Just recently released into Early Access on Steam, Paper Dungeons Crawler is the sequel to Paper Dungeons, a table-top styled turn-based RPG that also saw a Linux release, by indie team Agent Mega. This sequel takes a more pure 'Roguelike' adventure direction than its predecessor while retaining many of the key elements, such as dragon bosses, player classes, cursed monsters and basically the whole universe. I took a look at how the game is shaping up.
Disclaimer: Steam key provided for free by developer
Never played the original Paper Dungeons? Don't worry, neither have I! The paper RPG styled games usually escape my grasp, as while I enjoy a good RPG, the more old-school paper or table-top type RPGs are perhaps just a little too deep and involving for yours truly. I can get a little lost in stats and such, and while I don't require a game to be "click X to win", I can appreciate when some games strike a balance between the two.
So it was to my genuine surprise that Paper Dungeons Crawler seems to fit this mold nicely. I was expecting yet another Roguelike that would kick my butt multiple times and still make me feel dumb, but... well, okay, at first PDC did in fact kick my butt, but here's the other thing -
I suck at Roguelikes.
I'm the suckiest sucky player that ever sucked. That doesn't mean I don't derive enjoyment out of them (and in past years I have gotten some fun out of Rogue itself and the likes of Nethack), but I never make it very far. PDC didn't do much to change my sucky status with Roguelikes, but it did have enough to keep pulling me back to keep trying, which is more than can be said for some games.
There is a story to the Paper Dungeons universe, within the land of Cyndaria where you're on a mission to recover the sacred seeds in order to reconnect mankind to Yggdrasil or something, but like any good Roguelike, while there is lore, you don't need to be concerned with it if you don't wish to. At the end of the day, it's just an excuse to go delving into some nice randomly generated dungeons.
And randomly generated dungeons there are, across 4 different biomes, with all sorts of different monsters and challenges to face. In typical Roguelike fashion, you'll face some weird and wonderful creatures, ranging from zombies and dragons, all the way to weird blob monsters, crying ghosts and men made of mud.
PDC incorporates 5 character classes to choose from with special talents to go with them, but while say choosing an Elven Archer will help with ranged weaponry, the game also levels skills based on how much you use them, so if you take the time to make your Warrior get all sneaky like the Thief, there's nothing really stopping you from doing so.
The game also has a rather unique (or unique to me, at least) spell casting system. Instead of clicking a button to cast a chosen spell, you must instead cast spells using an on-screen rune stone that you have to "draw" lines on the various symbols to cast particular spells. Of course, this means going into your inventory and seeing what the drawing pattern is of a particular spell and... wait for it... memorize the rune pattern.
I know, shock horror, a game that requires memory and thought!
But in all seriousness, I found it quite refreshing in a way. For the few spells I acquired in my play so far, I started memorizing their patterns quite quickly and using them often. Perhaps some players would find it tedious and a bit of a gimmick. But I felt like it made things a bit more engaging if nothing else.
One thing I have been impressed with in PDC is the overall item system. Unlike a lot of games where you pick up items pretty much ready to use, with only the occasional item that needs "identifying", every item you pickup off the ground in PDC needs identifying. The only exception I've seen is items bought in stores that you may come across, which are ready to go (and so they should be when you're forking out hard earned gold!).
For identifying items, PDC has what it calls an "item appraisal" system and skill, which lets you identify one item at a time. Once you start identifying an item, it will only finish after a certain number of moves (turns). This can be rather addicting, as you may find yourself wanting to identify some new sweet piece of loot and finding out what it is, so you'll keep moving around the dungeon for that reason alone. The items themselves have all many of qualities, magical powers and rare and special natures that set them apart from some of the standard items along the way. This reminds me a bit of the item system you might see in something like Diablo II or Torchlight. This isn't really anything unique in Roguelikes either, but for me it somehow reminded me of those aforementioned games than it did some of the Roguelikes I have played before. I think what PDC has in common with them is it's a bit more accessible and fun in the way it approaches items rather than just some randomly generated item with a list of attributes as long as your arm.
The game also has a basic "hunger" system, so you'll want to make sure you keep finding food or you may die of hunger before even the baddies get you. Oh yeah, and the game does have permadeath like any true Roguelike, although there is actually an option to turn this off if you're pathetic like me. With this option you'll still lose progress in your current dungeon if you die, but you will start at the beginning of that dungeon with your character still in tact instead of starting all over again from the very beginning. This might help more casual players.
So at the risk of this becoming almost a full length review, I should probably pull back a bit and simply say that I think Paper Dungeons Crawler is looking very positive even in its early days.
With it in development, and heck, some of the features I mentioned were only recently added to the game according to the changelog, you can expect some rough edges. There are a few spelling mistakes and odd text alignment now and again, and perhaps if you got far enough into the game perhaps it would reveal some unfinished parts, but to be honest everything I've played thus far does feel fairly complete otherwise. The game runs on the Unity engine, but before you groan and bury your face in hands, I am pleased to report that it actually ran flawlessly on two of my Linux machines without a single problem.
There's no Steam Cloud support though, so if you want to play your same character on a different machine, you'll have to manually move the save game folder, just like old times.
Maybe the game would not be hardcore enough for some, and maybe we Linux'ers don't exactly lack Roguelikes, indie or otherwise, but if you're looking for a Roguelike to try out that's a little more Dungeons of Dredmor than Nethack (though still a little more serious than the former), PDC may well be shaping up to be your cup of tea.
Get Paper Dungeons Crawler: Steam