Popup Dungeon PC Review
Popup Dungeon is a highly anticipated turn-based RPG that was funded on Kickstarter in 2014. It offers a simplistic gameplay loop mixed with a unique papercraft art style where you can play through readymade single player adventures or create your own from scratch.
Triple.B.Titles have tried to recreate a Dungeons and Dragons narrative and feel by giving you a board, a D20 and characters to interact with. When you aren’t in battle you will be deciding how your adventure plays out by selecting different outcomes and depending on what you choose you will either have to roll your die or fight some enemies. When the encounter begins you will move to a small area where you must explore to discover chests and defeat all the enemies. Once the enemies have been found you will then be thrown into a turn-based fight where you will use abilities found throughout your adventure to best the creatures you’re facing.
Popup Dungeon is not the most complex game; it has a simple premise however there are a lot of keywords you need to understand alongside the basics of turn based RPGs but unfortunately the tutorial is not very helpful. Instead of explaining why certain cards are better to play than others in different circumstances they only highlight the best cards to play green and the worst ones red which doesn’t help new players to understand why one is better than the other. This game would be perfect for people who are new to the turn based genre because it’s fairly simple and rewards you for dying by being a rogue-lite, however it doesn’t help in understanding the basics and instead the tutorial feels like it’s rushing through to get to the main game. There is a button you can press to search for a keyword and the game provides an explanation which wasn’t shown in the tutorial instead forcing me to Google it before I even knew that this feature existed.
When you aren’t in combat you get to choose your own adventure; further into the game you will have a variety of options to pick that, instead of changing the story will simply grant a variety of buffs/debuffs depending on if you pass the die rolls. This feature makes players feel like they’ve forged their own path by immersing them in the story but despite this freedom you are also constantly being interrupted by annoying characters cracking extremely outdated jokes about dank memes and trolling which personally took me out of the immersion and made this section feel like a chore. In one section you have to try and steal as many free biscuits from a restaurant as you can without getting noticed and it took me about 5 minutes just to pass all of the die rolls before I finally completed it. It was funny for a minute but quickly became annoying and the worst part is this is a rogue-lite game, so you’re supposed to die and then you must do it all again!
The combat is basic, which is fine, however this makes it very prone to becoming boring if done badly because early on your party members will only have about 2-3 abilities they can use and some of them can’t even be cast until certain conditions are met. This means you don’t have any real choices and because some abilities have limited uses per fight it can become difficult the longer combat drags on. I don’t understand why there aren’t any items that can be used in combat to replenish ability usage or heal party members as this would’ve added much more depth and strategy to the combat. At the end of each fight you can equip your party with different items and equipment you’ve received but there aren’t any character builds you can choose so instead you just equip the strictly better things and sell the worse ones.
The areas where you fight are lacking a lot of imagination and there is little in the way of creative design as they quickly become repetitive and uninteresting. Unlike other turn based games where there is cover you can hide behind and units in a bunch of different rooms there is nothing like this in Popup Dungeon; you’re all fighting really close together, there is no actual cover instead just a “Cover” stat your character has. There will be around 8 different rooms with fights in 2 of them, a chest in 1 of them and absolutely nothing in the other 5 and you can’t move the fight into them so I didn’t see the point in all this empty space which leaves the impression of an incomplete area design.
The creation side of the game is the best part and I feel like they put most of their effort into this section as you can create cards, levels, characters and even game modes. Pretty much anything you see in the game can be changed by players, but some things are much harder to create than others and I can see it taking a long time to make bigger adventures. This feature also relies on the game having a big community of players creating content for people like me who don’t enjoy the creation side of games as much as other people. The creation side is great but unfortunately it still doesn’t make up for the poor combat sections.
Overall Popup Dungeon is a very average game; first launching on Kickstarter April 3rd 2014, it has taken more than 6 years to release but the game and the humour already feels outdated. However Triple.B.Titles have done a great job at creating a papercraft style game and by adding more depth to the combat I could see this game sticking around for a while with the aid of a creative community to take the game to its limits.