Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Review RPG Codex Review: Dungeon Rats

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Tags: Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studios

    Iron Tower Studio's The Age of Decadence was a classic over a decade in the making. Its vaporware status was legendary during that time, which is why many found it surprising when they managed to release Dungeon Rats, a party-based, combat-centric spinoff title set in the same universe, just over a year later. How did the studio cope with such a radically shorter development timeline than they were used to? We decided it made sense to enlist Darth Roxor, who reviewed their original game for us, to investigate that question. His verdict? Dungeon Rats is a game full of tiresome monster battles, with a narrative best ignored. It's an affront to his definition of what a dungeon crawler is...and an easy buy for Age of Decadence combat fans. But I'll let the man speak for himself:

    As one would expect, the game shines the most during the fights against humans. This is true because of all the reasons that made AoD combat great – humans are the most tactically diverse in terms of abilities, weaponry, armour, etc, which makes almost every fight against them unique to some extent. Furthermore, they use many more dirty tricks than before. While in AoD someone would throw a net at you every now and again, in DR nets are a constant threat, not to mention alchemical support like acid, grenades and liquid fire (nevermind that the AI isn’t very good at handling them). Some of these fights are so stacked against you that trying to crack them is a real pleasure, even if you have to reload a dozen times to try out different approaches. While I wish I could say something more about this encounter design category, I feel that I would just be repeating most of my points from my earlier review of AoD.

    But then you have the monsters, which are more or less the anti-thesis to everything that makes AoD combat good. Sure, the first time a new monster type appears, you might be surprised by what it can do, and act accordingly to counter it. However, monsters don’t really go beyond 2 types (and even that is usually limited to “small scorpion”, “big scorpion”), and don’t present any tactical flexibility. They are simply one-trick ponies that stop being interesting dangerously fast. Scolopendras rush forward and hit you and poison you, and that’s it. Same goes for scorpions and ants. You’ve been to one of these fights, and you’ve been to them all, especially considering that the monsters usually aren’t mixed with anything else, following the encounter segmentation policy. Now compare that predictability to humans, where a guy labelled “swordsman” can just as well have a few pila handy, poison on his blade and a net in his pocket, which will all be unknown to you until you’ve seen him use it.

    However, the monsters can get worse and drift even further from AoD combat design by having multitudes of immunities stacked on them. At one point in the game, you enter a zone that could be called Construct City. The constructs are the very embodiment of bad design in Dungeon Rats, although they’ve also been featured in AoD, but there they were not as prominent. You can’t knock them down, you can’t poison them, you can’t cripple their arms or legs, you can’t move them in any way, and you can’t manoeuvre around them, because they have AP up the ass, and all the combat areas including them are completely open. Meanwhile, what can they do? Bumrush and stab you in the face with two attack types, that’s all. The options you typically have against overwhelming odds are thus reduced to more or less two: stack up on the heaviest armour you can find (or craft) or spam all the alchemical stuff you have at hand. Apart from that, all you can do is take a rosary and pray to RNGesus.

    [...] The gameworld, as it is presented, makes little to no sense at all, but criticising it for that would be unfair, as its chief function is to lead you from fight to fight. The story and writing are similarly insignificant, often even bordering on half-arsed. While this is acceptable for short texts that are basically “you enter the room, when SUDDENLY ENEMIES! [insert pop-culture reference/cheeky one-liner here]”, it can get really jarring when Iron Tower decides to delve into some sort of backstory for the mine. This backstory is delivered through a handful of shamelessly info-dumpy NPCs, which are not only terribly written, but also so well-informed and eager to share their vast troves of deep lore that you can forget about chasing any mysteries – everything is laid out perfectly in front of you. The background for the prison in Dungeon Rats could serve as an interesting premise for something, but that would have to take a different game with a different mindset behind it.

    However, while it’s very easy (and advisable) to dismiss the narrative side of the dungeon as unimportant, the same can’t be said about the general level design, and here we arrive to what is perhaps Dungeon Rats’ greatest flaw.

