Roguelike’s. Roguelike-like’s. Roguelites. It’s difficult to pin down a definitive definition of these sub-genres these days as they’re tossed around so often and for so many games. The one thing that you can guarantee with a game in any of these pigeonholes is that they share some of the mechanics originally set out in 1980 game Rogue. Procedural generated levels, permadeath, retainable experience or items and a game play cycle limited by characteristics which can be increased are all staples of the genre. Devious Dungeon, the latest title from Woblyware Oy and Ravenous Games Inc. and published by Ratalaika Games, does feature many of these aspects, certainly cementing itself as an attempt at a Rogue-esque title. Unfortunately, attempts to make this genre more accessible and a lack of game play variety mean it runs out of steam well before it comes to a conclusion.
“If variety of is the spice of life, Devious Dungeon is a white bread, Mayonnaise sandwich.”
In Devious Dungeon you play as a nameless, muscle bound dudebro in a Medieval setting. A portal has opened up in the Kings castle and for reasons unknown, it’s your job to venture into the portal and defeat the evils that lurk within. At the start of the game, you’re equipped with no armour and a piddly sword that might as well be a back scratcher. As you delve into the dungeon, you defeat monsters, ghouls and goblins which grant you experience and gold, both of which are retained when you die. And you will die. A lot. After each death, you’re transported back to the Kings castle where you can spend the gold you’ve accumulated on new armour, weapons, jewellery and stat boosts which make you harder to kill and a better killer. Experience also culminates in a “level up” which also boosts your base stats with the same affect.
Devious Dungeon features the obligatory Roguelike procedural generation that you’d expect. Each level features a specific art style from a selection of around 6 or 7 different themes. These are skin deep only and don’t change the game play but they do at least make it look like you’re progressing through different areas like grey bricked dungeon areas to mossy covered brick dungeon areas and orangey, brick dungeon areas. As you can tell, it’s all a little samey. Each level has 2 constants – somewhere in the procedural generated level will be a gate that leads to the next dungeon level and a key that opens said gate. There doesn’t seem to be any laws which prevent these items from being right next to each other which means some levels can last less than a minute, walking into a room, picking up the key and then walking to the gate in the next room. The further you progress through the dungeons, the larger they become and the more pitfalls and precision platforming sections are introduced but they do nothing to increase the difficulty.
This is compounded by a distinct lack of enemy variety and the dumb AI employed. On the surface, it appears that there’s a wide variety of enemy types in Devious Dungeon but it becomes very apparent that these differences are only skin deep as you delve deeper. There’s the Goblin with a cannon that’s replaced with a guy with a cannon arm that does exactly the same thing, firing off a few shots in your direction before pausing to let you kill them. Then there’s the hellhound that runs along a platform that’s replaced with a hellhound that runs along a platform but with a goblin on his back.
Once you boil it down to the characteristics, there’s only 5 or 6 different types of monster to slay and the various versions of them do a tad more damage or have more health. This is epitomised in the boss battles, all but one of which features a bigger version of an enemy you’ve already faced by that point. If variety of is the spice of life, Devious Dungeon is a white bread, Mayonnaise sandwich.
To give it some credit, hacking at monsters is fast fun for the first few hours before the monotony really sets in. If you’ve managed to skip through a run of levels quickly without killing many monsters, you’ll find yourself under powered when you do try to get stuck in. Incidentally, when you’re weaker than everything else, this is when Devious Dungeon is its most fun.
In an attempt to make its Roguelite elements more accessible, Devious Dungeon has a system that lets you skip to a level you’ve been too before. Every 3 levels, you unlock a new portal which, after death, brings you back to that level if you choose. While this does go some way to relieve the repetition and means that this is a much more approachable game than some of its peers, it does undermine the challenge of being a roguelike.
Devious Dungeon is a weird combination of classical Roguelike mechanical elements and attempts to make the genre more accessible. Unfortunately, it’s a mix that results in a shallow, monotonous procedural platformer that might as well not be a roguelite at all. Visually pleasant but uninspired with fast paced combat that gets boring very quickly, Devious Dungeon is a game that I can only recommend to trophy hunters thanks to the easy Platinum on offer.
Devious Dungeon is out now on PSVita (review version), PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC and mobile platforms.
Developer: Woblyware Oy and Ravenous Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For more information, please see our review policy.