Pixel Dungeon [1] – First Impressions

Pixel Dungeon is another Android game I’ve been playing recently. It’s a roguelike made specifically for this platform, so the interface makes it very playable. Is it good, though? I think it is, and there’s plenty I can say about it.

Pixel Dungeon is Definitely a Roguelike

I started playing Pixel Dungeon a short time after completing Game Dev Story for the first time. A single match usually takes only a few minutes, because the game is random and unforgiving, so you die quickly, especially if you’re new.

Yes, you do die, because you should die in a roguelike. Roguelikes are all about you trying and trying, learning tactics and strategy, learning how to use what you have available to survive the next encounter and then dying anyway, because some random, impossible event occurred.

Pixel Dungeon - Game Over

Game Over – You see those words often in a roguelike.

It’s also about restarting, a million times if necessary, until you eventually get that one perfect run where everything just clicks. And then you die anyway, again, because roguelikes like to taunt the player.

That being said, Pixel Dungeon isn’t Dungeon Crawl, or Nethack, or Adom. It’s not trying to be those games. It’s simple to start, simple to play and simple to stop playing. It’s made completely for the touch screen, so you very rarely have control issues and everything runs, feels and looks very smooth.

Pixel Dungeon has Options

The first thing you can do in Pixel Dungeon is to switch between portrait and landscape at will. What you’ll prefer probably depends on a lot of factors, such as screen size, phone type, touch quality, personal preference, etc., but the important thing is that the option is there.

From the main menu, you can also look at your high scores, just so the game can rub it in how you lost that amazing warrior due to a temporary lack of focus.

Pixel Dungeon has Classes

You can start playing with the Warrior, the Mage and the Rogue. I’m not sure if the developer intends to add more classes, but these are the three you can use right now.

The Warrior

The Warrior is the only class I’ve played with up to this point. It’s just a guess, but based on their advantages, they seem like the newbie-friendly class to play with.

  • Warriors start with 11 points of strength
  • Warriors start with a unique short sword which can be “reforged” into an upgrade for any other melee weapon.
  • Warriors are less proficient with missile weapons.
  • Eating food also restores health for warriors.
  • Warriors can automatically identify Potions of Strength.
Pixel Dungeon - The Warrior

The Warrior

So warriors focus on melee, naturally. They get a free upgrade for any weapon they find (once) and they can’t do ranged combat well. They also have an extra source of healing, so it’s easier for them to stay alive, probably.

The Mage

Like warriors focus on melee, mages focus on magic. The peculiar thing here is that there is no actual magic in the game – there are just wands. Basically, mages are wand specialists.

Pixel Dungeon - The Mage

The Mage

  • Mages start with a unique wand that can be disenchanted to upgrade another wand.
  • Mages are faster at recharging wands.
  • Eating food restores 1 charge for all wands in the mages’ inventory.
  • Mages can automatically identify Scrolls of Identify.

The Rogue

The Rogue is the survivalist stealth ranged fighter in Pixel Dungeon. For rogues, it’s all about being prepared to fight before the battle even starts.

Pixel Dungeon - The Rogue

The Rogue

  • Rogues start with a Ring of Shadows+1
  • Rogues are more proficient with missile weapons.
  • Rogues gain more dodge while wearing light armor.
  • Rogues need to eat less food.
  • Rogues can automatically identify Scrolls of Magic Mapping.

But What do All of These Things Mean?

Well, the class bonuses basically cover the entire game. There is only one character attribute in the game – Strength. You need strength to use weapons and carry armor. If you don’t have enough Strength for a particular piece of equipment in Pixel Dungeon, it means that piece of equipment will be far less effective. If you have more than enough strength, it will be far more effective. Because of that, Potions of Strength are a very important drop and the Warrior has a slightly easier time using those.

Pixel Dungeon - The Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame, AKA The Graveyard.

Outside of that, you have your health and your levels. You also have damage and damage reduction, but those come from your equipment. If you lose your health, that’s it. The character is gone, the save is deleted and you can go back to the main menu, or just immediately start a new game – just like a roguelike should be.

Pixel Dungeon - Game Over

As I said, it’s a common screen.

You can find Potions of Strength, as I said, to increase your Strength. As far as I know, this is the only way to do it. You can also find Scrolls of Upgrade to upgrade your equipment. This adds a +1 to the particular piece of gear, making it better overall. Basically, leveling up, Scrolls of Upgrade and Potions of Strength are the three ways you can make your character stronger, not including just finding better gear.

Pixel Dungeon Has a Great Interface.

This is the major plus for Pixel Dungeon. The interface is made for a small touch screen and it works on a small touch screen. It works on a large touch screen even better, but the important part is that it works on a small touch screen, so I’m actually comfortable playing it on my phone.

Pixel Dungeon - Game Over

Very common screen indeed.

How does it work?

You have your level, filled with tiles. On the top of the screen, there’s the health and the experience bar. Next to the health bar, there’s your character picture. Touching it opens up the character sheet, where you can (as of recently) see things you’ve identified, your strength, experience, gold, the deepest level you managed to get to. There’s also a button you can press to view your current buffs.

Pixel Dungeon - Character Sheet

The character sheet is simple, because the game is simple, but it works.

In the other corner of the top of the screen, there’s an indicator of the current level and the amount of keys you currently have.

At the bottom of the screen, you have a button you use to wait a turn in place, a button for searching (for traps and hidden doors) and a button to look at things, getting more info about those things.

On the other side, there’s the missile weapon button. To shoot a missile, you tap the button and then tap the enemy.

Next to the missile button, there’s the inventory button. The inventory is a 4×6 grid, with every item taking up one slot in it. Taping an item opens a pop-up with an item description and a list of actions you can do with it (use, equip, drop, throw, drink, read, eat, etc.).

Pixel Dungeon - The Inventory

This is an unidentified potion. You can drink it to identify it, but that can end badly.

When you encounter an enemy, you gain a few more buttons on the screen. You get a button which focuses the camera on that particular enemy, and one they enter melee, you get a button which attacks that enemy. Each enemy gets their own button, of course.

And that’s it. The interface is simple, but effective and most importantly, it works on a touch screen, so the smartphone is never an issue with playing Pixel Dungeon. Even if you have a tiny screen, the buttons are big enough and you can pinch or expand to zoom in and out on the rest of the screen, just to see things better.

Isn’t This Supposed to be a Diary?

Yes, it is. However, Pixel Dungeon is a rogue like. The furthest I got in it was to level five of the dungeon, which wasn’t even enough to reach the first shop at level 6. In most of my plays, I die within 10 minutes. Actually, I do this in all of my plays.

As I said, I’ve only played the warrior and I’m just getting to know the game. Still, what I’ve seen up to now, I absolutely low. This is the kind of game I like having on my android phone.

Best of all, it’s free and it’s still in development. There have been a few additions recently, such as the Catalogue (list of identified items) and an improved interface.

I will say that my latest play with the warrior seems promising. The first level had a room with a living statue. I managed to get lucky enough to kill it and it dropped a Searing or Burning spear. I can’t exactly remember the name. This sounds like an awesome early weapon upgrade, so I’m hopeful with this one.

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About Nikola

An avid gamer, programmer and all-around geek with a dream to one day write something people actually read. Be sure to let him know if you like what he does. It's really good for his ego.