or “The Legend of Progress Quest: A Link to the Dark Souls”
There is a certain nobility to an awful game. For as much as I hated Starforge, Master of Orion 3, and Cities XL, their developers have ensured that I will at least never forget their games. On the other hand, Bit Dungeon II is merely a relentlessly mediocre game. Playing it is like sinking into a despondent swamp of boredom, drowning in its incessant waves of ennui.
Bit Dungeon is a game that tries to claim that it rolls with Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls – monster designs seem like Zelda creatures gruesomed up and made larger as though they were Dark Souls monsters, the key and chest appearance and sounds are direct calls to Link to the Past, the character supposedly only has a single life, and the save locations are bonfires. In addition, despite the maps being procedurally generated, the overworld feels directly inspired by the layout of the original Legend of Zelda and the dungeons look like Link to Past dungeons, right down to the block shapes and textures.
I did occasionally press the attack button, out of a meaningless desire to pretend I was somehow affecting something in the game
However, the game would be a lot more honest if it started throwing up for Progress Quest. Unlike in Zelda and Dark Souls; the character in this game automatically attacks any enemies he gets within range of. And despite the fact that some of the monsters can fill about an eighth of the screen, everything except bosses seems to die with a single attack, so there’s no combat challenge. The procedural generation means the dungeons don’t have any of the interesting structure of a Zelda game – instead the player merely walks around until they find the next door or key, meaning there’s no navigational challenge. And nothing in the game gives you either a narrative or artistic reason to proceed. Lacking challenge, lacking purpose and lacking the feel of a world designed to interest them, the player will quickly find themselves lacking desire to continue.
The biggest thing that the game could do to fix part of its problem is to reconsider how it handles procedural generation. The purpose of procedural generation is to make a game easier to create on the one hand, and to extend its replayability on the other. But that only works when the parameters the game is using are set correctly. Bit Dungeon has converted every single tile into its own self-sufficient block, and essentially pulls from the big “bag o’ tiles” at semi-random (assuming the tile falls within certain parameters, vis a vis doors). While this does allow each run through the dungeon to be completely unique, it also leads to dungeons that don’t feel meaningful or special.
A better way for this game to handle the dungeon maps would probably be to make tiles out of 2×2 grids, which could then be shuffled and picked at random, rather than each block being its own. This would at least allow for a few multi-room puzzles, because the developers could ensure that certain tiles would always be next to each other. Alternatively, the developers could take a page from board games like Carcassonne, and ensure that each dungeon had a few “setpiece” tiles that would always be in a certain place – either absolutely, or relative to each other. Then, allow the map to randomly fill in around them.
I wasn’t able to bring myself to finish this game. However, after playing through two of the major dungeons (out of what I understand are six, and then a final) in about 30 minutes without dying, and without even needing to press any buttons (though I did occasionally press the attack button, out of a meaningless desire to pretend I was somehow affecting something in the game), I was simply unable to continue caring enough to even simply keep pushing the joystick. While the game’s price tag doesn’t seem unfair, the time it would cost to play the game could be better spent elsewhere.
Price: $4 on Steam
Aesthetics: Like Zelda and Dark Souls had a baby, and then stuck the placenta in the game.
Mechanics: A “walking simulator” minus the narrative.
Overall: The average person will live about 42,048,000 minutes. There’s better things to spend them on.
*Editor’s Notes From the Fantastic Energy Falcon*
I actually liked this game slightly more than Josh. I would like to say the music is great and should be applauded. I have 4 ideas that could easily improve the game. These ideas are for the developer or anyone working on a similar type of game:
- Tools: Fun Zeldaesque tools like the hookshot, the candle, the flute, or bombs.
- Boss fights that have a rhythm and maybe even sync the boss to the music.
- Friendly Bees (To ride, to talk to, to get honey from, to have as a floating companion, etc. The possibilities are endless)
- Level, health, and EXP gating.