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Delver’s Drop Preview: A Challenging, Top-Down Castle Crashers

At PAX in Boston a couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to play short demo of upcoming indie title Delver’s Drop by developer Pixelscopic. The top-down dungeon crawling game features upbeat music, vibrant colors, a wide range of enemies, and a suitable challenge for action gamers.

I began my demo playing as the purple-robed rogue (a gladiator and sorcerer class will also be available in the final game). After getting a hang of the controls, I navigated the castle-themed dungeon floor, smashing barrels and boxes to grab some money, which—although it was useless in the demo—is sure to be used for potions or weapons in the finished title. I noticed right away how clean and unique the game looked. The art style felt like a cel-shaded version of Behemoth’s Castle Crashers, and the bright colors mixed with the nice lighting gave an appearance equally beautiful and sinister. The music’s pace was on par with the art direction, providing an overall enjoyable sensory experience.

In the middle of the room I was exploring was a giant hole. With nowhere else to go, I dove in, landing on a new floor below. As soon as I hit the ground, I was swarmed by a group of enemies. Before I even had my bearings, I was dead. It took me a whole 30 seconds to die. Either I’m terrible at games (which I like to think I’m not), or Delver’s Drop won’t be a simple walk in the park.

After respawning, I noticed that I was in a new dungeon. That’s when I realized that each dungeon is randomly generated, meaning no two playthroughs will be the same. Each floor can also have a randomly generated puzzle. For instance, sometimes before being able to drop to a new floor to continue, the middle hole must be opened by completing a simple puzzle such as pressing a hidden button in the dungeon. The floor I respawned on featured one such challenge. After completing it, I dropped to a new level to face my fate.

I found myself on a floor with narrow paths floating over fatal drops and cannons shooting fireballs in my direction. In order to survive, I had to navigate the precariously placed paths without falling into the abyss. Because the game is physics-based, getting hit causes your character to recoil backwards, meaning one hit and I could be cast off the edge. In the end, however, it was my own clumsiness that was my downfall. By hovering too close to the lip of deadly hole, I fell in, my character almost sucked into it by the physics engine. Take care, gamers; do not fall prey to the fatal vacuum pits.

After this unfair death shortly after my last, I felt a little cheated. This game was by no means easy, and the sometimes wonky physics did nothing to alleviate my pain. Still, I gave the game a third try. After respawning in yet another new dungeon, I dropped down the middle hole to a new level. This one was much like the last, only the paths were wider and the fireballs were less frequent. I felt relieved to know I might have a chance to actually complete a floor when I noticed that my one path to salvation was littered with enemies. I charged in, swinging like a madman, only to have one of my adversaries explode in my face upon death, killing me yet again.

Delver’s Drop is tough. It’s fast-paced and unrelenting, but it was refreshing. The game didn’t feel like its goal was to tell a story or provide an emotional narrative for the player but to give them a challenging, arcade-like title with exceptional replay value. In this instance, the Delver’s Drop succeeds. In my time with the game, I acquired items unique to the rogue, such as a crossbow and bombs, and I’m sure the other classes have abilities unique to them as well, furthering the replay value of the title.  As frustrating as it felt to die again and again in my short demo, it was a learning process, and maybe that was the point.

Delver’s Drop has just recently reached its Kickstarter goal, and it’s been Greenlit for Steam, meaning it won’t be long before players can get their hands on this peppy title when it releases for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux. Until then, make sure you stock up on health potions; you’re going to need them.