Image via QCF Design

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind Begs You To Take Just One More Go Before Bed – Review

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is a refined version of one of the most addictive PC puzzle RPGs ever made.

We live in an era when many people would agree that gameplay is more important than graphics and that all of the ray-tracing and unlocked frame rates in the world can’t make up for a game that’s unbearable to play. Back in 2011, the game that championed this cause was the original Desktop Dungeons, which crammed a complex puzzle RPG roguelike into a tiny file size through a game world that wouldn’t have looked out of place during the 8-bit era of gaming. 

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This same fantastic game has been remade as Desktop Dungeons: Rewind, which is available now on PC via Steam with reworked graphics, new QoL features, and all the DLC content from Desktop Dungeons included while still retaining the same addictive and challenging gameplay that made the original so good.

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind’s Kingdom Building Is Just An Excuse To Keep Exploring

Image via QCF Design

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is light on story, as its fantasy world is little more than a comedic framework for the dungeon-delving. The player names a fledgling kingdom before running through a basic gameplay tutorial, where the last survivor of a traveling caravan that was attacked by monsters must make their way through a dangerous cave. Once they reach the other side, they take on the role of the Administrator of this new kingdom as they create buildings and clear out nearby dungeons to attract new citizens and adventurers to their land. Soon enough, monsters threaten this new kingdom, and it’s up to the Administrator to send heroes to deal with the problem.

The kingdom-building aspect of Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is a flimsy framework at best, which is something the game points out at every opportunity, with dialogue that pokes fun at every RPG and medieval fantasy trope in the book. Ultimately, no one is coming to a game like this for its scintillating story, as Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is about fighting monsters and taking their stuff. 

It’s here where the addictive core gameplay loop comes into play, as you conquer dungeons and use the loot you find to unlock new content. Fortunately, Desktop Dungeons: Rewind has one of the best gameplay loops in the genre, with an enjoyable grind that makes you keep coming back for more.

The dungeon part of Desktop Dungeons: Rewind combines a turn-based RPG with a map puzzle. Once you have crafted your perfect player character, the budding hero is dropped into a dungeon shrouded with a fog of war. As you explore the dungeon, monsters will appear on the map, with their level and stats helpfully displayed at all times. 

This fog of war serves another function, as removing it is the only way for you to heal or restore their mana outside the finite use of potions (or specific class abilities). But it’s not just the heroes that benefit from the fog of war, as the monsters will also heal when you explore the fog of war, which means that you must ration your exploration as a resource as the hero slowly peels away the darkness around them to boost their abilities just enough to take down an enemy and gain experience points.

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind tells you the result of their next attack, which is especially helpful if the upcoming exchange of blows will result in the hero’s death. As such, you always have the chance to carefully plan your next action, as you will know if it will kill the player character if you don’t prepare properly. This means that every dungeon in Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is a puzzle begging to be conquered through RPG cheesing. 

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind expects you to carefully use every class ability, potion, spell, and random piece of loot available to gain an advantage, as running blindly through the dungeon will result in an early grave. Think of it as a mixture between Chess and Dungeons & Dragons, as the hero is carefully moved from position to position, slowly whittling down the enemy host and gaining the power they need to take on the final boss of each stage.

Desktop Dungeons: Rewind Is The Chess-like Dungeon Crawler

Image via QCF Design

There are many mechanics that you can take advantage of in Desktop Dungeons: Rewind, ranging from spell glyphs that give the character access to magic, altars to different gods that reward the hero for following their doctrine, and the ability to boost stats by sacrificing items. It bears mentioning that these aren’t the kinds of mechanics that you can safely ignore, as Desktop Dungeons: Rewind can be incredibly challenging due to its randomized levels. This game will challenge your inner munchkin, as it throws brutal monsters at you and expects you to utilize every resource available at the right time to conquer them.

The unique exploration/resource management gameplay loop in Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is as addictive and rewarding as ever, with a challenge that hits the right dopamine button in the brain as you must gradually outwit the dungeon and grind down its hazards. Many RPGs have attempted to expand on the turn-based formula, but few have managed to do it in such a satisfying way. Rewind has that Civilization-style “Just one more turn” feeling, where the hours of gameplay can feel like seconds as the slow unveiling of the dungeons and its denizens happens before your eyes.

Once the hero has vanquished the boss of a dungeon and taken its loot for themself, you will be able to engage in the kingdom-building aspect of Desktop Dungeons: Rewind. The gold acquired between missions can be used to build and upgrade facilities, giving the player characters more options to use in dungeons and unlocking new kinds of stages to tackle. 

The gold earned in dungeons can also be used on things like equipment that can be brought into each stage. This slow build-up of options and resources also adds a great deal of content to the loop, especially as the game caps how much gold the player can earn at specific points, further pushing them to do just another run to unlock something that’s just out of their reach.

What’s New In Desktop Dungeons: Rewind?

Image via QCF Design

The Rewind mentioned in the game’s title is the big new feature in Desktop Dungeons: Rewind, allowing the player to reverse a few turns of actions upon death. This solves one of the biggest issues with the original game, as few titles punished a misclick worse than Desktop Dungeons, as it was easy to accidentally attack a powerful monster while not paying attention during exploration. The fact that you now have a second shot at a dungeon without needing to throw away all progress is an excellent QoL feature, especially for those who found the original to be frustratingly difficult.

The only real questionable design choice regarding Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is why the graphics have been upgraded, as the new visuals can best be described as serviceable, with character models and dungeon maps that won’t make a low-end graphics card break a sweat. The reason the graphical upgrade feels pointless is that the appeal of the original Desktop Dungeons can run on a potato with a battery stuck in it. A big part of the appeal of the original is that it can run on pretty much anything, while the graphical update in Desktop Dungeons: Rewind does provide a barrier to entry that isn’t present in its predecessor.

Outside of the Rewind feature, there is little in the way of new content in Desktop Dungeons: Rewind. The game features all of the DLC content from the original game, as well as things like Daily Challenges for players to undertake, but that’s it. Save files from the original game are compatible with Desktop Dungeons: Rewind for this very reason. Those coming in from its predecessor shouldn’t expect a sequel, as this is simply an updated version of Desktop Dungeons with a new look and some new features.

Related: The 10 best Roguelike games of all time

The Verdict

Ultimately, Desktop Dungeons: Rewind is a cleaned-up repackaging of one of the most visually basic PC games of all time, with the Dragon Quest overworld-style sprites of the original brought to life in a whole new way. The gameplay is still as gratifying as ever, with countless hours of content on offer to those who want to master the art of dungeon crawling. While it might be light on brand-new content for the veterans, it’s still a filling experience for those who want to gorge themselves on numbers wrapped up in images of monsters and spells, especially one that keeps you wanting to play a little more.

After all, what harm would one more run be? Okay, it’s five ‘o clock in the morning, and you’re going to go into work looking like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, but you’re only 100 gold away from unlocking the Paladin, and you want to have another shot at that asshole boss that killed you last time, so it’s back to the dungeon you go.

Gamepur team received a PC code for the purpose of this review.


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Author
Scott Baird
Scott has been writing for Gamepur since 2023, having been a former contributor to websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, Screen Rant, The Gamer, and TopTenz. A graduate of Edge Hill University in the UK, Scott started as a film student before moving into journalism. Scott covers Dungeons & Dragons, Final Fantasy, Pokémon, and MTG. He can be contacted on LinkedIn.