As a retro enthusiast, there’s nothing listed under Legend of Dungeon‘s key features that I can complain about.
“26 floors of randomized dungeon.” “Tons of items, weapons, and magic.” “[A] [l]ocal and online scoreboard.” “4 player co-operative gameplay.” In theory Legend of Dungeon delivers on all the golden tropes of the rogue-like genre it hails from.
But after a few hours of perilous dungeon crawling, I can’t help but feel the experience is lacking.
It could be the combat. In a rogue-like game, the loss of an individual hit point can mean the difference between reaching the final floor of the dungeon or not. A player needs to feel they have precise agency over every swing of their sword, over every inch of their movement.
The controls in Legend of Dungeon feel distractingly loose. Although there is an element of timing and telegraphing enemy attacks, there’s also a great deal of trading blows through frantic button mashing. It’s a far cry from The Binding of Isaac, where being gored by a basement monstrousity feels like a genuine personal failing.
It could be the inventory management system. I would argue that any inventory management system that calls attention to itself is a bad one, and it’s impossible to ignore the constant shoulder-button cycling that Legend of Dungeon requires of you. Items begin to clutter your inventory by the earliest floors – including unidentifiable potions and inexplicable mountains of hats – and I personally couldn’t be bothered to sift through them.
It’s a shame, since the core premise of the inventory system – forcing the player to choose between equipping their weapon or their lantern – is crafty. Unfortunately, this elegant binary is convoluted by the deluge of superfluous items your character is forced to juggle as well.
It could be the dungeon design itself. The dungeons are rendered on a horizontal plane, in the manner of classic beat-em-up games such as Turtles in Time and Double Dragon. While this layout services the pugilistic combat and gorgeous pixel graphics aptly, it makes navigation a nightmare.
The reason is doors. Due to the game’s perspective, doors in Legend of Dungeon have to be painted on the northern wall of each room, lest they be invisible to the player. Because doors always exit to the north, rooms are connected in a way that defy any sort of spatial logic.
In short, you won’t find much success in drawing blocky Zelda-style maps. Descartes is rolling in his grave.
Finally, it could just be that the game lacks variety. Given, there are a slew of weapons, hats, and monsters peppered throughout every corner of the dungeon – each rendered in the game’s charming pixel aesthetic.
But at the end of the day, you’re just running through room after room, mashing the same button over and over again, flailing through your inventory, and trying not to fall in lava. The game lacks the game-changing classes and power-ups that keep genre buddies Rogue Legacy and The Binding of Isaac fresh on each successive dungeon dive.
It’s evident that Robot Loves Kitty intends to play the long game with Legend of Dungeon. We’ll see a number of new refinements, monsters, items, and rooms folded into the title in very public updates over the next year, aping the the strategy that landed Terraria and Minecraft such indomitable fandoms.
But at this point in time, I don’t think Legend of Dungeon is worth the $10 price tag. Charming visuals aside, the game is just too bland and unrefined to encourage repeat visits.
And for a rogue-like game, that may very well be the harshest criticism I could levy.