Monday, October 06, 2014

Card Dungeon Impressions (3 hours)

Next week, Mondays will go back to Gridiron Solitaire, but I wanted to give Card Dungeon another post, this time with impressions.

I had played development builds of the game as it progressed, but playing in a window on your desktop (Unity) is different from having it on your device. It's an entirely new experience, playing on the iPad (3).

Let me just say this up front: obviously, because Fredrik is the artist for GS, and because he is an absolutely terrific guy, I'm rooting for this game to succeed.

And it should succeed, because it is a genuinely distinct experience, something that is true for very few games nowadays. And I want to talk about its distinctness today.

First off, it's an absolute visual feast. The tightness of the camera (and yes, that does require to rotate the view more often, but I think it's worth it), in combination with the flat characters, creates an almost diorama effect that is quite wonderful, and that effect grows the longer I play the game.

Second, it's truly funny. There is a persistent whimsical quality to the game that is entirely delightful. It's a game that makes you laugh both with images and with words, and that is rare. I don't burst out laughing when I'm playing a game--at least not often--but I've done so several times while I played Card Dungeon.

Third, as you progress through the levels, the card play becomes an engrossing experience. The sheer variety of cards is staggering, as is their effects, and finding better and better cards the further you travel in the dungeons is addicting. Having only three cards that can be used at any one time feels very limiting at first, but the more I play the game, the more I see how the limitation forces me to make more challenging decisions than I would with a less restrictive inventory. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about each card--it's current condition, it's effect, the card type--when I have a chance to replace it with another.

Fourth, I like that the game pace isn't frantic. It's turn-based, and given the limit on the number of cards you have in your hand, the pace is measured. At first, I wasn't sure I liked that, but the more I play, the more I understand how appropriate the pace is for this game.

Fifth, I am so impressed by the coherence of the design and the game world. It's consistent. I don't stumble on things that don't make any sense. I haven't had any moments that broke immersion. It's a tightly-constructed, coherent game world, and that's not easy to do.

I've had one technical issue so far: occasionally, the game has closed and sent me back to the iOS desktop. It's not happening all the time, but it has happened a few times. Fredrik mentioned today that they're working on a patch to address this, so it's a short term issue, but it still needs to be mentioned.

I also think that the first dungeon (three levels) is less interesting than everything else. In part, this is to give the player a chance to breathe and understand the game before it gets more difficult, but new players may mistakenly play the first level or two and not realize how much more the game has to offer.

There are so many games coming out on iOS now that it's tremendously difficult for any one game to get attention. That's 10x true for indie developers.

I'm hoping Card Dungeon will be different.

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