Game: Dungeon Drafters
Genre: Deckbuilding, RPG, Roguelite,
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) (Also on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Manalith Studios | DANGEN Entertainment
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £20.99 | US $24.99 | € 24,99
Release Date: April 27th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to PR Hound.
Dungeon Drafters is a top-down turn-based dungeon crawler mixed with card mechanics. The premise of which is a familiar one. You’re a brave hero on a quest to vanquish evil from the land. There are several starting heroes to choose from, but other than the decks they use, they don’t feel much different in terms of personality. However, what Dungeon Drafters lacks in story, it more than makes up for in gameplay. Dungeon Drafters is an addictive experience that can be enjoyed in short or long bursts of gameplay.
Turn-Based with Cards
Dungeon Drafters follows a similar design to other turn-based dungeon crawlers, only it throws in cards to use during or outside of battle. When you begin a battle, you have three action points to spend. Moving, attacking or playing a card will cost one of these points. Once depleted, it’s the enemy’s turn. Your goal is to clear the room of enemies by any means necessary.
Battles are tough, and enemies can be pretty relentless. But what I liked about Dungeon Drafters is you have flexibility in your strategy. If you don’t happen to have the right card, you have other options. You can retreat while waiting for a better card. Or make use of the environment, some rooms feature traps which can be used against the enemies, and some will feature healing items to help you out in a pinch. As you venture through the dungeons, your mini-map may indicate what the next room will feature, whether it’s another battle, a chest or safe haven to heal up.
Die and You Loss Everything
If you die during a run, you lose everything you have collected, which is quite a bummer. However, the game does throw you a small lifeline. Every so often, you are presented with a shrine to return to town with all your loot intact. If you decide to press on instead, you will risk everything but for greater rewards. Keeping in mind the difficulty does rack up the further you venture, including tough boss battles. It does add a lot of excitement to the game, but you’ll probably find you’ll want to play it safe for a while till you build your deck up.
Speaking of deck building, card fans will be happy to hear you can fully customize your deck to your liking. Your chosen character will start with an initial deck to get you going, but soon you can tinker with your card deck, which becomes quite the rabbit hole of gameplay in itself. You can add cards, and trade cards, all in an effort to make the ultimate build. I often found myself tweaking this often as the dungeon variety requires different strategies to conquer. It was more fun than I expected once I got used to it. There’s a lot of flexibility to customize it to your liking, regardless of your starting character.
Pick Your Start Point
When venturing out on a new run, you have a pick of multiple dungeon locations across the island to pick from. A refreshing design for so many rogue-lite games where you have to repeat the same first level over and over to the point where you start dreaming about it in your sleep. Or maybe that’s just me; I play many games in this genre. Levels are randomly generated, with design, enemy placement and loot drops being mixed up each time you attempt a run.
Dungeon Drafters has a bit of a slow burn before it clicks. You just have to take a stab at a dungeon, learn the enemy patterns then modify your deck bit by bit before you master it. Initially, I found this quite a steep barrier to entry. I often took too many risks, but when I played more cautiously, the game felt more dull, which didn’t suit my style. With time and sticking with it, it eventually hooked me and just like the greats in the genre, I found myself glued to the experience. Finally, having a successful run where I returned to town felt great, and I enjoyed taking a break from the dungeon crawling to spend time back at base turning in mini-quests, tinkering with my deck and opening new card packs. In case you were wondering, this game includes no microtransactions.
Plenty of NPCs to Talk to
Back at the main hub world, there is almost just as much to do as there is in the dungeons themselves. I initially found myself actually getting a bit lost here since the area is so expansive, struggling to find the vendors to spend my well-earned currency. There’s an enormous amount of NPCs to talk to, some of which will give you side quests to perform in future, rewarding you with loot on completion. You can also partake in some mini-games, including fishing and a board game-style puzzler using slimes. Completing these will net you more loot and also act as a nice relaxing break from the stress of a run.
My only big niggle with the game is that it wiped my first save file, erasing all my progress and breaking my game and my heart. I could have sworn I saved it, but the mistake seemed to be when I exited to the desktop and not the game menu first. It hasn’t happened a second time since.
Warm and Welcoming
Graphics showcase a pixel art style that is colourful and vibrant. This game may be about dungeons and monsters, but the overall tone is fun and family-friendly. Not sure the little ones would want to play as the mechanics are a little complex to get used to. Although, as I’m learning with age, I clearly know very little about the younger generation.
Dungeons are all quite varied, each with a distinct personality to their level design, from dark castles with mechanical traps to underwater-like areas with marine-based enemies. If you search in the main hub area, you can find an NPC to tweak the graphics filter, one being a GameBoy monochrome-like filter which I really dug. The game also features a cheerful and upbeat soundtrack accompanying the friendly tone. I actually found it quite addictive and already have the soundtrack added to my wishlist on Steam.
Playing on PC, the performance is flawless. In the options, you can tweak the graphics; you can even tweak how fast the game runs, if you find the dungeon crawling is at too much of a snail’s pace for you. You can play with controllers, but I found the game best suited to a mouse and keyboard. Controls are easy to pick up, with reminders given to button layouts on the screen if you need them.
Dungeon Drafters mixes dungeon crawling and card mechanics and succeeds despite its familiar premise. For me, it took a while for the game to click. I was probably about ten runs deep before I decided I really liked what it was doing. Even if you’re new, don’t let the barrier to entry put you off. Dungeon Drafters provides some friendly reminders of its gameplay should you need a refresher, making it a welcoming experience for all audiences. The mechanics are deep, providing the player plenty of flexibility to go at a pace that suits them. If it does click, you’ll likely find this title will keep you busy for months, if not years, to come. Don’t let this dungeon draft by, sorry I’ll leave now.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot
Was somewhat interested in purchasing this and this makes the decision alot easier.