Guild of Dungeoneering: Ultimate Edition - PC Review

Guild of Dungeoneering Ultimate Edition by developer and publisher GambrinousPC (Steam) review written by Hayden with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


Guild of Dungeoneering Ultimate Edition by developer and publisher Gambrinousis a deceptively simple-looking deck building dungeon crawler. Card-based combat and humorous quips harken back to such tabletop favorites as Munchkin, while the method of dungeon design brings back memories of Carcassonne and other old family favorite board games now collecting dust as we all stare at our screens. Add in a few simple animations, let the game do all the math and recordkeeping, and Guild of Dungeoneering seems to have hit on a simple but effective recipe to take physical board games and card games into their next evolution.

Guild of Dungeoneering Ultimate Edition (UE, from here on out) has a solid history behind it already. The original Guild of Dungeoneering (GoD, here come the short-forms!) was originally released in 2015 to moderately positive reviews on Windows and OS X. Over time, the original GoD was also released for both Android (currently rated at 4.4/5) and iOS (4.7/5) mobile platforms, garnering solid ratings on these services. Since then the game has received two DLC expansions, “Pirate Cove” and “Ice Cream Headaches”, both adding new dungeon levels, new monsters, new loot and new features to the base game. UE seems to be the culmination of this journey, integrating all the features and content of the DLC’s into the remastered core game and then adding at least another DLC or two worth of additional content. All this is coupled with what looks like an impressive list of quality of life improvements, which are detailed on the official site at http://guildofdungeoneering.com/ultimate_changes.html.

The core concept of GoD puts the player in charge of an adventuring guild of…dubious moral character. Starting with your first recruit - the aptly named “Chump” - your goal is to expand your guildhall to show the local goody-two-shoes who’s the best, and you fund that expansion by sending your members out to explore (and more importantly, loot) local dungeons. While it is possible to advance your members by successfully completing dungeons, their deaths have extremely little impact on your operations - replacements are quickly recruited for no cost to the player. While exploring dungeons, the player plays cards from an automatically replenished hand to lay out rooms, monsters and treasures that the adventurer can find. Movement of the adventurer, however, is computer controlled, but deliberately easy to influence by placing treasure rewards where you want them to go. Like mice in a maze, your hapless adventurers happily bumble into the unknown to chase the smell of gold.

Combat in UE is a turn based affair of card battling. Each side has a deck of combat cards that are determined by the character’s or monster’s skills and equipment, and must select one card each turn to play. Generally, each card contains some combination of attack, defense and healing - with attack and defense being further split into physical or magical versions, each only blocked by a defense of the same kind. Every character and monster has a certain amount of health, and reducing them to zero ends the combat (for good or ill). To keep things a bit more difficult the monsters always act first, leaving the player to react and try to keep themselves alive long enough for their own card’s effect to trigger.

This area is where my only beef with the game really lies, and it’s a core issue with all deck building games: your combat performance heavily depends on the luck factor of having the right card available at the right time. A few unlucky draws in a row, and the character you babied through three dungeons and finally got decent traits on is swiftly and irrevocably dead to a minor monster that you wouldn’t normally consider much of a threat. To be clear, however, this isn’t an issue that sits only at GoD or UE’s door - it is an inherent flaw of the deck building genre that exists in many games, and arguably you likely can’t make a deck builder game (digital or physical!) without running into it at some point.

In true dungeon crawl fashion, loot is life in UE. Your characters start each new dungeon with zero equipment by default, leaving them only a basic set of combat cards common to their particular class. Each combat you win, you get to choose one of several options for new equipment they can carry in one of four slots (armor, weapon, headgear and off-hand), and every piece of equipment comes with a boost to one or more skills. Every level in a skill adds a particular card to your combat deck, so trying to choose the best option on each loot chance quickly becomes a significant decision that affects your survivability. Choose all offensive skills (things named like “Blade” or “Crush”) and you’ll have more options to dish out damage - but you’ll be open to take damage in turn. Choose defensive skill equipment (such as “Armor”) and you’ll have more options to block your opponent’s cards - but combats will run longer when you can’t hit them hard in return and there is always the risk of a few bad draws in a row…

From a user perspective, it is easy to see why GoD was a hit on mobile devices. Cards and tiles that make up the interface feel nicely sized on a PC monitor, which translates into something that a mobile user could actually tap with some degree of accuracy and confidence. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to say that UE will probably go the same route, and honestly it's a light enough game that I will probably end up dropping a few dollars to add it to my personal collection of mobile apps. Don’t let that dissuade you from picking it up on PC, however, as this is definitely a game that works well in a desktop/laptop environment. Dialogue for both quests and quips is largely presented in both audio and cartoon-style dialogue bubbles on screen, making it accessible for a wide range of audiences and situations. Sound effects during the game probably aren’t going to win any awards at this point, but they do the job of increasing immersion when you have them on and even after hours of gameplay haven’t begun to grate on my nerves as a player due to repetition.

Summary

Overall, Guild of Dungeoneering Ultimate Edition is a fun, lighthearted game that is great as casual entertainment. Loot-based deck building and create-your-own-dungeon mechanics mean that no two attempts at a level will ever be quite the same, keeping replayability high. Large icons and simple mechanics will appeal to desktop and mobile users alike, and a basic but perfectly functional soundscape complements gameplay. Solid entry for casual players, but this card-and-tile based game is not a hardcore RPG by any stretch of the imagination.

Score: 8 / 10

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