Preview: Guild of Dungeoneering

After being invited to play Guild of Dungeoneering by Gambrinous and Versus Evil at Rezzed 2015, will Kim’s aversion to card games finally be cured?

Title overview

Name: Guiild of Dungeoneering
Developer: Gambrinous
Publisher: Versus Evil
Release date: To be announced
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: iOS, Mac, PC
More information: Official website

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Kim says…

I love video games and I’ll give most things a try at least once, but the card battle genre is something I don’t usually enjoy. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft? I don’t get it. Magic the Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers? It just doesn’t appeal to me. I understand the attraction slightly more if you’re playing a physical game around a table with a bunch of friends but even then, Cards Against Humanity is the only thing I’ve ever really liked. A bad night out being forced to play Cthulhu Fluxx with over-enthusiastic strangers who were way more into it than I was has kind of put me off of the genre entirely.

When we attended Rezzed 2015 last month, we stopped by to see the team from Versus Evil as we’d recently published interviews with the developers of two titles due to be published later this year: Afro Samurai 2 and Toren. We also checked out their other upcoming releases whilst there; anyone who remembers The Neverhood will adore stop-motion adventure Armikrog, and Kyn is a lovely-looking RPG. I was happily chatting away to one of the PR guys when he suggested I give Guild of Dungeoneering a go… and as soon as I realised it was a card game, my heart sank.

But not wanting to appear impolite, I took the invitation and sat down to play Gambrinous’ current project. At first I wasn’t sure but after a while, its old-school hand-drawn charm started to grow on me and I actually found I was enjoying myself. The 1001Up team were lucky enough to receive preview codes from Versus Evil after the Rezzed event so I recently spent from more time with the title to see if I could get over my aversion to anything in the card battle genre.

Guild of Dungeoneering is a turn-based dungeon-crawler but with a twist: instead of controlling the game’s hero, it’s your responsibility to build the dungeon around them. Your adventurer makes their own decisions on where to go and which enemies to fight, and it’s up to you to help them become strong enough to defeat the evil overlord by strategically placing the cards you’re dealt. In between dungeon-runs you can manage your Guild, building new rooms to attract different classes of hero and to expand your decks with even more powerful items and events.

According to the title’s Steam store page, you need to ‘manage your group well and spend your hard-earned ‘glory’ wisely to level up and unlock more rooms and equipment’. Making improvements to your Guild will mean you stand a better chance at beating the harder dungeons later on in the game, and can take down the ultimate overlord in a grand finale. The preview copy we were provided with only consisted of one dungeon and was pretty limited in terms of content but it’s good to see there’s a sense of direction with an end objective.

Upon loading Guild of Dungeoneering I was welcomed to my Guild and told I could upgrade it and hire new heroes. My base was pretty small to begin with: just a couple of rooms and my brave, strong, courageous Warrior who went by the noble name of… Norris. He may have looked like a potato with eyes but I knew there was a bold heart inside, and he was intent on seeking his fame and fortune. Clicking on the ‘Dungeoneers’ option opens a screen on which you’re able to select further heroes but this feature wasn’t available in the demo; however, the Steam page advises that you can get to know their personalities and add more champions while you try out new strategies to keep from sending them to their doom.

From the Guild screen you also have the option to expand by purchasing new rooms using your glory points.

From the Guild screen you also have the option to expand by purchasing new rooms using your glory points. Cards displaying various areas such as Taverns and Trophy Rooms are presented to the player and can be dragged onto the playing grid in order to build. No details have been added to the cards just yet other than the area’s name, so it’s difficult to tell the effect that each of them will have or the impact they’ll make on the dungeon gameplay.

The title advises that you should set off on an adventure before hiring new heroes or building new rooms, and Norris and I were treated to a short tutorial. In this we got into our first battle with a nasty Rubber Ducky; but with a Stupidity rating of one and Rage of 2, this nemesis wasn’t hard to beat! Players select battle cards to combat those placed by their enemies, the hearts above the characters draining as damage is taken. If you’re successful in beating your opponent you have the opportunity to choose from some glorious loot: a weapon (such as a Twig), armour (for example, a Wooden Board) or gold coins. And these items might come in handy, as your fight with the feathered fiend has disturbed the Fire Demon’s bath-time.

