Indie Impressions: Epic Dungeon

What happens when a lot of independent developers on the Xbox 360 get together and promote each other by starting a big event? That’s right, we don’t miss games like Epic Dungeon.

In all respects, this is the kind of game you skip over on the Xbox Live Indie Games service, as you’re scrolling down the list of new releases. Everything about it screams generic: the name, the graphics, the concept, everything appears as generic as can be.

Funny thing, though. Generic doesn’t mean bad, when it is backed up by peerless execution. And Epic Dungeon is as peerless a roguelike as can be found, on Xbox Live or anywhere.

Of course, here comes the qualifier: if you don’t like brutal dungeon crawlers, then you probably won’t like Epic Dungeon. The game is suitably epic: 1 character, 50 floors, thousands of monsters out for your blood. While it’s not as hardcore as some roguelikes (the only stats are health and oil, the latter determining how far you can see at any point), it’s still plenty tough. I’m not a stranger to the genre, and the furthest I’ve gotten in four hours was the twenty third floor. The fiftieth floor is merely hearsay, but I plan to get there one day.

Where Epic Dungeon succeeds is in the details.

Games like this live and die (usually die) on the little things: the level progression and the variety. Well, let me say Epic Dungeon’s progression is like crack cocaine, pure and heady. The basic character development system is old as the hills: 4 stats, 4 characters, 5 skills. Each class begins with a skill, which develops faster. These skills are mapped to the face buttons of the controller (you attack with the control stick, the same as moving), meaning there’s no on the fly swapping. The classes aren’t what I’d call balanced, but they are equivalent: everyone feels like they can make it through the game, especially by learning skills across class, the mechanic that makes the game work.

And it does work. I’ve played Epic Dungeon for four hours, and I want to play it more. It cost me one measly dollar. In terms of value, that is the equivalent of a 240 hour full priced title. It’s the kind of game that fills neatly into 30 minutes gaps, gives you a good run of dungeon for your time. And, honestly, what more could a person want?