a whole bunch of unusual pixel-style dungeon-crawlers which may or may not have roguelike elements. That's certainly the case with Bit Dungeon II, which I randomly selected over thematically and visually similar games such as Hammerwatch, Deep Dungeons of Doom, Legend of Dungeon and the (slightly less pixelly) Nightmare Cooperative - any or all of which might still appear in this feature further down the line.

From what I ascertained from about an hour with this game: you start off as a formless blob humanoid and must find equipment from the foes you chop down and treasure chests you find. Combat's both automatic and player-driven - close proximity causes minimal damage back and forth between enemies and the player, while the player can hit the action key to perform stronger attacks that drains their stamina gauge, which will refill quickly. The items you wear (and the occasional power-ups you choose) determine the playstyle you're going for; so rather than start by selecting a character class, the "clothes make the man" in this particular case. Stronger gear pops out of monsters all the time, and it's a simple case of choosing to switch to the new piece or sticking with your old (its stats pop up to make comparisons easier) depending on which better enhances your present character's build. If you grabbed a magic staff early on, you'll want Intelligence-boosting gear to increase its damage output, for instance. Likewise, the formless blue blob human starts to resemble an actual person as they pick up more pieces of armor, which all appear on the character sprite. Your character also levels up, earning stats apparently contingent on what you've been using in battle, so the game has a very fluid approach to character building. That said, it's not particularly deep either with regards to unlockable skills and the like (I didn't find any), and it seems like you're better off focusing on one sort of build (strength, dex, intelligence) rather than diversifying too much. At least, that's what I've picked up so far.

I don't even know what this is. It doesn't seem to get on well with samurais, at any rate.
I don't even know what this is. It doesn't seem to get on well with samurais, at any rate.

The game provides you with an "extra life" initially: it appears to be the soul of a woman who wants you to take her remains somewhere, but in-game it acts as a safety net. Dying once causes you to leave this additional soul/life where your body lies, so there's a Dark Souls-ian element in trying to make your way back to where you fell without dying again. Rather than losing a bunch of currency, though, your character permanently dies and the game must be started over.

From exploring, it seems a lot of the game involves finding Zelda-like dungeons, finding a way to the boss and defeating them to unlock one part in presumably a longer chain that I'm guessing leads to some final confrontation. The overworld and (possibly) these dungeons are all procedurally generated with each new game, and the penalty for dying in a dungeon is more severe due to how tricky it is to get all the way back there in one piece. Fortunately, you don't lose any levels or equipment after dying (that initial time, anyway), so if you're powerful enough you can simply wade through enemies back to your downed form. The game could use a map function, really, unless I just missed the key for it which they don't mention anywhere on the pause screen with the rest of the controls.

The game has a lot of interesting ideas, many of which seem to be purloined from Dark Souls, Diablo and contemporary top-down Indie action-RPG roguelites, and it sort of works. However, I've found these games to be a lot more engrossing when some shared aspect of the prior playthroughs is carried over: whether that be permanent upgrades that apply to every subsequent game, like in Rogue Legacy, or maybe those dungeon bosses stay dead (I didn't go back to check), I'd be more inclined to stick with it. As it is, it seems rather conditional on getting a good run, and then playing through a bunch of procedurally generated dungeons one after the other for hours hoping you don't mess up or get dogpiled by the dozens of weirdo enemies the game generates in every room. At least the game's not too difficult if you're smart/lucky enough to find a ranged weapon, and being overly difficult tends to be another recurring element to these roguelites that usually puts me off.

Dungeons have switches, puzzles and keys, though I'm not sure how much of it is procedurally generated or if the game just generates the dungeons from a bunch of possible pre-built variations.
Dungeons have switches, puzzles and keys, though I'm not sure how much of it is procedurally generated or if the game just generates the dungeons from a bunch of possible pre-built variations.

If you randomly bought Bit Dungeon II in the same bundle as I did (it's also presently in the new Weekly Humble Bundle as of writing) it might be worth a look. The combat and RPG elements feel a little too rudimentary to be a big recommend though (and I imagine people are getting a little bored by the Indie pixel look by now as well).

Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please
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