Epic Dungeon is an old school styled 8-bit hack & slash dungeon crawler with RPG elements such as leveling, stats, and upgradeable skills and equipment. It's developed by Eyehook Games, and is available on the Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace for the bargain price of 80 Points (Or $1 for us common folk).
While there isn't a story for Epic Dungeon, there are four different prologues depending on which character you start out with. The Berserker wakes up with a wicked hangover from his seventh bachelor party. Not knowing where he is, or how he got there, he trusts his blade will guide him home through the dungeon. The Gambler was thrown down a well by a farmer after he found out he was fucking his three daughters. He's a bit of a catch, after all! With no way back up, he must journey through the dungeon and find a way out. The Shaman enters the dungeon because he believes the Earth suffers because of the monsters within. His magic is great, and his will is strong, he ventures forth to rid these monsters from the planet. The Tinkerer has woken up and realized that once again, his mother has has drugged him and buried him alive. "Oh how she loves to play tricks on me" he says before realizing this is the perfect time to test his latest invention...
So while there's not a whole lot of anything to go off off entering the game, the quirky introductions definitely set the humerous tone of the game.
As I said before, the game is presented in an 8-bit fashion, but has the polish of crisp pixel art, and music based on 16-bit MIDI. The animations are basic and limited, but upon killing an enemy, they explode into pieces of meat and fall down your screen as if you were playing a 2D platformer, even though the camera remains in a top-down perspective. Not nagging at it, as it's added for humour and to give the screen some eye candy and flare.
For those who have played the original Gauntlet games back on the NES, expect the same game, with added depth. First you choose from 3 different difficulties, Easy, Normal, and Epic. Second, you choose your class. Berserker, Gambler, Shaman, or Tinkerer. Each class specializes in a skill and start with two points in it, and each point they put into their special skill increase it's level by two rather than one. I'll get more into skills later in the review.
You'll soon figure out by Floor 2 that death is permanent. There is no coming back, and you leave behind a tombstone for the next adventurer to take pity on you - And loot your corpse. When you come across a tombstone of a previously deceased character, you actually recieve a random item carried by that character. It wasn't going to do them much use anyway.
You advance through endless hordes of monsters as you dive down 50 floors of mayhem filled with loot, treasure, secrets, and the occasional shop. As you slay your way through, you'll also gain experience, and as you level up your health increases and you get 3 Stat Points to spend in one of four categories. Damage, Defense, Dexterity, and Luck. Damage obviously increase your damage, Defense reduces damage taken, Dexterity affects your chance to dodge attacks and also your chance to hit your enemies, and Luck affects the random loot drops, as well as influence the outcomes of Random Events (Which I'll explain later).
Every third level (Starting at level 3) you get a Skill Point to spend in one of five skills. The skills consist of Freeze, Frenzy, Regenerate, Orb, and Poison. As I mentioned before, each class specializes in a skill, except Regenerate. Regenerate increases your automatic healing factor by 2 for every point put into it. So when you have only 1 point, you'll regain 2 health per second, where having a maxed out 10 points will speed up your recover to 20 points a second. Now for the class specialized skills.
Berserker - Frenzy
Swings your weapon around attacking all 8 surrounding squares. Upgrading this causes Frenzy to deal more damage. Frenzy is assigned to the B button
Gambler - Poison
Poisons enemies around you, and deals them damage every second. Upgrading this causes the poison to deal more damage each second. Poison is assigned to the A button.
Shaman - Freeze
Freezes surrounding enemies in ice blocks for a short time. While frozen, your first attack will automatically be a critical hit, but will unfreeze your enemy. Upgrading this causes the freeze duration to last longer. Freeze is assigned to the X button.
Tinkerer - Orb
Summons a mechanical orb to fight alongside you. Will attack your enemies, but can be attacked back. Wether you want to let it absorb hits for you is your call. Orb is assigned to the Y button.
These skills suffer a cooldown when used, but shortly after using your skill, if you time it right, you can activate your skill again as part of a "chain", and keep your skill going. There is a maximum amount of times you can do this, and it's determined by what level your skill is, plus one.
Random Events are marked by a question mark on your map and bring up humerous events like a Witch needing your toe for her potion, or something simple like a princess in a puffy pink dress is locked in a cage, or even witnessing a goblin sneak up on two snoring giants and trying to loot them. There are dozens of these events and they're chosen at random, but you'll never encounter the same event happen twice on the same playthrough. Also for every event, you're given multiple options generally consisting of backing away and ignoring the situation, or following through with it, and sometimes even outright attacking with whoever you've encountered. Thanks to the fantastic writing in this game, each event should get a good chuckle even if it's turned for the worst.
You will also occasionally encounter holes in the ground with a golden aura glowing from below. Using these will bring you to a 2D platforming mini-game in which you're forced forward and must press the A button to jump across various platforms collecting gold. If you finish the mini-game or fall off before, you're dropped into the next floor at a pre-determined spot. Sometimes this is convenient and the monsters are around the ladder you usually descend with, or sometimes you fall right into a group of them and experience what it's like to drop the soap in prison.
Now what else could you possibly add to this game? How about randomly generated levels? Yeah! While the levels do maintain the same type of look to them, the layouts change. Example, level 8 will always look like you're inside a castle's bricked walls, but the layout of the floor will be different. Add this random generated design with a random generated loot system, and you sir, have alot of replayability.
But it doesn't end there!
Act now and you'll get Awardments! Actually, act anytime and you'll get Awardments. These act like in-game achievements and give you an Awardment score, but actually serve more purpose then just showing off high numbers. Whenever you start a character, there is a treasure chest on the first floor, and contains loot. What determines the quality (and quanitity) of the loot depends on how many Awardment Points you have. Neat!
So there you have it. A classic throwback to the classic dungeon crawlers like Gauntlet with added depth, and is accompanied by great witty writing. With 3 difficulty settings, Awardments, lootable tombstones, and randomly generated levels and loot, there's alot of content here, and alot of replayability, and only for a dollar! I haven't had this much fun with an RPG in a long time. If only Dragon Age 2 was like this, then maybe Varric wouldn't be the only good thing in that game.
TL;DR (In Tweet mode): Throwback to 80s dungeon crawlers with randomly generated levels/loot. Throw in awardments and witty writing, you have the best dollar ever.
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