Developer: Manalith Studios
Release Date: 28 April, 2023
Platform: Windows, Linux, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Turn-based Tactical
By Chris Picone, 28 April 2023
Not gonna lie: I see DANGEN Entertainment and I jump - it's a brand I recognise as a mark of quality. Dungeon Drafters is an interesting hybrid which is equal parts turn-based tactical, deckbuilder, and roguelike. It's a huge game and it really spoils you for options.
Dungeon Drafters lets you select from six characters, each with their own starting deck made from a mix of two of the game's archetype decks. For example, the mage uses a combination of the "raider" and "oracle" decks and the monk uses "oracle" and "warden." I won't go into detail but each deck favours melee or ranged attacks, mobility, battlefield manipulation, and so on. Dungeon Drafters then thrusts you straight into the action. Base gameplay is very simple; you get 3 action points which you can use to take any three actions - move one square, attack adjacent, or use card. The majority of the tactical element comes from your use of these cards in trying to control the battlefield, trying to defend yourself while efficiently destroying enemies which frequently outnumber or outgun you (or both). The beauty of having multiple decks is that the cards are often conditional or specialised so you really need to work out when to play, when to save, and how to synergise to get the most out of your action points. The dungeons are relatively lengthy and life/card replenishment is few and far between so you actually need to put a bit of thought into your turns if you plan to survive. The battle rooms also play an important part in guiding your strategy as they create bottlenecks and kill zones, affect line of sight, and also includes interesting obstacles like holes or ice tiles or traps like rotating ballistae. There's a huge range of enemies, each with their own movement and attack patterns - mummies that create wounds, jellies that split when killed, plants that shoot their spores, rooting you to the spot while hurting you, and sandworms that tunnel. Even better, each level uses the enemies in creative ways where their abilities and attacks synergise to create real tactical challenges. At the end of each run you return to an "Adventurer's Town" - and if you survived you even get to keep your loot. In the town you can purchase new cards to upgrade or change your decks (you don't have to stick to your initial archetypes) and there are also NPCs which give you quests that unlock new options. When you're ready, you can delve back in again - but unlike most roguelikes, you can choose from multiple dungeons (tower, forest, desert, etc.), each with their own distinct traps and enemies, and as you get stronger you can delve deeper into each dungeon. Some of the UI can be a little fiddly and the early dungeons maybe a tad too long but otherwise it's a very polished experience and the sheer volume of options in this game really is impressive.
The verdict? I loved it. Dungeon Drafters is an exceptional turn-based tactical game that will appeal to any fan of the genre. Unlike most though, what it might lack in a strong story, it absolutely makes up for in incredible variety and seemingly unlimited replayability with so many cards, enemies, and maps to explore.