I think I’ve developed a pretty bad Delver problem.
Every time I get a minute where I’m not having to do something like ‘work’ or ‘pay attention to someone’, I’m firing up Delver and having another crack at retrieving the Yithidian Orb. If I need to go to the toilet, it is also time for a Delver run. Squeezed onto the District Line is also ‘squeeze in a game of Delver time’.
Delver is currently a really simplistic roguelike for Android, albeit it one an impressive first-person 3D engine powering it all. The art style is that pixel/retro only in three dimensions look that is so popular with the indie crowd at the minute, but don’t let that put you off. Each game begins with you stood at the entrance to a randomly generated dungeon full of bastards, which you have to navigate, descending through the floors until you find the Orb, before fighting your way all the way back to the top. Sounds simple, and it is, if it weren’t for the aforementioned bastards that stand in your way.
The dungeon is full of slimes, bats, skeletons - the usual nastiness that makes a dungeon explorers life a misery. A couple of them have ranged magic attacks, but most of them just walk up alongside you and start depleting your health, so keeping them away and avoiding getting mobbed is the main key to survival. You can either trade blows with them at point blank range, or charge up your attacks which knock enemies way as well as dealing more damage, with an obvious longer start up time. It is a simple risk/reward system for a simple game. The risk, of course, being DEATH.
Permanent death. Like all good roguelikes, the big sleep is just one sneaky skeleton away. No saving your game before a particularly nasty encounter and loading after you’ve been killed; lose all your hearts, and you’re unceremoniously dumped back on the title screen. Slapping a piece of armour on or killing enough beasts to level up will grant you more health and a longer survival time when put up against the wall by a skeletal mage, but in Delver it really is a case kill or be killed. Needless to say, this keeps the otherwise simplistic combat tense, and lifts the enemies from the basic A.I wanders to a considerable threat in numbers.
This simplicity is partly down to the fact that Delver has been released in an alpha state, with new bug fixes and the odd new feature being patched in on a near daily basis. At the minute there are only three types of blade weapon offering you little more than a bit more damage and a bit more range. There are no classes, no magic spells outside of the generic ‘magic missile’ projected from the various wands you find and all the potions you find restore your health.
Delver is a good fit for mobile gaming, with each play providing you with either a few pieces of new loot and some progress towards your goal, or your demise. Although still in alpha, this simplicity is its strength, perfect for a proper sit down session or a quick blast while waiting for your train. Developer Chad Guddigan has promised a whole stack of new features as Delver strides its way to full release; everything from a variety of magic powers to potions with differing effects all the way to a full-blown bloody overworld has been put on the table as a possibility. All of these will build on an already solid base, improving on a game that is already proving to be a lot of fun even in this barebones state. Needless to say, comparisons to another fairly successful indie game have started to appear all over the internet.
Comparisons to Minecraft are of course, utterly unfair and based almost exclusively on the way it looks and the fact it has been released as an alpha. Nothing should have to ever deal with those lofty expectations. I hope, however, much like Notch’s all-conquering masterpiece, watching it grow from humble beginnings to fully-featured release could be an awesome journey and one well worth the £2.48 to help make it happen.