Publisher: Versus Evil
Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), Mac
Release Date: July 14
It was love at first site, playful hand-drawn visuals seeped in the tradition of tabletop roleplaying. I was falling in love with Guild of Dungeoneering, but like many love stories it was bound to end in tragedy.
Guild of Dungeoneering is based upon a novel concept: guide your dungeoneer through dangerous adventures by controlling the dungeon rather than the character.
Your dungeoneers have free will; you don’t directly control them until a battle. You can place tiles around them, and bait them down certain pathways with monster and treasure, but they ultimately have the final say.
Your typical dungeon in Guild of Dungeoneering feels hollow, generic, and dead.
This tile manipulation is what keeps Guild of Dungeoneering from being a highly generic dungeon crawler, but the mechanics and variety involved in it are highly underwhelming. Each turn, you draw 5 cards from a deck and may play up to 3. These are either monsters, treasures or tiles. There’s a good variety of monsters, but the tiles and “traps” leave much to be desired. There’s only one so-called “trap” and it’s a randomized buff or debuff that only lasts for one fight. It also only affects you, and even if it harmed monsters, most creatures never leave the tiles you place them in.
Your typical dungeon in Guild of Dungeoneering feels hollow, generic, and dead. Nearly every dungeon requires you get to certain points, so it’s typically a waiting game to draw the right tiles to maneuver there. I found myself placing tiles in parts of the dungeon I’d never visit, just because I had nothing better to do.
The cards you don’t pick each turn are discarded, or maybe shuffled back into the deck—I don’t really know. You don’t get to build the deck yourself, and the game never attempts to explain any of these details. You get the basics of gameplay explained to you in the opening tutorial, but beyond that the game is woefully devoid of helpful information. Each class has its own unique deck, but the contents of that deck is a mystery until you spent a chunk of your gold to unlock it. Even then you must wait until entering a dungeon to view their 6-card deck.
The game’s story and overall presentation is charming but largely superficial. The actual story is only described via text between a handful of chapters breaks, so the investment is minimal. The objectives and dungeons you’ll face have little correlation to the plot and are largely forgettable, if not repetitive.
The base-building is nothing but a skill tree in disguise.
Guild of Dungeoneering gave me the impression that my guild would play a large factor in gameplay, sadly this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Gold is used to expand your guild between dungeon dives, and you might expect this base-building to be an integral part of the experience, but it simply isn’t. The base-building is nothing but a skill tree in disguise. You purchase an upgrade and then mindlessly connect it to an existing room because placement doesn’t matter. Your guild is just a means to an end. It was an obvious opportunity for the game to expand into a deeper strategic experience, but Guild of Dungeoneering chooses to remain a rudimentary dungeon crawler.
The most important additions to your guild are new classes. But deciding which classes to get, and in what order is a nearly blind gamble. You are given very little information to base your decisions on, and once you purchase an upgrade you’re handcuffed to that decision.
If you make the easy mistake of purchasing weak classes, you may find yourself in a vicious cycle of failure. You can never return to previous dungeons if you need to grind for more gold. Instead you have to repeatedly attempt the unfinished (and more difficult) dungeons ahead of you.
Luck plays a big factor in gameplay, and your ability to skew that luck in your favor is very limited.
The formula for success in Guild of Dungeoneering is to fight monsters close to your level until you loot enough gear, and gain enough experience to take on the objective. If you avoid too many enemies you’ll be unequipped to win, but even if you engage in the right number of conflicts, there’s always the chance that you won’t find good enough loot. Each piece of loot gives you additional cards for your deck or more HP, but managing to assemble a suitable loadout is highly dependent on chance.
Fights are turn-based deck battles, with blocks, heals, and attacks both physical and magical. The combat is adequate but rarely manages to ascend to exciting. Even with good equipment, your success in a fight largely depends on what class you’re using. You may be dealt monsters your class can’t handle, or they may simply draw the right card at the right time to kill you. These moments of randomization would feel more fair if I were constructing a deck of cards to enter the dungeon with, but the preset class decks fuel my distaste.
The simple addition of a monster manual would have made Guild of Dungeoneering a far better and less frustrating game. Most deaths come when you face a monster your class isn’t built to handle, and the only way to find out is by experimentation—followed by death.
When you die in battle you’ll have to start the dungeon over again with a new dungeoneer. There is permadeath, but it yields no bearing on gameplay. Your dungeoneers don’t have persistent levels, and when one dies you immediately get a replacement. The only sense of advancement you receive is from upgrading your guild, which is hardly a fulfilling task.
The soundtrack of bardic chamber music is highly repetitive and chugs forward ignorant to the tension that may be occurring in-game. The only upside is a bard singing tales of your adventures after each dungeon (or death). He’s genuinely endearing and is one of the highlights of the game, but if you grow tired of the soundtrack (as I did) and choose to disable the music, the bard’s interstitial tales are disabled as well.
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Guild of Dungeoneering is a great concept and its visual presentation is bound to win the hearts of some tabletop fans. Unfortunately, there isn’t much game here—and what is here is mediocre. A repetitive dungeon crawler like this needs strong hooks to keep you grinding forward, but progression feels petty, and the game rarely goes the extra mile to improve itself, instead sticking to basics. The game fails to evolve as you progress, and after a couple hours, Guild of Dungeoneering became a chore instead of a game.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.