Getting back into DROD after all this time has proved fairly easy. All the little tactical swordfighting tricks that I picked up in my first play-through are still with me: how to efficiently cut down a horde of attackers, how to manipulate a goblin or wraithwing into going where I want. A great many individual rooms are still familiar to me, too — not so much so that I’d be able to recall them from memory alone, but enough for me to recognize them when I see them, and remember the main secret to solving them.
This seems to be less the case as I go deeper, though. Floor 18 is almost entirely unfamiliar to me. I suppose this makes sense — this isn’t my first attempt at a replay. I recall playing through at least the beginning in preparation for at least one of the sequels. At one point I even started playing through the game to make notes for a Hold 1“Hold” is DROD‘s term for a set of player-made levels. I was contemplating making, a “King Dugan’s Dungeon Condensed” that would attempt to distill the essential features of each floor of the original dungeon into a single room. I never finished that; I think I gave up when I found some floors that were too heterogeneous to easily summarize. The point is, I have played the beginning of this game several more times than the ending.
Nonetheless, I’m managing to clear rooms at a pretty good clip, and never really get stuck — except on one thing. The one new, unfamiliar thing. The Challenges. I’ve gotten fairly severely stuck on those several times. Floor 16 had no less than three Challenge rooms that took me multiple sessions to solve.
The thing about the Challenges is that they’re fiddly. They involve precise positioning and optimization, often even to the point where you have to already be in the correct orientation when you enter the room, just so you don’t have to waste a turn or two turning about. Without Challenges, most of the rooms in King Dugan’s Dungeon ask no more of you than competent footwork and the ability to spot the “lynchpin”, the non-obvious idea that makes it all easy. A lot of the Challenges are specifically based on ignoring a room’s lynchpin. For example, one of the rooms in floor 16 is based on using tar growth, normally an inconvenience, to your advantage. There’s a serpent in a completely inaccessible area, together with a small bit of tar. Serpents die when they get caught in dead ends, but there’s no dead end in that area. The lynchpin: You can create a dead end just by letting the tar spread all the way to the wall. To do this, you have to ignore the temptation to kill the “tar mother” (the thing that makes the tar grow) for three complete growth cycles. The Challenge for that room: Kill the tar mother before the third growth cycle. I had to learn more than I had ever before needed to know about Serpent behavior to solve that one.
I’ve been spending so much more time on Challenges than on anything else that they’re basically the dominant part of my experience by now. Now, bear in mind that Challenges are optional. I could just skip them, solve the rooms the easy way and move on. But why would I do that? I’m in no rush to reach an ending I’ve already seen, or solve more puzzles I’ve already solved. No, for a return visitor like myself, having the Challenges dominate the experience is probably a good thing.
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|1.||↑||“Hold” is DROD‘s term for a set of player-made levels.|