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Dungeon of Elements Review

Dungeon of Elements (1)

What is the concept? In 2007, developer Steve Fawkner hoped to evade role-playing combat formula, which had habitually expressed combat as a succession of menu selections. The result was Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords- a title which converted the typical exchange of blows into a match-three, Bejeweled-like activity. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $20,000, Frogdice’s Dungeon of Elements attempts a similar endeavor, this time conveying conflict through puzzles which pay homage to the beloved NES title, Dr. Mario.

After installing the 166 megabyte file, Elements escorts players to the Alchemist creation screen, where an avatar is built by selecting from a variety of selections for gender, hair style, facial structure, complexion, and vocational background. Next, the game delivers a prologue through an amalgam of text and hand-drawn illustration- establishing a context where alchemy has fallen on out fashion. Currently, the discipline’s one solid status has been soiled by swindlers and cheats. Players are tasked with travelling across the newly unified three continents of Primordiax (a context that’s shared across Frogdice’s output), and not only ridding the realm of beasts, but also rescuing the reputation of the lost art. Although Elements aesthetics divulge its indie heritage, the game’s mythos is remarkably well-crafted, articulating a lore across a branching storyline.

Dungeon of Elements (4)

Delving into the title’s forty-odd missions finds clusters of enemies and the intermittent boss creature who all need to be eliminated before proceeding onward. Removing these adversaries is accomplished by creating a circuit of four-like colored objects from falling capsules. Unlike similar matching games, connections don’t have to be across horizontal or vertical lines, any quartet of elemental objects removes the collection from the playfield. To keep things interesting, some stages contain obstructions on the borders of the playfield while t sporadically appearing cavities can swallow your capsules. Fortunately, players have a few devices at their disposal- from weapons which can help eliminate heard to reach foes to shields which slow the decent of the ever-escalating plummeting pills.

What are the game’s strengths? Much like Puzzle Quest, Dungeon of Elements demonstrates that a puzzle game with an overarching goal can be surprisingly addictive. With stages being fairly brief- between five and ten minutes if you don’t muck things up, it’s easy to get sucked into the ‘just one more level’ rationalization. Since many of the title’s mechanics vary add variety, the tedium often associated with traditional puzzlers is often offset.

Dungeon of Elements (2)

Much of this nuance stems from the game’s alchemy system, where players can combine any two items in hopes of crafting a superior object. Since the game doesn’t extend much in the way tutelage, experimentation seems to be encouraged, which can lead to a few instances of wasted resources. However, once players stumble upon a recipe, Elements remembers the formula, allowing duplicates to be easily made. Pleasingly, successful techniques not allow provide advantages on the playfield, but can also be sold, giving the player a nice cushion of currency.

As noted, variation is one of Dungeon of Elements’ main virtues. Not only do the game’s numerous environments look physically different, but there’s enough diversity in arrangement, complications, and enemy configurations to make each locale feel distinctive. Although many of the game’s musical pieces are of middling quality, there’s a very broad range in thematic style, with brooding synthesizer-driven songs to tunes that sound carnivalesque.

Dungeon of Elements (3)

It should be stated that even with the game’s settings cranked to capacity, Dungeon of Elements is extremely judicious with system resources. On a low-end laptop, the title only used about seven percent of the machine’s CPU capacity, or about the same as a few Flash-driven browser pages. Stability should also be mentioned; I didn’t experience a single crash or glitch across more than fifteen hours of play.

What are the game’s weaknesses? Regretfully a few design decisions divulge Elements’ indie heritage. During combat, the game’s alchemical avatar is given a corner of the screen, but the real estate seem squandered. Save for the ability to spin the protagonist, the hero stands lifeless as a lead figurine, displaying no movement or emotion after defeating an Orc king. Ideally, Frogdice would offer either a casting animation or at least victory pose to justify the presence of the on-screen persona. Similarly, a perspective cam situated below the hero is largely superfluous, offering only a 3D outlook on the action.

Dungeon of Elements (5)

That’s not to say everything is copacetic with the main playfield. Occasionally, diminutive obstructions can be hard to see, impairing capsule placement. Even without impediments around, rotating pills near walls or other fragments can intermittently result in unexpected positioning of the active piece. What’s more the use of color-coded capsules certainly suggest Dr. Mario, but these brightly tablets don’t mesh with Dungeon of Elements’ fantasy-themed world. Although the game attempts to explain pieces as being elementally-based and leaving smoke trails, the explanation seems forced.

Is it worth the money? Admittedly, Dungeon of Elements isn’t a visual knockout. While perks such as a bestiary, interactive map, and on-screen avatar are eye-catching, the game also offers a selection of austere graphical elements. That said, the occasional unadorned aesthetic shouldn’t prohibit players from giving Elements a try. Once players hit the battlefield, they’ll find an engaging title that’s hard to abandon.

