Touting a new release on a home console as a mobile port is a sure fire way to make many gamers groan in disbelief. Devious Dungeon is a title that originally launched on iOS and Android way back in 2014. While there isn’t anything innately wrong with mobile games, too often they are victim of shoddy gameplay and/or questionable micro-transaction schemes. It’s not always good to judge a book by its cover though, so I decided to take a chance on Devious Dungeon to see if it goes beyond the staple mobile game shticks.
Devious Dungeon follows an unnamed knight of a kingdom, who is tasked with delving into the catacombs below in order to clear it of the dangers that lurk within. Why this particular kingdom was built on a cesspool of bad is anyone’s guess, but I digress. This is a job for you, the master of dismemberment, alone. You are sent off into the unknown depths with little more than the third-rate gear on your back and dreams of becoming a champion.
Judging by the level randomization alone may lead you to believe that Devious Dungeon is a rogue-like, when in actuality it isn’t at all. Permadeath is nowhere to be found, and you are minimally punished for dying. You reach a checkpoint of sorts every 3-4 levels, which lets you pick right up from that point if you happen to kick the bucket. You probably won’t be struggling to stay alive, however, as the overall level of difficulty is fairly low. As long as you are making it a point to explore each level thoroughly, while hacking away at adversaries that you face, you shouldn’t run into too many problems.
The hardest thing to me was getting used to the somewhat floatiness of the character. Keep in mind that 90% of my playthrough was on the dock. I noticed a drastic improvement in control when playing handheld. Seeing as I play most of my games docked, this is a bit of a turn-off. I can’t say whether the lower than expected framerate or the programming behind the character movement is to blame for that, but it was noticeable regardless. Despite that, it is still playable in both formats if you can look past the minor handling issues while in docked mode.
Each level in itself is fairly small, but the randomness and occasional tileset change help keep things fresh. There are also secrets to be found, and you typically have at least one on every other map. These lead to treasure chests packed full of money or tomes of knowledge, which give you a massive boost in experience. You are going to want to keep your gear and character level up to date, so both secret offerings feel rewarding every time you come across them. Speaking of experience, you accumulate this in typical RPG fashion: by mutilating enemies and the aforementioned tomes of knowledge.
Each level up allows you a single allocation point that can be used on Strength (+Damage), Stamina (+Health), or Dexterity (+Crit). As far as I know, there isn’t a way to refund your points after you use them, so choose wisely. I found Dexterity to be the most useful stat in my playthrough, but the other avenues certainly have purpose as well. In addition to level ups, gear can be purchased from Olaf at the castle, or via his caravan at the checkpoints between clusters of levels. You have choices between weapons, armor, potions, amulets, and rings. All of these pieces will want to be kept up to par, as they more or less serve as permanent upgrades to your character’s statistics rather than things that can be changed out depending on the situation.
This is where Devious Dungeon is a little…devious (I’ll see myself out) in their advertisement of some of the game’s mechanics. While the description states “loot collection” and “lots of gear” as core gameplay features, both are really superficial experiences at best. If you upgrade your weapon, there is never a reason to use a previous one. The same goes for the other categories of equipment. The exception to this would be a couple of instances where you might want to drop to a lower strength weapon in favor of one with higher speed, but I really only felt obligated to do this on the last few maps. And yes, there is tons of “loot” to be found. You will be breaking so many candelabras in your journey that the Belmont clan will be jealous. Sadly, no holy water or demon-slaying crosses are to be found in the spoils though.
Instead, boxes and other inanimate objects will poop out tons of money in a River City Ransom-like fashion. Think your loot will spill into a neat little pile? I guess the developer thought that might be boring! Coins often shower from containers as if they were hit by a truck and then shot by a rocket launcher. For you, this usually means sacrificing health by walking on floor spikes in order to collect everything. Engaging in thorough exploration, once again, is ideal as it mitigates the losses that you would otherwise have from coins taking a nap in spike beds.
Surprisingly, the health loss from spikes isn’t as much as you would think (oh I don’t know, INSTANT DEATH), so feel free to swim in it to further your coffers as your body permits. Ultimately, the situation with money falling into damaging areas would be incredibly annoying if the game wasn’t so generous with it in the first place. But still, OCD penny pinchers in particular may be put off by this interesting design choice.
I think we all can agree that money is great, and hey, I’m all for having as much of it in my games as possible. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s a little dull after wrecking your 1,000,000th container only to receive cold, hard cash in return. YOU WILL TAKE THE MONEY AND YOU WILL LIKE IT! To be fair, there is a slighter-than-slight chance of receiving a small health potion from some objects, but it doesn’t happen often enough to really consider it incredibly useful in the grand scheme of things.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, there is a pretty simplistic gameplay loop in Devious Dungeon: kill, loot, and traverse maps. While other games make this more interesting by supplying engaging mechanics around an otherwise boring task list, Devious Dungeon really doesn’t change much from the beginning to end. Sure, the level randomization helps as do the new enemies every half dozen levels or so, but your choices in combat stay the same. And by choices, I mean you can wildly swing at things or wildly swing at things. There are no skills or power ups which could add new layers to the gameplay.
You literally hack and slash your way through the entire game. I wouldn’t even call it that, maybe just hack your way through. When the crux of the game lies on defeating hordes of enemies, you should aim to make it as satisfying as possible. One might argue that, due to it being a mobile game, it may not have been possible to have skills in the first place. I haven’t played very many phone games, but even in my limited knowledge of the iOS library I know that there are plenty of titles that offer more engaging combat mechanics than what is found in Devious Dungeon. If it wasn’t for the crunchy impact effects of your weapons (sound effects are really spot on) and gruesome dismemberment of foes, combat would be a real drag.
Despite its flaws, I actually found Devious Dungeon to, for the most part, be enjoyable. Its mechanics and overarching gameplay loop are nothing special, but it is a nice enough package that complements the pick-up-and-go style of the Switch well. Devious Dungeon currently sits at $6.79USD until April 9th, when it will go up to an undisclosed price (I’m guessing $9.99). Either price may be hard to digest given the mobile version is only $1.99 on Android and $2.99 on iOS, but both of those versions had in-game purchases as well (I don’t think they exist in the Switch version). Devious Dungeon isn’t going to offer a ton of content and definitely not any of the truly engaging nature, but it is a fun enough title to pick up on a sale and play for a short while. If it wasn’t for the slight input lag while docked and the short gameplay lifespan, I would have considered rating it a little higher. Given its current iteration, however, I feel like it may be expecting just a little too much from your wallet.