Dungeon and Gravestone

Dungeon and Gravestone almost passed me by because it doesn’t seem like many people are talking about it. But trust me when I say that ignoring this fantastic roguelike dungeon crawler would be a grave mistake (pardon the pun). What looks simple on the surface is actually surprisingly deep and satisfying — and highly, highly addictive.

Basically, you play as a voxelated skeleton who can slip into flesh suits (sort of like the Shells in Mortal Shell) and make its way into an ever-changing multifloor dungeon (called the Cave of the Dead) to kill monsters and collect loot. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and when you first fire up the game, you might be tempted to say to yourself, “Is this it?”

But no, this isn’t it. There’s a depth to this game that’s kind of astounding (especially since it was made by just one person). On top of a veritable army of monster types to kill and buffets of foods to eat, there’s a skill grid that’s kind of thrilling to just look at.

Dungeon and Gravestone

But really, that’s just a lot of stuff. The game’s true depth is in its rich, satisfying gameplay. You start out with literally nothing — no weapons, no gear, no magic, not even a handful of gold in your pocket. Your first trip into the Cave of the Dead is going to be brutal, as your only offense is a weak punch. As you make your way deeper into the dungeon, you’ll start to collect loot. If RNG is on your side, you might find a sword on your first run. If not, you should still be collecting gold. With enough gold, you can buy a sword when you get back into town.

Every five floors, you have the option to go back to town to bank your loot or continue downward for slightly harder floors with slightly better rewards. (You can also leave the dungeon at any time if you have a Town Portal Stone item.) If you die, you lose a portion of your gold and everything that’s in your bag (you won’t, however, lose anything that’s equipped or banked in town). You can find your lost gold if you make it to the floor where you died on the next run (if you die on floor B3 and then make it to B3 on your next run, you should see a pillar of light that marks your pile of dropped gold). The loot that was in your bag, though, is gone forever.

So every five floors, you’re asked to make a gamble: Bank your current loot, or move toward the even better loot at the risk of losing all of it? In the beginning of the game, you might want to take the easy way out. But as you gain skills and equipment, you’ll start getting more confident and you’ll find yourself delving deeper and deeper to see what sort of treasures await at the very bottom.

Dungeon and Gravestone

I love how level-ups work here. Every time you start the dungeon, your level reverts back to 1. You’ll level up as you gain XP, but once you leave the dungeon (whether by death or by porting out), those levels will reset. However, every time you level up, you earn one LP (which I assume stands for Level Points), and those are persistent. You can spend your LP on that amazingly beefy skill grid I mentioned earlier.

Even the skill grid is awesome. The layout of the grid is randomly generated, and you’re allowed to shuffle it a single time if you want to. You can pick any spot on the grid to start (once you have enough LP), but once you pick your starting location, you can only radiate outward from there — every skill you purchase must be adjacent to one you’ve already purchased.

On top of the basic goal of just seeing how far you can get, there are also micro-goals in the way of simple quests. These ask you to do things like kill a certain number of monsters or collect a certain number of items, and they can be turned in for gold. Some of these quests even offer permanent (yet fairly small) upgrades. For example, you might permanently upgrade your bomb or potion carrying capacity by one. These quests give you additional goals to be working on while you’re also hacking through monsters and collecting loot. Eventually you start to feel like every monster you kill and every piece of vendor trash you collect is working toward a broader goal. Nothing feels wasted.

Dungeon and Gravestone

All of this comes with a love-it-or-hate-it aesthetic style. The models are voxelated, and the world has a tilt-shifted look to it that I actually really enjoy. And I love the chiptune soundtrack (though I admit that not every track here is a banger). This isn’t for everyone, for sure, but if you’re into this sort of look (I really, really am), then you’re going to love it.

I’ve just begun my foray into the depths of Dungeon and Gravestone at this point. I don’t know how deep it goes, but according to the Trophy list, there are at least 150 floors and at least four different endings. Even so, I can feel it tugging at me. When I put it down, I get the urge to pick it back up within minutes. “Surely I have time for just one more run,” I say to myself. And again. And again.

You can check out the Dungeon and Gravestone launch trailer below.

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