The Living Dungeon

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The Living Dungeon on Steam

MSRP: $19.99

Platform: Windows

Release: 11/2/15


Whatever the opposite of being on a roll is, I’m there.  My game choices over the last couple of days have led to immense amounts of frustration and very little fun.  The Living Dungeon is a turned based strategy game that takes place on a board that can be manipulated by the characters in your party, but it’s this very thing which makes the game interesting that makes it also so very frustrating.

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You control your party members, while the AI controls the dungeon and all the inhabitants.  Probably the best decision the game designers made here was to make the dungeon have on turn, instead of a turn for each individual enemy (which is more common in tactical combat games).  The Living Dungeon already feels very slow due to endless confirmation screens, and the complete and utter lack of automation of game tasks.

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At the start of one of your characters turns, you must first roll the dice by clicking. I am assuming that this was done so you could take your time and get a feel for the layout of the board before starting the turn timer, but I think pacing could have been greatly improved by making autoroll something you could toggle.  Each die allows you to take a single action, be it movement (usually only a single tile’s worth), combat, or board manipulation.  Once you’ve used all your character’s dice for a turn, you must manually click to end the turn.  You may also end your turn early, if you don’t wish to use all of your dice, but you don’t carry over any unused actions to your next turn.

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Most of my issues could be easy fixes, but the sheer amount of randomness here pretty much negates the whole point of it being a strategy game.  It’s easy to see what’s going to happen when you rotate a tile, but if you choose to flip a tile, there’s no way to tell what the other side looks like.  If you flip a tile, and it leaves you or a companion over a hole instead of a floor tile, you will likely need to restart the level.  It makes me wonder how much of the advertised thirty-hour campaign time includes replaying the same levels over and over until you memorize the layouts and get the right dice.

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It’s a shame, because I love the art of the cut scenes, and the story seemed like it had potential.  I don’t know if I would have been more willing to deal with the random elements if the basics had been done better, but a constantly resetting camera angle and endless unnecessary clicking just left me cold.  More than anything, I wish The Living Dungeon had a playable demo, because if you can’t stand the game play, it doesn’t matter how many hours of content it offers.

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