Game Review: Dungeon Encounters (Square Enix)

Dungeon Encounters is a punishment and a lesson for me being who I am.

Dungeon Encounters has been described as a minimalist, bare-bones RPG. There's no real plot. Graphics are limited to a few illustations. All that's left is exploration of 100 grid-based maps furnished with nothing more than raw hex codes, and an RPG combat system.

It turns out that methodically crawling through 100 levels, bashing at each of the foes in turn to slowly level up is tedious as hell, but irresistable to the completionist streak in me. I did so, traversing all 100 levels in order (the main endgame is actually on floor 90, but there's a few post-game extras for those who are gluttons for punishment), and boy was it boring and slow. Just like a regular RPG without the bits that turn out, in retrospect, to be the good bits.

The game provides lessons about myself. I'm a mathsy kind of person, so I assumed that when I played e.g. Final Fantasy VII, I kind of enjoyed the tactical combat elements (apart from the incredibly slow animations near the end). Turns out, on further reflection, it was the plot that kept me going. I do like the challenge of an interesting puzzle, but easily clobbering baddies that are just weaker enough than me is actually very boring.

However, this is not the only way to play the game. You can sneak around enemy encounters. Many of the most tedious bits can be circumvented by grabbing items and skills from later in the game and using them. Playing strategically rather than bludgeoning through can apparently work quite effectively. Yet I didn't. I just whacked all the baddies in linear order until they're gone.

At some level, I realised the alternative was possible, and probably faster, but likely to be messier, and I'd miss things. An affront to my inner completionist. So, I get the fundamental takeaway that while getting a sense of completion can be very satisfying, and while this streak is useful to drive through big challenges to completion while applying attention to detail, I should really learn when to cut my losses.

The game? Basically not recommended. There are all kinds of other RPG-like strategy games that work like an interesting puzzle, that are much more worth playing. The combat music, classical pieces arranged for the electric guitar, rocks, though.

Posted 2021-12-07.