Guild of Dungeoneering Review
Heart of the cards, the luck of the draw
What if one day you were given the power to establish and build up a guild of adventurers, made up of brawlers, cat burglars, mimes and other misfits, purely for the thrill of attaining valuable loot? Guild of Dungeoneering answers this very question in a very fun, if minimalistic way through a dungeon crawling, turn-based card game.
The mechanics of GoD are rather simple; Send your adventurers across different locations to slay monsters, obtain loot and level up, all while gaining Gold. That Gold is then used to purchase new rooms in your guild, which will unlock different classes with varying mechanics, as well as new items you will be able to obtain while adventuring. It's a fun routine that for the most part always has something new for you to unlock. With three separate tiers of unlocks, with the first costing 50 Gold, the next 500 and the last one costing a whopping 2000, you'll have a lot of dungeoneering to do before you unlock them all.
Once you pick your adventurer and go out on a quest, the game then turns into a roguelike where your little guy or gal will explore on their own, being driven to rooms that contain monsters to defeat and loot to pick up. This opens up a very interesting style of gameplay, as you're given a hand of five cards each round, which not only let you place down various rooms, but monsters and loot as well. That means you can essentially coerce your adventurer to take routes you'd rather have him take, avoiding rooms with more powerful monsters until they're powerful enough to take them on. Granted, your turn will always be reliant on the cards you draw, meaning you might not have a monster or loot card to place down, and your adventurer will just go toward the closest monster or loot they can see, or directly into a trapped room. I really love this mechanic as it's a brilliant way to make playing each quest unique. Even repeating failed quests can make them play out completely differently based on the cards you draw during your turns.
So why place down monsters at all? There will be many instances where powerful monsters will be waiting in rooms that block your progression, or sometimes even roaming the map. By placing monsters down of your own, you can then battle them, level up, which in turn makes you more powerful, and also give you powerful loot you can immediately equip, which will give you new cards into your battle deck.
Battling is pretty fun as well, especially for those that love card games. It's pretty basic when it comes down to it, but there's definitely strategy involved in each battle. The battles are turn-based, and each turn you're shown what card the monster will play. That gives you an advantage to play a counter card to either negate damage, heal yourself up, or simply do more damage yourself. However, you're always given three cards to choose from each turn, meaning you might not have a card that adequately protects you from an attack. Sometimes you'll have a guard card that blocks two damage but your opponent is only throwing a single damage spell on you, so it might be worth it to take that damage in favor of saving that card when the monster tries to attack you with a 2-hit spell. It's surprisingly tactical, given the game's otherwise minimalistic gameplay approach.
The developers made a smart choice of making your character always start at level 1 at the start of any quest, as it encourages you to play around with different classes, and not just pick a single favorite class and stick with it for the rest of the game.
Card game enthusiasts will most likely have a bigger issue with the game not having any sort of deck building component. The dungeon cards (comprised of rooms, monsters and loot) are always randomly given to you, so you can't specifically build out a deck of exploration cards. However, the bigger issue is with class cards. You can't tailor your deck with specific cards. Instead, you always start with the classes base cards, and earn more as you move through each dungeon and defeat enemies.
However, my biggest issue was not having any sort of indication what each class does or what its cards were. Hovering over the Cat Burglar room before buying it doesn't indicate what kind of class it is, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and what focus the cards have. Even when buying it, clicking on your dungeoneer doesn't reveal anything either. Only after you actually go into a dungeon with a chose class, can you actually see what cards you have in your deck. It's a pretty backwards process since it means you have to take a risk with taking a class into a dungeon that it might not be suited for. Sure, this problem becomes moot once you unlock each class and take it in a dungeon at least once, but the possibility of failure due to a wrong class choice is certainly annoying.
I do tip my hat to the whimsically minimalistic art-style. The whole game is presented on graph paper with rooms drawn what looks like in pencil or pen. The characters themselves have a bit of personality too, and what's even better is that each new gear piece they equip actually shows up on them.
Guild of Dungeoneering is definitely a unique hybrid of game mechanics, but they all work really well together. Fans of games like Card Hunter or Card Dungeon will certainly find a lot to like in Guild of Dungeoneering, though the gameplay is quite different. From what I gathered, the team is still working on improving the game, meaning my complaints might at some point be resolved, but even with them, the game is certainly worth the $14.99 asking price.