Dungeonmans announced, playable pre-alpha

So–Dungeonmans! This ambitious graphical roguelike has been in development since last summer, when ex-Bioware developer Jim Shepard (insert Mass Effect joke here) left the AAA world behind to join the ever-swelling ranks of the indies.

Dungeonmans is more open-ended than most roguelikes, lacking even the basic plot premise (“retrieve the amulet,” etc.) that often structures games in this genre. Shepard writes:

There’s not so much a plot as there is a bit of sandbox adventure. The names of locations, dungeons and monsters are generated at random, but they’re based off of the idea of pulpy adventure novels: Robert E. Howard’s works, Dr. Strange, the idea that man is fending for itself in a world of monsters, always a step away from being consumed by some unknowable evil from beyond the stars. Relics from a forgotten time litter the land, and there’s power to be had but it is always mysterious, lost lore from a distant age that we can barely control. However, it’s also lighthearted. Heroes slide in with swagger and a cocky smile, monsters chitter and snap with names like Kikpug Blue-Toe or Stank Flaps, and the whole thing has that snarky and slightly adversarial feel of a good tabletop game. The DM is playing by the rules, but boy would he like to kill you.

The game starts with the Headmaster telling you to “stride the land, tame wild beasts, and ease wicked men of their lives,” and off to the nearest dungeon you go. The story from there is up to you!

As the description above suggests, Dungeonmans features an overworld with multiple dungeons. It also features a skill-based combat system, “free-form character growth,” and an Academy that lets you carry certain discoveries forward between generations of adventurers.

I find the Academy to be an especially neat twist, in that it permits a bit of in-game progress despite the presence of permadeath:

Each new Dungeonmans is a graduate of the Academy, and the Academy is bolstered by the efforts of previous Dungeonmens. So unlike in (the completely awesome) Rogue Legacy, the heroes aren’t descendants of each other. When a hero finds something like a piece of Alchemy equipment, or a dusty text of Necromansy, they can bring it back to the Academy to offer it as an upgrade. This results in immediate rewards for the current hero, such as a stack of potions, and a bigger reward for future heroes, such as having all potions of rank 1 pre-identified. Heroes can bring back trophies from crushed champions that they can use to increase their base stats. Future graduates get a piece of this action as well! The idea is that the Academy is ever growing and represents the player’s progress toward victory.

If this sounds a bit like the way Rogue Legacy handles things, you can chalk it up to convergent evolution–Dungeonmans has been in development for about a year now, and there is actually a playable pre-alpha “Summer Preview” available right now if you want to give it a try.

As mentioned in Friday’s Back to Back, Dungeonmans is now raising money on Kickstarter; it’s currently about 1/3 of the way to its goal. You can give it a boost here.

Dungeonmans is planned for full release on Windows in March 2014.

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