Pixel Dungeon is a feature-rich, retro rogue-like where you need to work your way down 25 randomly generated dungeon levels to find the Amulet of Yendor. The graphics are lovely and clear, and each restart feels like a very different game to the previous one, because they are so randomised.
The dungeon generation is very clever. There will always be the same number of keys to find as locked doors in any given level. If there’s an obstacle that needs burning, there will be at least one burn item, such as a fire potion, to be found. If there’s a pit, there will be a levitation potion. There are also a few side quests.
Overall it’s a wonderful game, but it’s greatness is dimmed by the fact that it’s so incredibly hard (even if you use the Wiki for tips) that it will probably only appeal to a narrow section of gamers. The game is particularly unfairly balanced in the first five levels – I played well over 100 games before I finally got past Dungeon Level 5 and the first boss, and to the first shop. The game was then surprisingly easy for another half dozen or so levels, then became incredibly hard again around Level 13. Armour degraded very rapidly, yet despite finding several strength potions, I still didn’t have enough to wield the STR 16 items I had found.
To be fair, the dev does warn this:
Many people consider this game very difficult and luck-based. Maybe they are right… or maybe they should just l2p. Anyway, you will die often. You are warned! ☺
But there’s hard and then there’s so hard that most players are probably never going to get deep enough to encounter all the cool stuff that the developer put in there. As for “l2p” – while I wouldn’t view myself as a hardcore elite gamer, I’ve been playing RPGs for years, I have knowledge of the basic mechanics, and this one is simply overly hard and unforgiving compared to pretty much every other RPG I’ve ever played.
Above all, it’s too tough at the start. Worse, you can’t grind to level, because you’ll run out of food and starve. Pixel Dungeon would easily be more enjoyable and more accessible with some optional “Casual mode” features, such as:
- an inheritance feature so future playthroughs can start a little bit more buffed
- a shop early on
- a lower food-use mechanic, or more food drops (in my 100+ playthroughs, only once did I find some kind of ring to slow metabolism)
Cardinal Quest 2 does this very well, not so much as to overcompensate, but to make future restarts a little more comfortable.