Playing Dungeons & Dragons takes a lot of setup, time, and patience, especially for a Dungeon Master. So what are you to do if you aren’t able to rustle up your friends, but still want to play D&D? Guild of Dungeoneering is the answer to that. As you play solo, a dungeon run can go incredibly quick or slow, and be in your favor, or against it. The invisible dice rolls that take place leave too much up to chance, but the result is a game that lets you feel like you’re assembling a dungeon as if you were wording it yourself, and doesn’t need any pesky social interactions to enjoy.
After a short bit of exposition, Guild of Dungeoneering has you off on your own building a new guild after leaving the old one, to prove you can do this better. This is a game where you build the world around the dungeoneer, as you do not have direct control of their actions, you can only influence them ever so slightly. Because it’s not about the hero, it’s about the guild. This is evidenced by the lack of persistent character progression or any kind of importance on characters at all. Things like leveling up the guild and purchasing better heroes will increase your odds in the dungeon, but it never feels like you ever have an advantage.
This game is just full of charm, from the bard-style narration and clever wording, to the hand-drawn art that makes it look like it came from a high school kid’s notebook, done with pencil and some colored pencil to distinguish the enemies from the player. In fact, the only bits of color are red and blue, the rest of the game is monochromatic. It should be noted that Guild of Dungeoneering has one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, which is a jaunty set of tunes that you’ll have a hard time getting out of your head, which then you’ll have to purchase the soundtrack for.
In the first tutorial dungeon you have access to, the game teaches you how things work. You’ll start by looking at the map, and selecting a dungeon. And from there it’ll automatically select your first cards to show you each type of card and how they work. Selecting a card can be any one of three things: adding a room or corridor, dropping an additional monster in, or a treasure that can be combined with a monster. While you can’t direct your guild member in any way, they can be influenced to go after the glint from a treasure from a card you’ve placed, to help complete the quest they are on.
This is not a deck building game, it’s just card battles based on random decks, and it is as random as the shuffle would be in a D&D game. The shuffled deck of cards introduces less chances of receiving the item you want or need at the right time. You’re constantly waiting for the game to start working for you, instead of against you. And depending on your patience, will be how much you can tolerate before putting the game down to try again.
Each dungeon run is a fresh start, and you’ll have to reacquire armor and weapons as you progress. When combat is initiated, you will draw three battle cards. One card must be selected per turn, and a new card will be drawn in its place. In combat, the attacks you inflict are simultaneous with the attacks you take as soon as you’ve placed the card down. And more often than not, you’ll have a situation where it is 1hp left vs 1hp left, and you’ll only draw a card that only does 1 point of damage, and the final attack will strike, leaving both the enemy and you dead, all due to the randomness. It’s then you’re sent to the graveyard, and a new character based on the class takes your place. You learn quickly how expendable everyone is. Sadly, for as quick as you can die, it’s slow to animate and get back into a fresh game, there’s just far too many clicks.
The importance of the guild cannot be overstated. You’re free to build out the guild any way you see fit. These are broken down into three branches: Might, Magic, and Loot. With each successful or unsuccessful guild run, you’ll earn gold that can give bonus cards for starting out a dungeon, or open it up for new classes to take up residence in your guild, or new rooms to provided more gear and weapons for use in each dungeon. Though you can purchase new classes for variety, there’s no real reason to do so as you can’t have a party, only one character can enter a dungeon until they return or die. After each boss kill, a trophy room becomes available to show off your victories.
Guild of Dungeoneering is a neat idea on paper, but in execution it tends to fall flat. I don’t feel like I’m really doing anything important. The game’s randomness and card chance gets in the way of strategy. And ultimately it becomes bothersome to wait on the game to work in your favor and show you some luck. There’s an audience for a game like this, and I think those who like being the Dungeon Master type across Dungeons & Dragons as well as other videogames will find a solitary experience in Guild of Dungeoneering worth enjoying, but for the rest, they will find a lot of frustration and a lack of control in the outcome.
A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes