What are We Talking About?
As vague as that may sound, such is the game of Cursed Dungeon. This simulation RPG places you in control of an adventurer, one who has just finished a quest and is now cursed. To remove his curse, he must venture forth on a new adventure, conquer a very dangerous dungeon and get the cure before the curse overwhelms him -hence the "Curse" and "Dungeon" in the title (because it was never implied that the dungeon itself was actually cursed in the entire game, one has to wonder why the title followed a wording that made you think otherwise).
The adventure is simple, you proceed by getting into automated fights -basically, the combat is in real time and your character will attack and defend at will. You can command the adventurer to use a potion or execute a skill (which they will never do automatically), but mostly, it is just you telling the character to fight the next opponent to proceed. Outside of combat, the player is in control of stat management. This is basically determining how to best spend skill and stat points at every level up and determining which upgrades to buy at the store (you cannot skip equipment tiers, or sell previous equipment, better gear simply overwrites the previous one, so think of it as more of an upgrade than an inventory purchase than anything else). Also, the further you progress in the dungeon, the steeper the in-game upgrade costs will get.
Tedious but Fun
By this point, most of you will be wondering: what makes the game so good if it sounds so complicated? The fact is, as twisted as it may be to describe, the gameplay of cursed dungeon is actually very addictive. Sure, the first few fights are outright boring, but once you gain a few levels (and you can do this pretty fast), the game becomes plenty of fun to play. Watching your character massacre opponents under a torrent of giant red numbers has never been so fun -and we are not being sarcastic, it really is.
Since you get to choose between a health heavy knight, a fast attacking rouge or a heavy hitting axeman, the automated combat changes bit by bit depending on your class (though you can dual-specialize (or even multi-specialize) by attributing stat points to the appropriate categories. Health increases maximum HP, attack increases the damage you deal per hit and speed determines how fast you can attack -at really high stats, you can have a cascade of high damage attacks hitting one after another. While the game is pretty much empty in terms of animations (there isn't any), the idea works well in the overall theme of the game.
What we would say is that those with no familiarity with pen and paper or tabletop role playing may find the whole Cursed Dungeon experience to be a bit of a stretch when it comes to being patient in a game. Those who do appreciate a good RPG scenario will appreciate the straightforward combat style of this game. On the other hand, if you like classic style stat-versus-stat match up battles, then this is the perfect game for you.
A Little Too Old School Perhaps
As much enjoyment as we had playing this game, it is very noticeable how badly this title fares when it comes to style. The art and music of the game feels very amateurish -as opposed to something that feels like it was developed for a really old system of platform. It all boils down to the choice of colors and visual theme. As nice as some of the monster ideas are, the fact is that the developers would have had a more beautiful looking game had they opted for creating nice colored line art rather than 90's style CG monsters. Even the player characters looks pretty stiff when they stand there doing nothing, not that we are asking for high FPS sprite animations, but a bit of layered effects simulating combat would have been nice too.
The backgrounds fare even worse -we get unoriginal, after all, who looks for originality in a dungeon wall? We all expect to see the exact same thing regardless, but at least we would like to see a bit of effort. No one will ever praise a game developer for creating some well-detailed cave and dungeon wall, but it still adds to the overall experience of the game.
Even the user interface was not spared. While easy to use and figure out, the choice of font and images for the menus makes one feel like the developers had a very small clip-art library to select materials from.
So Why Play it?
As much as we found the graphics to be pretty unimpressive, the rest of the game was not. Sure, the core storyline could use a bit of a do-over, but that is beside the point. Cursed Dungeon, for the most part, is an absolute delight to play. You give your character the right stats, upgrade the necessary equipment and get the necessary jewel boosts and you will enjoy an endless stream of automated stat-combat mechanics. Again, this is not the type of game a casual player normally finds excitement in, but those who have run the gauntlet of several countless Flash RPGs will certainly appreciate the change in pace and gameplay.
It is the games like Cursed Dungeon that gives reviewers like us a difficult time. If we only have to consider the needs and wants of the general gaming public, then this game will naturally receive a very low grade. However, it has an undeniable charm that can only be seen by those with more refined tastes in old-school gaming. In many ways, Cursed Dungeon is an acquired taste; with its use of menu based adventuring, basic storyline and simplistic stat management, the game fits in quite well for those with experience playing in MUDs, tabletop gaming and others -but for those who are not familiar with these, it can be a very hard game to appreciate.