There’s no denying it: Desktop Dungeons is an exceptional rogue-like…like. Its randomly generated dungeons mixed with a deep sense of customisation and craft work well to create a game that’s brutally challenging, but extremely rewarding at the same time. Although designed to work in bite-sized sessions rather than hour long stints, the restriction to a laptop or desk-based PC made that difficult. We wanted Desktop Dungeons on tablet, and thankfully the port is everything we could’ve hoped for.
There’s no holding back. Desktop Dungeons on iOS and Android is the full, witty and gruelling rogue-like that is is on PC – shrunken down and optimised quite well for your tablet of choice. It’s the same game that you’d grab on Steam, forcing you to balance numbers, classes, skills and a little bit of luck to make it through monster-ridden dungeons in a pursuit of gold and legacy. You’ll explore dungeons with consistently new characters, levelling up in confined, singular dungeons as you take on varying levels of creeps and creatures. Dive in, tap around, gain gold and try to stay alive – over and over again.
In between it all, you’ll die. A lot. It’s a masochistic ritual that doesn’t level up any particular character, but instead makes you feel as though you, as a player, are getting better at understanding the game’s many mechanics – ass well as learning how to overcome evil and the magic-resistant goats that love to fling all mannerisms of insults your way. No wonder people used to lock these things alone in towers.
On tablet though, your clicks are traded for screen taps, which let you move, attack, cast spells and click continue when that all too familiar death screen shows up. There’s nothing else to it, because Desktop Dungeons isn’t really about quick taps amalgamated with swift swipes. This is a very numbers driven, calculating and cvalculated game, which should be a foregone conclusion given its rogue-like roots.
Being on a much more mobile device also adds more credence to the idea of short dungeon runs, although it’s not enough to quell a niggling “issue” with the game. Although designed to be consumed in small sittings, it takes a long time to get anywhere close to good at Desktop Dungeons. Success comes through experimentation and a keen sense of understanding, only to have the rug swept from beneath your feet once you feel any resemblance to comfort. It’s engrossing, but not really as conducive to the idea of pick up and play, five minute dungeon runs as it suggests – no matter which way you look at it.
Granted, having the full game on tablet does allow you to take the game wherever you go, and that’s a huge plus. Desktop Dungeons is one of those long, deep mobile games that is perfect for long flights, even worse car trips or for just kicking back on a day where you’d rather be laying in bed instead of turning on consoles. If you’re lucky you could satiate the cravings with quick attempts between work or equally productive demanding hours, but the sense of reward is often lacking unless you’ve got the time to really, really get stuck in to it.
Thankfully, that’s the only real problem with the game (at least, since its most recent patch which fixed a few screen orientation foibles) – and only one if you’re looking for something to play in short, meaningless stints. The mobile port is every bit as beautiful as the PC version, with colourful, interesting character portraits littering your growing, table-top kingdom. Some of the UI elements used for text and character selection come across as a bit jarring though, with harsh black boxes not exactly blending in with the rest of the vibrant artwork. The same goes for text boxes (like selecting a Kingdom name) which display text at an incredibly tiny, almost illegible size.
Good thing it doesn’t extend to in-game text, which is just as sharp and witty as it was when the game originally launched in 2013. The same goes for the engrossing soundtrack, which really sticks in the noggin well after you’ve put the game to sleep.
There’s little separating Desktop Dungeons on tablet and PC, which is really what a good port should be. UI issues aside, Desktop Dungeons feels right at home on tablets. With its Cloud Save functionality, daily dungeon runs and included Enhanced Content (a free content patch available on PC too), it’s hard to look at the $10 price and deem it unfair. It’s steep for mobile, but you’ll get a great game in return – if you give it the time to grow on you.
Last Updated: July 14, 2015