Format reviewed: Switch eShop
Other formats available: PS4, PS Vita, XBox One
Developer: Stately Snail
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Website: Official Website
One More Dungeon is a first person shooter roguelike with procedurally generated levels and pixel-art graphics.
Being a nameless adventure seeker, your job is to reach the final level deep within the dungeon and destroy the obelisks that are used by forces of Evil to invade the world.
Use a melee weapon, magic staffs, and antique artefacts, to burst way through the hordes of enemies inhabiting a few game areas.
There's a lot more going on in One More Dungeon than meets the eye. At first load up, the game seems to be a pixelated take on the first-person shooter genre, very reminiscent of the first Doom game or Wolfenstein, though not as simplistic as those games to understand initially. There is a lot of information thrown at you in the form of an HUD that surrounds your character's ocular viewpoint, and the ability to add other elements of interest to the screen only lends more initial disorientation to the player. The HUD displays your Magic/Crystal Counter in 3 handy colours. The crystals are used to power the magic staff held in the left hand, this being your long range attack. Fortunately, the staff has a tip that corresponds to one of those colours, and tells you how much damage a single shot will inflict upon the enemy and how many shots left you have before complete depletion. Your health and sanity are also displayed, these count down in the usual way upon combat, artefact usage and damage, and can be replenished with potions relating to healing that particular ailment. Your quick buttons for item use, like potions, are displayed across the top of the screen with your points and tokens, and your currently held weapons are seen in the bottom left.
Your protagonist moves forward and backwards, and strafes left to right, using the Left Analogue Stick. The Right Analogue Stick controls the camera allowing the adventurer to pan horizontally around, but not vertically. Due to the restriction of each level in its verticality, being very claustrophobic, the use of looking up and down is relegated to the refuse collection. That should make it more simple to traverse a dungeon, but what becomes immediately apparent is that the sensitivity of the Right Analogue Stick is great for turning, but not for precision aiming. Turn the sensitivity down in the control options and your twitchy aiming is only slightly rectified, there's still an air of jankiness with a huge deadzone, and now you can't turn quick enough. Really basic simple manoeuvres become unnecessarily fiddly and awkward, and the player can forget aiming with any level of precision over distance.
Your map, a slightly opaque white screen filler, is assigned to Y, and you'll be using this button very often as it's all too easy to get lost in One More Dungeon. The X button brings up your inventory allowing you to swap items and weapons in and out of use. The only in-game items you can use in battle are assigned to the 4 directions of the D-Pad and the ZL and ZR button. Need a potion of healing just press the corresponding button, which is all too easy to do by accident in the heat of combat. You see, the combat buttons are the Left and Right Shoulder buttons, each respectively controlling the weapon in the left and right hand. It's incredibly fiddly, surely the better 'fire' button would be the larger easier to feel ZL and ZR buttons? And, criminally there is no option in the control set-up to reconfigure the buttons to something the player would have preferred, relegating the attack buttons to the smaller shoulder, and less accessible, triggers.
Each level's main objective is to defeat the Level Guardian, collect the Seal (a door-key is all but name), and then exit the level through the shining padlocked portcullis doorway, and then its onto Level 2. Rinse and repeat. The secondary and completely superfluous objectives are to do with weapon, item and money collection, and it's these that require an increase in time . Entirely up to player, but entirely necessary to take on the brutish display of the dungeon's inhabitants who attack upon sight relentlessly, and a necessity for level progression. A run through of just the game's first overly large level, will take in the region of at least 15-20 minutes, and levels from there on in get larger and more demanding. Not too long but, with no option to save mid-level, progress can be lost quite easily.
