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2014 In Review: Dugeon Cards, Flying City! 
 PostSun Jan 04, 2015 3:48 am
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Old school.
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Item-sized, for her pleasure.
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I think the textboxes clash with the card based interface, but fortunately there aren't very many of them.
This is a review of Dungeon Cards: The Flying City.

Dungeon Cards: The Flying City was SDHawk and Ichiro's entry into the random collab contest and they made a pretty good team. I'm pretty sure that they updated the game after the contest, because I don't remember it being so good the last time I played. Major points for supporting your product even after the contest is over. That extra work makes this a much better game.

As the name implies, it's a card-based dungeon crawl. Each level of the dungeon seems to be made up of a deck of possible random events.. treasure chest, enemy encounter, shortcut to the next level and each time through the dungeon, the game deals you a new set of cards. Playing a card will do its random effect (a trap, let's say) but also advance you a given number of steps in the dungeon. If you don't want to do what a card says, you have a limited amount of veto power in the form of "food", which presumably represents the time you'd spend finding a different route. At the start of the game, a lot of the cards are no brainers, taking an item, or doing nothing to move forward, but as you get nearer to the end, the choices become rougher. Should you kill a party member to move 4 steps closer to the end? Tank the damage from a trap rather than risking a battle? Or worse still, you've run out of food and can no longer veto. Better have some items stocked up!

It's weird to imagine how this game would've played out in a traditional walkabout dungeon. Having the choice to take some damage to skip right to the good stuff is an interesting design choice, and it plays into the ultimate goal of a dungeon which is preperation and making choices. I was frustrated at a certain point in this game, where I had a lot of money but wasn't able to go back to town, but then I realized: I wouldn't be able to go straight back to town safely in a real RPG anyway. It's an interesting exploration of dungeon design by removing all of the frills and boiling it down to its essence. The game is about an hour long, and I think that's the perfect amount of time. The gimmick might fall apart on a larger scale, and it would've been nice if the story were a bit more involved. The cards themselves are nicely designed, and I feel like this card format let Ichiro really polish a few pieces of art rather than having to draw a whole dungeon. Enemy design favors geometric shapes, but they have a pretty cool chess ranking scheme (Pawn -> Knight -> Bishop -> ..) that lets you know where you stand, and the palette swaps give you a sense of variety.

I remember complaining about the default OHR Battles last time, and I don't know what I was on about. Strategy-wise, the battles are very simple. Each class of character has a very few options, there's no levelling up or gaining new skills, so you can easily get a feel for what the guys are supposed to do. You level up through your equipment: As you wander through the dungeon you'll find unidentified weapons and armor, and when you return safely to town the game automatically IDs them for you. that Level 3 ??? might turn out to be a knife for your thief, shiny new armor for your knight, or a gun. It seems like identifying equipment allows you to then purchase that equipment from the shops, and it's fun to figure out if you should buy what you need, or repeat a few levels of the dungeon to try to find something more your speed.

My only complaint would be that there isn't enough incentive to try out new classes as they unlock. You're limited to one member of each class in your party, and your party is limited to three members rather than the more traditional four. By the time I had unlocked the Priest and Singer, I was already really comfortable with my Hunter and Monk and didn't even bother to see what the other two did. As I mentioned, the strategy is pretty simple: Deal a lot of damage and occasionally heal and you'll be fine. Don't know if the other classes would've been deeper.

At the end of the story, you unlock a "Hard Mode" where all of the classes are available from the get-go and the decks have presumably been stacked more against you, but by the time I unlocked it I felt like the game's formula had worn a little thin. I would recommend playing it, if you haven't already. At the very least, it's a neat thought experiment on how to design dungeons and how RPGs lend themselves towards randomness. Should you run into a fixed value trap, or a more volatile enemy? It's something more games should explore. Not gonna shock the world or anything, but it's a fun hour.
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