Yes, it has a chibi aesthetic, but hear me out…
This past week I hurt my back (yay!). Whilst lying in bed I was scrolling around looking for an app that wasn’t full of ads, MTX, or wanting to gain every permission under the sun on my phone. After looking though the Play Store for a while, I stumbled on this game. It was $3 and had MTX, but some combination of the reviews assuring everyone they were unnecessary (speed progression along for those that didn’t want to grind and a lot of cosmetic stuff), the Editors Choice badge (which I take with a huge grain of salt looking at some of the other things they consider to be “Choice”), and the 2-hour refund option caused me to take the plunge.
That was late Thursday, and I played for a few hours in bed before dozing off. I took Friday off because backs don’t heal overnight and played Dungeon Maker for over 12 hours straight.
I shit you not: I played non-stop either in bed or in a chair with a heating pad all day. The depth is unlike anything I’ve encountered in a mobile game, the replayability is incredible given the wide variety of randomization and customization, and it’s honestly straight-up fun when consumed either in long play sessions or in shorter, mobile-length sessions. I put a bug in @SenorCatPoop’s ear about it because he had a road trip the other day, and we’ve both developed wildly-different strategies both for the game itself as well as progression; this, in my opinion, is a hallmark of solid game design.
Tell us about the gameplay already!
Dungeon Maker is a completely offline Tower Defense-esque strategy game available on both iOS and Android. You start the game by selecting a Dark Lord (your boss character who has a combination of active and passive abilities that will influence your run) and difficulty. As you play more, additional Dark Lords and customization options become available. You then go about customizing your Dungeon with various Rooms (Traps Rooms to hurt the invading Heroes, Battle Rooms for your Monsters, Facilities to buff various things like your Monsters and Trap Rooms, etc.) and fending off the Heroes trying to kill your Dark Lord for as long as you can. Monsters can be outfitted with gear and come in all shapes and sizes sporting host of abilities that can debuff Heroes, buff themselves or one another, and deal damage; Rooms apply a variety of effects and/or damage to Monsters, Heroes, or both depending on various factors like Heroes entering the room or friendly Monsters dying.
The gameplay is divided into Worlds which cause a variety of different global effect. You choose the route you want to take by selecting a Fate Card, taking on harder Elite Battles over normal Battles, visiting the various shops to upgrade or acquire new Rooms/Monsters/Equipment, risking the volatility of Events, or upgrading your Dungeon. Each World will see you select 20 Fate Cards on your way through until you reach the Boss Fight. Defeating the Boss Fight will send you on to the next world. Each of these individual Fate Cards (battles or otherwise) take very little time (30-90 seconds, depending on how much decision making the rewards cause you and the game speed you’re playing at), and progress is saved after each one; this makes progression possible whether you have a few minutes or a few hours.
That doesn’t seem that deep
Oh how wrong you are. Honestly, it’d take a massive write-up to dig into some of the complexities and interplay going on with this game. As an example, I’m going to talk through part of the first room in my current Dungeon. All the information I’m about to provide is available by tapping the various Monsters/Equipment and Orange text, but that’d be a helluva lot of screen shots, so I’m typing it out instead. You’ll need this picture for reference:
The first room in my Dungeon is an Upgraded: Haste Battle Room. Battle Rooms allow you to deploy Monsters in them (3 by default, though some allow for more or less). This room isn’t one you can get from a drop, but one you have to craft via a specific recipe (there’s a menu that shows you all the Room and Monster recipes; my Elite Shiva and Elite Arachne were crafted in a similar vain). The room is buffing the DEX (action speed, both attacking and using skills) of all the Monsters in the room and giving each of them 29 Acceleration (an additional 75% DEX increase; 1 Acceleration stack falls off with each action) whenever a Hero enters the room. My Elite Arachne is also giving all Heroes 15 stacks of Vulnerable (50% bonus damage taken, removes 1 stack on damage taken) and Slow (DEX reduced by 50%, removes 1 stack on action) when they enter the room via Spider Web (SS). My Elite Shiva is also applying 2 Stun (unable to take any actions, removes stack on action prevention) to Heroes entering the room via Poignant Chill (SS). Should an Hero not stay in the room (because the room is already full; there is a limit to how many can be in a room) they still take all those debuffs to whichever room they go to next. The real ass-kicker, though, is my Elite Cerberus. His ability Triple Heads (B) allows his attacks to hit up to 3 Heroes at a time, but he deals reduced damage. Additionally, Rush (A) is giving him an additional 100% DEX at the cost of more damage (which is why his damage number is so low compared to the other two Monsters). However, he is outfitted with Shadow Gloves which applies Corpse Explosion (on death, inflict damage to nearby allies equal to Corpse Explosion stacks) on hit (64/hit, currently), and I’ve taken the effort to ensure all his skills are passive so he does nothing but auto-attack at a ridiculous rate to stack up Corpse Explosion on as many enemies as possible. As soon as something dies, a whole lot of other stuff dies as the Corpse Explosions cascade.
There are a few other things going on in that room (mostly defensive stuff so they can keep each other alive as long as possible during the really nasty waves) and some additional optimizations I’m working towards (like getting Taunt off of Arachne and onto Shiva since she applies Stun to Heroes that hit her). Additionally, some bonus shenanigans are happening in the room behind this one that’s further-buffing what’s going on in this first room by applying other things like Focus (50% additional damage on next attack, removes one stack on attack), but I think you get the general idea.
Dungeon Maker is currently available on Google Play and iTunes for $2.99; I highly encourage any fan of randomized strategy games to give this one a try. I know the Play Store will give you a refund inside of 2 hours if you decide it’s not your thing (no idea what iTunes’ policy is), but I doubt you’ll need to use it