Published on February 7th, 2017 | by Coppert4nk0
Review – [email protected]
Dungeon crawlers are something that I’ve been addicted to for as long as I remember. From the original Diablo, to more recent games like Dungeon of the Endless, they are something that’s provided me with countless hours of excitement and an equal amount of frustration. Needless to say, I was quite excited to hear about a dungeon crawler that captures the older atmosphere but puts it in a modern setting. [email protected] is a roguelike dungeon crawler that has the aesthetic of the original games in the sub-genre. The dungeons, characters, monsters, weapons and items are made up of various letters and symbols. Other than the game being entirely portrayed in a 3D environment, those who have played classic ASCII-based games in the 80s (sadly, I’m too young) should feel a little at home. On a side note, the contrasting black and white reminds me of a cyber-world similar to that of Tron.
You start by choosing between 4 different characters: the Warrior, the Amazon, the Ranger, and the Mage. Each character starts with a specific set of abilities, such as increased health for the Warrior, or the ability to use a bow for the Ranger. The Mage also starts with a staff that allows him to cast spells on enemies, whereas every other character starts with a shield that they can defend with or throw for ranged damage. Once you’ve picked a character, you’re immediately thrown into a procedurally generated dungeon that you must descent into and explore. As expected, each level becomes more difficult as you progress, but the rewards become more abundant. Your adventurer must also stay fed or risk dying from starvation. Some levels may have secret rooms, trees that bear healing fruit, altars where one may sacrifice gold for extra lives, and more. If your character loses all lives, you start from the beginning of a new dungeon.
As the name “[email protected]” implies, the game is fairly challenging. Not only does one have to deal with powerful enemies, bottomless pits, lava and acid pools, but every potion in the game (including ones that you brew yourself) are unidentified and must either be consumed or thrown at an enemy in order to learn their effects. I especially like this, because it adds a high risk/high reward aspect to the game that completely resets every time you start a new game.
Aside from being the key element in the cosmetic design of the game, the text also plays a crucial role in how each character is able to craft and upgrade their weapons. As you proceed through the dungeon, you will come across standard letters from the alphabet in various colors. White letters are necessary for crafting new weapons while letters that are red, green, light blue, dark blue, or purple are used to enchant your weapons with one of five elements. Enchanting your weapon will not only increase its damage output against monsters of the opposite element, but will also allow you to bypass doors that are locked by the same element.
After gaining enough experience to level up, you’re given a skill point that you can use to unlock an ability for your character. Unfortunately, most of the skills seem lackluster in that they hardly improve your character. To put things into perspective, I believe that the best skill in the game is one that allows you to automatically identify every potion without testing and also detects any secret rooms as you pass by them. The majority of skills only grant you the ability to do a special move with a specific weapon type. Normally I’d welcome this, but I found that I far preferred using my character’s normal attacks instead as the special attacks seemed not to make much of a difference in how quick I could take an enemy down. Another thing to keep in mind is that every character has the same exact skill tree. When it comes to skills, the only thing that separates each character from one another is the set of skills that they start the game with. Because of this, all characters feel extremely similar to one another in how they play except for the mage’s ability to use a staff for ranged attacks rather than a shield.
Aside from a shallow talent tree, I have one, albeit small, gripe. You cannot rotate the camera at all. This might seem nitpicky, but it makes exploring feel less comfortable. For example you may enter into a new room and have a difficult time seeing what is ahead of you because you are running towards the screen. While you do have the ability to move the camera with the right analog stick, it still has a limited range.
For those that would rather not adventure alone, [email protected] also has a 2 player co-op mode. Kicking ass and exploring dungeons is a lot more fun with a friend, but the game becomes harder. Not only do enemies become more difficult to kill, but you also have to share the food that you come across. Unfortunately, there is no online multiplayer. As I said about Overcooked, the game would greatly benefit from adding it in the future.
For those that might be interested, there is also a built-in dungeon editor. Want to put your friends to the test or give yourself a more personalized challenge?
All in all, [email protected] is alright for those looking to play a game for a half hour or so at a time. Character progression is not super in depth, and the combat may feel a bit simplistic, but I believe that makes it more loyal to the original games of the Dungeon Crawler sub-genre.
[email protected] is available now on Playstation 4 and coming soon to Steam.
Summary: While [email protected] may not have much depth, it is great for killing time off in small chunks