During battles, it’s necessary to think strategically as luck of the draw will have a say in your survival. You’ll come up against creatures such as Shades, Bearowls and Bandits, each of which have different strengths and attacks which will affect how the fight plays out. Will you choose to do less damage on your current turn in favour of a buff on your next attack, or should you block to prevent the enemy’s card from healing them for a point of damage?

Guild of Dungeoneering, video game, card game, Norris, dungeon, rooms, pen and paper

Now you’ve done it: the Fire Demon tells you that he has to dry off otherwise he won’t be at his fiery best, and you therefore have to wait ten more turns before your encounter otherwise it simply wouldn’t be fair! Players continue by building the dungeon, selecting or discarding three cards out of a set of five. These consist of three different types – Seek (rooms), Dread (enemies) or Hope (more loot) – and are dragged onto the playing grid around the hero, who then automatically decides in which direction to move. For my first turn I chose a room in which I placed a gold coin defended by a Giant Bat, with a Spooky level of three and a Feral rating of two. These scores don’t really make much sense right now but when I spoke to one of the Gambrinous team at Rezzed, he explained that they do have meaning: for example, a ‘Meaty’ Zombie is more susceptible to physical attacks.

If you’re reading this and thinking that the easiest way to complete Guild of Dungeoneering would be to use Seek and Hope cards only, avoiding the Dread category altogether, it’s a strategy that’s very likely to fail. You can place monsters to try and entice your hero in a desired direction as their logic seems to be head for enemies and loot before anything else; and if they don’t defeat any opponents they won’t level-up or upgrade their equipment, leaving them poorly prepared for a boss battle. The official website also advises that ‘placing ever harder monsters is the only way to keep the Dread Meter in check’ and if it gets too high, ‘Bad Things start to happen’ – although this feature wasn’t available in the preview copy.

Ultimately my brave potato-headed Warrior didn’t make it through the final show-down with the Fire Demon, and Norris ended up being turned into chips. Still, at least we managed to obtain seventy-four glory points for the Guild! Whilst playing the preview version I had to wait for all ten turns to complete before I could attack the boss or before he came for my hero; but according to details from the developer, if you’re able to guide your adventurer there ahead of time you’ll have the opportunity to fight him before he’s at full strength in the finished version.

The title’s minimalist approach reminds you of the days when all you needed was a pencil and paper in order to escape to other worlds.

Guild of Dungeoneering is laid out in a hand-drawn style, which at first seems simplistic but actually displays a lot of lovely details. Grates and wells are pictured in rooms and opponents have stern expressions on their faces which prevent them from becoming too cutesy. You’ll hear the sound of pencil scratching on paper as cards are placed on the grid, and available spots disappear as if rubbed out with an eraser once you’ve made your choice.The background music is pleasant enough and a limited number of sound effects mean you’re not distracted from the gameplay. These features compliment the title’s minimalist approach, reminding you of the days when all you needed was a pencil and paper in order to escape to other worlds.

This is the current project of Gambrinous, a tiny independent studio run by Colm Larkin in Dublin, who has been making games since 2009. On 23 January 2015 the developer announced his partnership with Versus Evil and in a press release he said: “I am very pleased and excited to be working with [the publisher] on the launch of Guild of Dungeoneering. After all of our hard work going through Steam Greenlight and making it onto Steam, it’s great to know that our first commercial game is in such safe hands with Versus Evil and I am really looking forward to getting [the title] out there in front of gamers that have been so supportive over the past year.”

And Gambrinous can count me among that group of supportive gamers, as from what I’ve seen so far this could be an addictive little release. Sure, the demo I played was short and based on this there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of content before the final game is ready; but if the developer manages to include all of the features hinted at on the official website and Steam store page, we could be in for a fresh approach to the genre. It’s an addictive blend of card battle, dungeon-crawler and RPG, and one I’m looking forward to seeing more of.

Guild of Dungeoneering, video game, card game, Norris, Rubber Ducky, fight, stats

Guild of Dungeoneering is scheduled for release this year on PC, Mac and tablets and we’ll bring you more news as we receive it. Versus Evil have asked us not to record gameplay footage and we’ve respected their wishes; but you can check out the trailer above if you want to see more and further details can be found on the official website. Just beware of vicious Rubber Duckies and be sure to take your best Twig.

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