    The game is marketed as a “dungeon crawler”, but I really do beg to differ. When viewing player opinions about Dungeon Rats, you will often come across people saying that they “typically don’t like dungeon crawlers, but really like Dungeon Rats”. A hypothesis can be drawn from this – the game is actually not a dungeon crawler at all. And I will tell you why.

    A successful dungeon crawler needs much more than just entertaining combat to work. It also needs a properly set-up dungeon, with all that it entails. It has to be decently labyrinthine, it needs a generous amount of optional content to explore, it needs some non-combat interaction, preferably puzzles of some kind, it needs traps, it needs secrets or mysteries to uncover, and it needs proper resource management. In a sense, the dungeon should be an entity of its own, even an enemy. Meanwhile, Dungeon Rats is anything but the above.

    [...] As you can see, there is not really much to tell. Dungeon Rats is, overall, a competently made combat romp using the Age of Decadence ruleset and engine. For the most part, it’s a fun little game, and some of its more difficult fights will give you adequate challenge. The fact that it costs barely 9 bucks and that a single playthrough will take you roughly 10 hours (+/- 2) also makes it easier to gloss over some of its flaws. In essence, if you’re a fan of AoD combat, you can practically get it blind.

    However, the flaws are definitely there, and in some ways they are a huge step back from Age of Decadence, even despite the game’s completely different focus and design philosophy. It also bears repeating that Dungeon Rats suffers from a serious case of false advertisement, and, while enjoyable, it is definitely not a dungeon crawler. And although I don't have a problem with the formula itself, which could be described as "RPG Encounters: The Game", the term "dungeon crawler" carries with it a set of specific connotations that need to be met, and someone seeking it in this game could simply feel cheated.

    To achieve what they've set out to do, Iron Tower would have to put in a lot more effort into Dungeon Rats because, to quote a classic, simply making your game all about combat does not a dungeon crawler make. Perhaps they should settle for a different label of some kind - "dungeon brawler", for instance, would fit right in.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Dungeon Rats
     
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  2. an Administratorgender: ⚧ Self-Ejected

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    Finally a good review
    :greatjob:
     
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  3. I'm With Her Mustawdgender: ⚧ for prison Self-Ejected

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  4. Goralgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    :salute:
    Great DR review DR. I also think that it's a superb game.
    QFT.
     
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  5. Make America Great Again Darth Roxorgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

    Darth Roxor
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    you bellowed
     
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  6. an Administratorgender: ⚧ Self-Ejected

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    Reminds me of that damned Deep Coverns. :argh:
     
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  7. Whispergender: ⚧ Arcane Vatnik

    Whisper
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    "Dungeon Rats fails even at the resource management part, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be “brutally difficult”. Nets, whetstones and sources of poison are so handily available, you never have to calculate whether to use them or not. A few alchemical components are a bit more limited, but unless you go completely gung-ho, you should never run out of relevant consumables as well."

    Neurostims (quickroots) and berserk (mushrooms) are certainly limited. You shouldnt use them unless you see you have very hard time without them.

    I think around of 12 quickroots and 15 mushrooms in whole game (mushrooms also go in +3 DR potion).
     
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  8. Goralgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    DR was playing DR before the patches (or maybe after the first patch) so some of his complaints are outdated.
     
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  9. Make America Great Again Darth Roxorgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

    Darth Roxor
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    Neurostims were just about the only thing I had to "ration", and by "ration" I mean "not use in every fight". The "unless you go completely gung-ho" comment more or less applies only to them, and perhaps liquid fire or acid, but I've had so little use for those to begin with that I never really had to spare them.

    Totally disagreed on shrooms, otoh. I always had a fuckton of these during the solo run, despite also using the zerk potions pretty often.

    Nope, played both before and after.
     
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  10. Goralgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    On a different matter, how long was your review in Infinitron's abyss? In other words how long did it take him to publish it after you've sent it? If it's not a secret.
     
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  11. Whispergender: ⚧ Arcane Vatnik

    Whisper
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    They didnt change amount of alchemy components for neuro/berserk.

