Rogue Wizards, a randomly-generated dungeon crawler, originally started as a development project by Spellbind Studios’ Colin Day who was eating up his personal savings trying to finish its development. Eventually, a successful Kickstarter Campaign left him with a cool $70,000 to get the thing to market. Now it’s here and, suffice to say, there were a few aspects about it I liked and in other areas…well, it’s a bit lacking.
There’s a storyline buried somewhere in Rogue Wizards, but during my playthrough I was unable to find it. Basically, each dungeon is randomly generated, meaning you’ll never explore the same dungeon twice. Initially this excited me since dungeon crawlers are a hard genre to nail down as they tend to either be very simple (boring) or complex (challenging, but take a lot of time to complete); seldom are they a good balance of the two.
The game’s website claims it has everything from pets to help the player in battle to upgradeable skills. There are NPCs scattered throughout the dungeon to aid the adventurer in their quest to master each dungeon and eventually make it to the final boss.
This is where it does really well and…well, just not so much. The gameplay is turn-based, basically moving the adventurer from square to square. While at first I thought this was a nice, innovative quirk I got tired of it after an hour. When using the control keys to move my character to a new tile they would either go to the side or refuse to move at all. I ended up having to mouse-click each individual tile to get my character to move to a new one. Clicking endlessly just to get through one floor was aggravating and took away what little enjoyment I was having.
The battle system and search for treasure was also oversimplified. While I appreciated my character automatically attacking a barrel to open it up for a chance of treasure, this didn’t translate well when facing enemies. Even when I was one square away during combat my adventurer was constantly attacked without a chance to defend themselves. Several times I had to desperately click down a hallway to avoid dying since permanent death is a consistent through each dungeon.
Even now I’m still unsure of how the battle system really works during the turn-based combat. I chose to wield a melee weapon during one dungeon, and even when I would stand beside an enemy my character still wouldn’t attack after 2-3 turns.
I appreciate a game with a defined art style, but I’ll also go with what just looks good. Rogue Wizards has a surprisingly simple, toonish design going on (so I definitely liked it). A few design quirks such as the tiles rising up as the player approaches them which I considered a nice touch. The random dungeons, what I could see of them anyway, went with the same basic design too. Considering they were randomly generated, I found them to be charming. The colors that were there did stand out and everything felt very smooth and rounded. I can’t explain it, but just the design of this title alone felt really well thought out.
Sadly, I feel this is where all the ‘good’ aspects of Rogue Wizards come to an end. For a dungeon crawler with such a toonish appearance it’s surprisingly quiet. The entire time I was struck by how the music just felt absent, except when I was engaged in battle. Even then the battle tunes felt way too quiet and disappeared into the background.
While I did enjoy my time in this wizardly world for maybe the first hour and a half, beyond that I felt Rogue Wizards lacked substance. This was a shame since the journey just to get this dungeon crawler on the map is really interesting. Obviously, a lot of time and care went into its creation, and while appreciate the hard work and dedication, in the end I just couldn’t fall under its spell.