DROD: The City Beneath

drod-cityHaving played the oldest games on the Stack, it’s meet that we now continue with the newest: the first game on the Stack to be released after I started this blog. DROD: The City Beneath is a game I’ve been looking forward to.

I suppose I’ll have to explain the DROD phenomenon a little, because it’s way too indy to attract any significant media attention. Known to connoisseurs but not sold in stores. The word “cult” probably belongs in here somewhere. Originally known as Deadly Rooms of Death, it’s a turn-based puzzle game in the dungeon-crawl idiom, its gameplay somewhere between Gauntlet and Sokoban. The goal is simple: kill all the monsters. A single blow from your Really Big Sword will destroy any living thing in the square it touches. The controls are also simple: use the arrow keys to move one square in any direction, and the “Q” and “W” keys to rotate 45 degrees, swinging your Really Big Sword 1Yes, it has to be capitalized like that. Be grateful I have enough self-control to refrain from adding a trademark symbol. as you do so. It uses these two simple things to create complex puzzles. The basic way the game works, from the first episode onward, is that most levels introduce a new monster type or terrain feature and then exploit its puzzle potential in every imaginable way. When its potential is exhausted, you proceed to the next level and get a new puzzle theme to explore exhaustively.

The first game had a simple storyline involving Beethro Budkin, dungeon exterminator, being hired to clear out the levels below the castle of one King Dugan. It left one hook for future adventures: one room had a door that could only be opened from the other side. The sequel, Journey to Rooted Hold, had Beethro getting through that door and discovering to his shock and surprise that the game had a plot. It seems that the accretion of additional levels to the bottom of Dugan’s dungeon in successive versions of the original game isn’t just a natural phenomenon, but the activity of an underground empire founded in the pursuit of knowledge — a hive of secrets, seemingly pointless activity, and endless bureaucracy. NPCs were introduced, Beethro’s nephew Halph (who assisted Beethro with some of the puzzles) started acting creepy and disappeared, a voice from a vast pit muttered cryptic nonsense. The City Beneath, the new episode, picks up where that left off, with Beethro arriving at the empire’s capital. The city is a hub of pure scenery and NPC interaction where Beethro isn’t even allowed to use his sword, with puzzle areas around its periphery. In a way, this hub section reminds me of Knytt, an experimental work that’s more art object than game.

That’s the basics. More details will follow, when I’m not in a hurry to get back to playing it. This is a real 5 AM game.

1 Yes, it has to be capitalized like that. Be grateful I have enough self-control to refrain from adding a trademark symbol.

2 Comments so far

  1. Austin on 16 Apr 2007

    So how do you feel about the added plot in Rooted Hold – does it add depth or bog things down? I’ve only played the demo, but I found it surprisingly intriguing/evocative. It’ll never replace nethack tho.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 16 Apr 2007

    Well, of course not. That’s like expecting nachos to replace bread.

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