What is the concept? In 2007, developer Steve Fawkner hoped to evade role-playing combat formula, which had habitually expressed combat as a succession of menu selections. The result was Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords- a title which converted the typical exchange of blows into a match-three, Bejeweled-like activity. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $20,000, Frogdice’s Dungeon of Elements attempts a similar endeavor, this time conveying conflict through puzzles which pay homage to the beloved NES title, Dr. Mario. After installing the 166 megabyte file, Elements escorts players to the Alchemist creation screen, where an avatar is…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 85%
Story - 80%
Aesthetics - 65%
Content - 80%
Accessibility - 80%

78%

Good

Summary : A fusion of fantasy role-playing and Dr. Mario-like puzzling make Dungeon of Elements an addictive indie diversion.

User Rating: 3.18 ( 5 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

28 comments

  1. Looks kind of cool. Glad to see you guys reviewing indies.

    BTW- Need moar IndieOutlook!

  2. Looks cool. Always loved Dr. Mario. Is this on Steam?

  3. Nice review, Robert. I’d love to play a demo. Is there one available?

  4. I like this review format. Easy to read and gives me answers to the big questions. I would like to see price/publisher/developer listed for games.

    Hows the difficulty level in the game?

  5. Pills in high fantasy? What’s wrong with that?

  6. Looks pretty cool. I loved Puzzle Quest. Sank hours into that one.

  7. How many people worked on the game? If 2 or 3 then DOE is pretty amazing. $20k is nothing compared to Double Fine’s funding.

  8. I’d love to see the game as part of a bundle. $20 seems a bit pricey.

  9. Looks pretty cool. Got my Greenlight vote, even though Stream is a popularity contest.

  10. Hey all. One of the developers here. First, I want to say THANK YOU to Robert for playing, reviewing, and enjoying the game. Second, I’ll try to address comments here already and I will check back to answer questions.

    COST: Use the discount code “GREENLIT” and the game is only $9.99

    STEAM: We are not on Steam yet, but SOON. Everyone who backed our Kickstarter or buys the game direct from us will get a FREE STEAM KEY when we are Greenlit. Here is our Greenlight link: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=179825869

    CAPSULES (not pills! :P): These items go all the way back to our text mud/online RPG, Threshold (http://www.thresholdrpg.com). Exploding capsules were a magic item created by the Alchemists guild to deal with invaders. Then we made a mini-game for our online game Coin ‘n Carry using the capsules. Then we made Dungeon of Elements. So the exploding capsules have a very long history throughout our games.

    DEMO: We decided not to make a demo for this game. I understand the benefits of a demo, and we did have one for our previous game Tower of Elements. But ultimately, the costs and difficulty of maintaining a separate development branch for the demo gets really onerous. We are trying to keep our costs down and pour all of our resources directly into our games.

    We had a lot of Twitch channels and Youtube Let’s Play channels take an interest in DoE, and they played the game (and made videos) for people to see. I hope maybe that helps in lieu of a demo:

    http://frogdice.com/dungeon-of-elements/doe-publicity/

    Thanks again for everyone’s interest. As I said, I will check back to answer more questions.

    -Michael Hartman

    • Capsules, not pills Robert. Pills are for old men.

      • It’s a seemingly small difference that’s important.

        Like those people who call him May-ree-io. That kills me ear every time I hear it.

    • Seems like a cool game. DEagle, why not get these guys on the podcast?

      Any plans foe DOE to be in a bundle?

    • Can you give us background on the game?

      $20K is nothing. How did you manage to make a game on it? How long did it take to make DoE? How big is the team?

    • Thanks for answering questions, Michael. DoE looks really cool. Might have to grab it.

  11. Capsule Gate, its a bigger scandal that Doritogate!

    What were you thinking not researching the mud, Robert?

  12. They do look like Dr. Mario’s pills. Robert is old school, that way.

  13. Missed the $4.99 last month. Hopefully, there will be another one.

  14. $4.99 was for a single day for a very special thing we did with about 20 web sites. It would have to be something pretty unique and epic for us to consider doing that again.

    The problem with the “race to the bottom” so many indie games and mobile apps engage in is that ultimately it isn’t sustainable. You take your typical small indie studio with 3-10 people. They work on a game for 6-12 months. Really fast you’re talking about the cost to make even a small indie game is well over $100k. Selling your game at $10, you likely keep $7 or less depending on the portal or method of sale. So you need to sell 15,000+ copies just to break even. If you start selling your game for even less, its much longer before you’re actually able to survive.

    Sorry for the boring indie game economics! 🙂

    We poured an enormous amount of time, energy, and passion into the game. The feedback we have received indicate this came out in the final product. Given that, we hope people will value it at a sustainable price that allows us to stay in business and keep making games.

    • Not boring at all. I love hearing honest from developers. Makes me more likely to support their game.

  15. For anyone interested in buying DoE as part of a bundle, the title is included in the latest Indie Royale offer: The Nutcracker Bundle: http://www.indieroyale.com/

    Exceptional deal. I bought two!