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Backlog Review | Dungeons of Dreadrock

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Every year it happens, and every year she turns a blind eye. It was tradition after all. Who was she to judge the wisdom of the elders? Especially when sending those boys to their doom meant that her people were safe. This year however was different, this year the boy who was sent into the bowels of Dreadrock Mountain to defeat its ruler was her brother. This was the year she lost faith in her so-called leaders.

In Dungeons of Dreadrock from Christoph Minnameier we follow a distraught young adventurer as she hops, slashes, and puzzles her way through the dangerous depths of the Dead King’s Crypt in hopes of altering her brother’s “destiny”! It’s an adventure where putting on your thinking cap will serve you better than your sword, and this is how we fared!

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What initially drew me to Dungeons of Dreadrock was how polished it looked! There was so much attention to detail both in the character designs and the environments. Which included everything from subtle/pseudo 3D effects, sparkly particles, and fancy flag physics. I don’t know why that drew my eye, but it’s super impressive! Plus, as a whole it just looked so dang cute. You know, despite being a tad gorey and full of dangerous looking monsters. Also, the fact that it was taking the dungeon crawler concept and turning it into a puzzle game really punched my ticket. I loved the idea of having to figure out the right sequence of moves to lure those dang goblins into a barrage of fireballs, they just so happened to trigger themselves. Hey, it wasn’t my fault, they made that decision themselves!

I will admit I don’t have much experience with PC centric dungeon crawlers from back in the day. In fact I didn’t get a PC that I could play around with until I was in college, so messing with those kinds of games was only a pipe dream, but dang it I was ready to dive head first into this game to see what I was missing!

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Now, calling Dungeons of Dreadrock a dungeon crawler may be a bit of a misnomer since, in essence, it really is more of a puzzle game at its heart. Yes, it borrows concepts from the genre like it takes place in an actual labyrinthine dungeon filled with high fantasy shenanigans, and the whole moving one block at a time thing. That’s really where the comparison ends however, and you know what, it might actually be better for it!

I say that because solving each of the 100ish puzzles throughout my playthrough was just so satisfying! Admittedly way more satisfying than wandering around in the dark, banging into walls, and dying from opening a trapped chest or something. I also appreciate that Dungeons of Dreadrock stuck to a more simplistic approach to the gameplay, instead of having to worry about level grinding and random encounters. There was still combat of course, but that was just another piece of the puzzle that you had to use in order to solve the whole. 

Speaking of the puzzles, it was how thoughtful and clever they were that really impressed me! Having to do things like lure enemies into traps, throwing your dagger to trigger switches, activating portals, and all of the other mechanics utilized throughout the game really made you feel smart when you figured out what to do with them! Honestly, one of my favorite things was how you could get enemies to chase you to previous stages in order to trigger something that’ll help you clear your objective later down the line.

With all that in mind, the great thing was, I never felt like I was fighting the controls. Short of a few quirks like losing my dagger permanently when accidentally throwing it during stage transitions, or getting caught in an endless death loop at one point, the mechanics never got in the way of me making progress. Fighting enemies was as simple as running into them, and whatever I needed to do to solve that puzzle was intuitive and obvious. Well, as obvious as a puzzle should be anyway. There were of course a few that stumped me, but after taking my time and thinking it through I eventually landed on the solution. Which made for a great challenging yet fair experience.

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If I could change anything about Dungeons of Dreadrock, and this is only because it led to some frustrations and a few of the quirks I mentioned earlier, it would be how the game handles its state loading. I somewhat get why it works the way it works, especially when it comes to juggling the states for multi-room puzzles, but more often than not it led to having to completely reload a previous stage and work my way back instead of just hitting a restart button. I honestly don’t know what the solution would be, but at least resetting the enemy positions or having you restart with expected items (based on your progress), would be ideal! Again, it’s minor and only happened on occasion, but having your progression blocked by something like that can break your flow.

Outside of that, there’s not much I can complain about! Dungeons of Dreadrock did a bunch of things right, and the only thing I’d love to see is more of it! Even small things like having voiced flavor text for various objects found in the environment really added to the charm. The only things I could ask for would be a bigger variety of puzzles, more traps, more enemies, maybe even more character types with unique skills. But all of these things would only make something that’s already good even better, and I hope we get to see something like it in a sequel one day!

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All in all, I really had a great time with Dungeons of Dreadrock. With puzzles that’ll have you cleverly using a variety of environmental mechanics, I was left feeling contented, and the added dash of combat really tied it all together. If you’re looking for a puzzle game that does things a bit differently, if you’re pining for some good ole fashioned dungeon crawling, and you’re looking for a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome, then I can’t recommend it enough! Especially at its starting price of $2.99!!

If you’re interested in checking out Dungeons of Dreadrock for yourself, you can find it right now on Steam!