Ancient Dungeon Review – Vibrant Voxel Violence
Ancient Dungeon is an excellent roguelike and a great example of how a solid foundation means you don’t need to break the mold. Read on for our full Ancient Dungeon review for Meta Quest 2.
There’s something about wandering through a diorama of voxels in VR that just never gets old. The weird combination of the innate immersion of a headset and the uncanny vibe of the blocky world around you makes for an experience that always feels unique, even though other games have done it before.
However, one area where VR roguelike Ancient Dungeon shines is the sheer destruction of it all. Vines hang from the ceilings, boxes litter the hallways and enemies swarm around you from all sides. You can use your sword to take care of them with ease, but you might spend just as much time enjoying the sheer pleasure of cutting down vines.
Of course, this isn’t a game about horticulture – Ancient Dungeon is all about dungeon-crawling, looting everything you see and getting killed (or trying not to). You start as a humble adventurer with no upgrades, but each time you die you’ll gain currency that you can use to unlock benefits like secret paths in the dungeon, cheaper stores and other passives. That’s the overarching progression system, but the moment-to-moment gameplay is largely defined by two things: your reaction speed and the items you pick up.
Improving your reaction speed over subsequent runs is a huge part of what makes the progression in Ancient Dungeon so rewarding. There are multiple layers to the dungeon, each with randomized layouts and enemies hidden around nearly every corner. As you work your way into the depths of the dungeon, you’ll encounter more and more traps and hazards. Enemies will also get faster, gain different moves and require a little more core strength to dodge.
At first, you’ll be dodging slimes, lurching zombies and projectile-firing plants. However, later areas offer increasing challenges – zombies will get up close and personal, while skeletons can perform powerful leaping attacks covering huge ground. You’ll even encounter strange flying enemies that shoot bullet hell magic spells with reckless abandon.
Thankfully, by the time you reach these enemies, you should be a powerhouse, thanks to the plethora of items that Ancient Dungeon throws at you. As with many roguelikes, the number and value of items you find is randomized, but each run can feel completely different depending on which items you manage to pick up. Take Bottled Lightning, for example, which increases the size and damage of your projectiles over time, but resets every time you hit an enemy. With weapons like the crossbow, this means you’ll essentially be playing a charged shot build. However, even with the basic sword and throwing dagger combination – the default weapon set – the latter grows almost as large as the former, suddenly becoming a viable main weapon on its own.
Along with the permanent items that add buffs, you can also find an array of different one-use items. You can store one of these on each of your wrists, which feels great. Examples include apples that restore your health, along with a variety of different orbs that have special effects. One of the best is the Orb of Protection, which grants you ten seconds of invulnerability when thrown at your feet. That being said, the Orb of Obliteration is basically a grenade you can yeet at troublesome enemies, and that’s hard to argue with too.
There’s not a single thing here that would have Ancient Dungeon making a name for itself amidst existing roguelikes. However, taking this core gameplay and putting it in VR, with your heart racing as enemies throw themselves at you, allows the sheer solidity of each individual part to come together into an incredibly satisfying experience. It may not be reinventing the wheel, but it also doesn’t have to.
The only other criticism that could be leveled at Ancient Dungeon is that it will be an intense experience for those who are newer to VR. If you’re yet to build up your VR legs, you’re going to feel ill very quickly. You can choose between a few options like smooth movement (the default) and teleportation (which is still listed as experimental), along with turn options and a comfort vignette, but the pace of combat still makes for an occasionally stomach-lurching experience.
The good news is that you can blitz runs in under 15 minutes if you’re brave, keeping the play sessions on the shorter side. In that way, it’s not a bad game to play while getting used to VR. However, if you’re looking for something more comfortable for your first VR roguelike, maybe consider Mothergunship: Forge instead.
Ancient Dungeon Review – Final Impressions
Ancient Dungeon isn’t revolutionary, but it features incredibly satisfying combat and an ever-changing experience, thanks to the randomized items and dungeon layouts. Combined with a beautiful visual style, it’s hard not to have a good time. For fans of roguelikes and hitting things with swords, Ancient Dungeon comfortably settles in on Quest as one of the better options available in the genre.
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