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Dungeons of Dredmor

Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2011). Gaslamp Games. Platforms: Win, Lin, Mac.

Dungeons of Dredmor is an indie Roguelike videogame in which the player fights the insurmountable obstacles of huge eyebrows and utter ineptness. Featuring much battling through dungeons with only a selected amount of skills, this is a deliberately silly game about choosing the right, or wrong skills in order to survive.

In Dungeons of Dredmor, players proceed through a series of randomly generated levels which become more difficult as they descend into the dungeon. The game is viewed from a top-down perspective and is turn-based, meaning that the player must employ considerable care when moving from location to location. In order to do this, the player picks seven abilities from a selection of fifty-one, which determine what sort of dungeoneer they will be. These abilities range from typical Role Playing Game and Computer Role Playing Game talents, to the bizarre; so whilst the game allows players to become Alchemists, Masters of Arms and Artful Dodgers, players can also specialize in Dungeon Tourism, Communism, Veganism or Magical Law. Mixing these abilities will also affect the difficulty of the game; some skill sets combine to form extremely powerful combinations, whilst others make progression much harder.

The game contains elements from multiple sf and fantasy genres, including Steampunk, Sword and Sorcery, Gothic Monsters and Cthulhu Mythos, the latter of which is pervasive throughout many games (both online and off) due to the copyright issues surrounding the use of ideas derived from H P Lovecraft's writing. Because Lovecraftian ideas and situations provide fertile ground for tense, exciting scenarios, game developers are comfortable using them in a variety of ways; for example the cooperative game Arkham Horror (2007), roguelikes such as Dungeons of Dredmor itself and Cthulhu Saves the World (2009 Zeboyd Games), and storytelling Card Games such as Cthulhu Gloom (2011 Baker, Atlas Games). This trope is so pervasive that the Board Game Smash Up! (2012 Petersen, Alderac Games) called their Cthulhu expansion "The Obligatory Cthulhu Set".

The humour in Dungeons of Dredmor is an essential element of the game. The short flavour text (small pieces of speech or description used in speech or to describe rules, narrative and characters) satirizes established moments of videogaming, as well as evoking a world that is clearly rooted in Terry Pratchett-like humour. Thus the game contains vast amounts of references to pop-culture, other games or jokes familiar to fans of geek culture (for example the Archaeology skills allows players to begin the game with a fedora in their inventory), elements of surrealism such as the tithe that players give to Lutefisk shrines scattered around the dungeon (lutefisk is a gelatinous food made from air-dried, salted white fish, popular in Scandinavia), peculiar Monsters such as the brightly coloured, penguin-like Diggle, and some of the Achievements or flavour text, which directly allude to Pratchett's work, including references to The Colour of Magic and the character of Death (see Discworld).

Dungeons of Dredmor was one of the first prominent indie games to be included on the Steam platform (an online website that hosts and allows games to be downloaded), and was marketed as a cheap game with strong gameplay. The game scored highly with reviewers despite being relatively simplistic, largely because of the huge range of potential skills through which to navigate the game and was also popular with gamers since it allows a high level of customization through "modding" (modification) of the basic game. There are three expansions for the game, available via DLC (Downloadable Content) purchases; Realm of the Diggle Gods (2011), You Have to Name the Expansion (2012) and Conquest of the Wizardlands (2012). [EMS]

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