Whilst in a level, enemies attack by rushing at you, whether a bat, snail, rat, little hob goblin magicians, or boss, their tactic, unchanging, is to take you down as quick as possible by ramming into you or throwing things at you. Your tactic must be unchanging, too. Back away while stabbing with your right handed melee weapon and shooting with your left handed projectile launcher, the staff of your choice at that moment. However, it is so difficult to judge the distance of an enemy to how far you need to be away from them to effectively land a melee blow, and how far they need to be away to damage you, that it renders melee attack to random frustration and often death, your death. Trouble really raises its head when enemies start shooting things at you. Now you are going to have to strafe around your enemies while returning fire. The level design of small rooms littered with wells, boxes, altars, etc., makes this tactic nigh on impossible, and just backing away gets you a face full of rocks. What to do then, well it seems taking damage, dying or healing, are on the agenda.
Upon starting a new game you have the option to purchase a Mutator, with the ability to select the use of two at any dungeon attempt. These Mutators can be purchased with earned currency from previous play attempts, and allow game modifications, along the lines of reducing enemy health by half, giving the player an extra starting health boost, providing extra potions, crystals (ammunition for the staff), and by making the game more difficult like increasing the level size, more enemies, etc. A single playthrough of just the first level can net you in the region of a 1000 points, and with a Mutator's asking price of between 500 and 15,000 points it won't take too long before purchasing all of them. Handily, once a Mutator has been purchased it can be used any time you enter a new game into the next randomly generated dungeon. However, that would be true if you could actually see the price on the screen, because some of the on-screen text is incredibly small, even when looking on a large TV screen it was impossible to discern from more than 1.5 metres away from the screen. This is amplified on the actual Switch screen itself.
One More Dungeon runs extremely smoothly in both docked and undocked mode, no performance issues were seen. What this game struggles with is the little things, like navigating menus. Just choosing a Mutator before entering the first level becomes unnecessarily fiddly with the way it handles transitions from the scroll tab, to the Mutators themselves, and the Play Level button. It's completely unituitive and frustratingly bad, it's also amazing that these issues didn't arise in playtesting, allowing the developers to iron these little annoyances out.
Levels can be extremely confusing messes too, part in due to the random generation, the other due to the pixelated messy graphics that follow the player's gaze, even what you would assume is a stationary object, like a well, swivels to meet you eye. Flat 2D models for some stationary objects, but not for all. Every room looks near identical and without the map displayed, in its opaque but screen blocking format, it is very difficult to get your bearings to traverse the environment, not helped by the way the map indicates your direction of travel. A red triangle signifies your location, but knowing which way it's pointing at a quick glance is nigh on impossible, leading to many, 'where the hell am I' moments. Blown up on a large TV screen the game looks a little uncomfortable, the pixels are too large and the repeating nature of the architecture and assets lead to a messy, confusing conclusion. One More Dungeon is far more at ease when playing as a handheld/undocked game. The style of game, dropping into a dungeon to collect a few upgrades, finish one level and then moving on to something else is very suitable here. Unfortunately, it can take just a little too long to finish a single level. They overstay their welcome by dragging you through a lot of backtracking due to the random nature of enemy and object placement.
Throughout these levels wooden crates and weapon racks can be smashed to reveal weapon and item drops, ranging from swords, axes, magic staves and lances, to money and potions, and 80 plus items to use within the full game sounds a treat, but when it's yet another type of staff with a different coloured glowing end that uses different coloured crystals, there is no great feeling to collect or see them all.
The Main Menu music is a surprisingly nice listen, with a strumming folk guitar melody and thumping drums, like Orcs in Khazad Dum, and lends the game an air of otherworld fantasy. The in-game music picks up the tempo and adds a facade of rock to the tune. Sound effects, however, are basic thuds, swishes of slow moving swords, and squelches of enemy deaths.
There's enough game here to keep the most harden adventurers going, but everything seems superficial, even the achievements. It's just that everything about the game, including the fighting mechanics, is so janky that it makes it hard to recommend this repetitive randomly generated dungeon crawling FPS to anyone. And, with the recent release of the excellent twin-stick shooter, roguelike, dungeon crawler, Enter The Gungeon, One More Dungeon becomes even more of a hard sell.