    And holding them unless you really need them is a must. Not to mention only 2 components for +25 accuracy potion which can be vital in certain fights.
     
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  12. Make America Great Again Darth Roxorgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

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  13. Whispergender: ⚧ Arcane Vatnik

    Whisper
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    Neurostims is probably most important thing :)

    For berserk there is 15 mushrooms, i think. If you dont use them for +3 DR you may have enough for hard fights.
     
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  14. agrisgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    agris
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    Good review Darth Roxor. Dungeon brawler is definitely more applicable, with a dash of "chardev, the game".

    I get Roxor's points about the monster fights and constructs, except they didn't bother me. 'Trash' fights exist for a reason, to give the player an environment in which to experiment with the game's ruleset and mechanics. The Scorp Villa, for example, is a useful exercise in dealing with poison and and armored enemies. The centipedes, plants and worms likewise have functions, forcing you to contemplate manipulation of the battle field via liquid fire, modifying your gear loadout and to make you evaluate other attack types and ranged ammo (there is lower damage DR piercing, regular, and higher damage DR-amplifying for unarmored targets) before being pummeled by much harder groups of dissimilar humans.

    The amount of gameplay time fighting humans vs fighting monsters was about 80/20 for me (70/30 if we consider the constructs monsters). Granted if the monsters took up more playtime, I'd be unhappy with it.
     
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  15. Tigranesgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    That's a lot for a game that has, what, ~50 fights, especially if you go solo or with less than 4.

    At all party sizes, I found that I would only ever run out of certain things if I really used them liberally. With any degree of conservation typical to the genre, you end up chucking half a dozen bombs at the Centurion to clean up the inventory.
     
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  16. Goralgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron The Real Fanboy

    Goral
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    Then again if you try to be stingy with your resources on ironman playthrough and leave them for a rainy day you'll probably fail quite early.

    P.S.
    There's another Codex review published recently but for some unkown reason it wasn't put on a front page. You can read it here: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...ory-of-the-iceberg-review-by-celerity.112386/
     
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  17. Elhoimgender: ⚧ Iron Tower Studio Developer

    Elhoim
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    Cool review, I agree with some of the critiques, and they are being handled in the next update.
     
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  18. Cosmogender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Which ones ?
     
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  19. veevoirgender: ⚧ Klytus, I'm bored Patron

    veevoir
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    It all makes me wonder.. There was a great AoD crpg, a very competent AoD dungeon crawler.. so when there will be a release of AoD PnP? Vault Dweller - any plans?

    I know people of codex abandoned PnP ages ago, to complain how modern crpg are not even a shit copies of old crpgs which are shit attempts at PnP.. But still, some of us like the smell of rulebook in the morning.
    :takemyjewgold:
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  20. Make America Great Again Eyestabbergender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Eyestabber
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    Nice review. Good to see I'm not the only one who hates dem constructs. I cheesed the meteorite fuckers in my ironman game. Fuck constructs and their 99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 AP + immunities.
     
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  21. Make America Great Again Zed Duke of Banvillegender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    Dungeon Rats is an "SRPG", which is to say a squad-based tactics game with character customization/progression added. Kudos on pointing out this is not the same as a "dungeon-crawler" RPG.

    Excellent review!
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  22. veevoirgender: ⚧ Klytus, I'm bored Patron

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    SRPG or TRPG? Anyways, categories are always meaningless where we all know what the core gameplay is about - walking around, killing people,enjoying the sights, levelling up.
     
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  23. oscargender: ⚧ Tacticular Staff

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    Have to agree. Ashamed to say I simply got burnt out fighting plants (though loved the first few hours) and haven't touched it since.
     
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  24. pakoitogender: ⚧ Arcane

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    So it's like low budget Blackguards 1?
     
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  25. felipepepegender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    I was (blindly) expecting something more like Gorky 17, with some exploration, light puzzle solving and drama, but Roxor makes it sounds like it's really just a long sequence of fights... :|
     
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