Review: Dungeon of Elements

Jun 3, 2014

Billed as a cross between a puzzler and an RPG, Dungeon of Elements from Frogdice Games is a fun and addicting PC puzzle game which places you in the role of a junior alchemist clearing out dungeons to bring back elements for your alchemical college.

doe2The base gameplay is lifted straight from Dr. Mario; you’ll navigate different colored pills towards enemies in an effort to get 4 of the same color in order to defeat your foes and eventually clear the room. The twist here, though, is that every room is different – some are set in cemetery crypts, others in sewers, still others in abandoned towers – and each has unique obstacles you’re required to navigate around. In addition, the game is divided into chapters, and at the end of each chapter you’ll face a boss with individual abilities like teleporting around the screen or throwing up barriers to your alchemical pills. There’s also a nifty little corner screen where you can see a 3D representation of the room you’re clearing out, complete with depictions of your enemies and obstacles like fallen bookcases or tombstones. It all sets the game apart from what might have felt like a ripoff of other games and truly gives Dungeon of Elements its own style.

During play, you also have the use of weapons, which you can use to “cheat” and clear out enemies without making matches. These are usable only so often, however, so you won’t get away with clearing a level this way. The boots you wear and the shield you wield also affects how fast or slow your pills fall, and there are options to swap out or upgrade each.

doe4As you defeat enemies, they’ll drop loot like coins, weapons, scrolls, and essences of the four elements. The latter are especially important, as in between levels you can use the game’s slick crafting system to create a wide variety of usable items like fire bombs or aquatic swords as you play through the next level. This is where the game really sets itself apart – you have figure many recipes out through trial and error, and there are a ton of possible combinations to upgrade your weapons, boots, or create entirely new offensive tools.

doe3While the game does have a story, it’s pretty generic and bare-bones, and the RPG elements are mostly for show. You can create your own character with some pretty limited options for customization, but none of your character choices affect gameplay, just how your avatar looks as you play through the levels. The world map gives you the opportunity to go back and play levels you’ve already beaten, but you’re pretty much on one set path. It would have been interesting to see this game branch out in a non-linear mission-based manner.

Your enemies will vary in name from level to level – you’ll be fighting D’orcs (real in-game name) in one level, skeletons in the next, giant rats in another. The only real difference between them, though, are their name and what they look like in the corner screen; they’re all just essentially static colored objects you have to make matches with. I would have liked to see some unique variations in behavior from enemy to enemy.

Graphically the game isn’t terribly sophisticated – however, I don’t have a top-of-the-line PC so this worked out in my favor. You’ll be too busy clearing out dungeons to worry about how pretty it looks anyway, and as Frogdice is an indie developer, I’m more than willing to give them a pass on this. I really enjoyed the music – at times moody and atmospheric, other times fast-paced and frenetic, it’s done well and adds to the setting of the game.

All in all, Dungeon of Elements is a pretty fun little game – I found myself really wanting to play through the next level to get more elements and loot. The crafting system was a smart addition as I also wanted to keep trying out different recipes. It’s a great way to pass the time, and if games like Tetris and Dr. Mario are up your alley, then you’ll find this to be a cool game that builds on what’s come before it.