The Dungeon Rules by Ivan Moraleja Games
The Dungeon Rules is a fascinating hybrid of dungeon-crawling, card-based combat, and Sokoban-style box-pushing puzzles. Claiming to be the “most challenging game you can currently face,” The Dungeon Rules strives to knit these disparate qualities into a tough, puzzle-based exploration game with 50 levels of tricky brainteasers to confound would-be adventurers.
Learn Your Rules
A short, optional tutorial is provided to go over the basics of The Dungeon Rules. It moves quickly from introducing rudimentary features like controls to presenting some simple puzzles.
Moving from this into the main game, I soon found the promised challenge. After a few levels, things start to get tricky, and the difficulty begins to dial up at a rapid pace. Health and resources aren’t replenished between levels, so efficiently navigating each room while conserving these resources becomes important.
The Dungeon Rules is built around two key systems: the primary world navigation view where boxes must be pushed onto switches to open doors, and the combat mode where enemies must be battled with an assortment of cards.
Both modes feature collectible cards. While exploring, these cards are used to phase or blast through walls, destroy crates (or enemies), shift crates around, and more. In battle, the cards take a front-seat role in providing the various means of attack.
Boxes and Battles
The exploration and puzzle system is well conceived and executed. Many of the box-shifting puzzles can be especially fiddly and require creative thinking to overcome. The combat system, meanwhile, is functional and interesting, but it has some problems that are detrimental to both halves of the game.
The basics of combat are built around either attacking with a weapon card, dealing a random amount of damage within a certain range (depending on the weapon), or blocking an equally random amount of damage with a shield or armor card. Different cards deal or block different amounts of damage, and two of these cards – the basic sword and shield – can be used as many times as you want.
While armor can block a set amount of damage, the basic shield blocks between 1 and 3 points. Enemy attacks deal a random amount of damage, as well, with tougher enemies having wider ranges, which can lead to a situation where luck plays a sizeable role in defeating any particular foe.
This issue grows more pressing as attrition kicks in and health gets low. As mentioned, health isn’t restored between levels (randomly acquired potion cards play this role), so it’s possible to start levels with very low health and then have to repeatedly battle enemies, waiting for the optimal roll on damage and blocking numbers.
These problems in the combat system wouldn’t be as harmful if they weren’t a component of a puzzle game. Puzzling through a level naturally requires a little trial and error, so it’s occasionally necessary to restart a floor. When this happens, all combat progress resets, as well; all acquired items are lost and every foe is respawned.
Combining skill-based puzzling with this luck-based combat risks making both frustrating.
The Dungeon Rules is an intriguing combination of systems that don’t quite gel as well as they could. I think this could be rectified either by reconsidering the random qualities of combat or by providing a rewind feature to ensure that puzzling errors don’t prompt a need to revisit every fight on a level. There is an often fun challenge here, and anyone willing to look past some quibbles and the luck-based combat will find a tough puzzler with a simple but charming aesthetic.
The Dungeon Rules is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for The Dungeon Rules below: