On the surface, Ruins of Glitterdeep is a fun little romp through a progressively more challenging series of dungeons with a charming board-game aesthetic. Sadly however, whilst there are genuine elements of brilliance to this title, it’s launch has been mired with problems.
Lantern Boy are a three man team of former industry professionals who are just taking their first steps into the world of mobile gaming as an independent developer. It’s perhaps this virgin territory that has given rise to the biggest complaints we have with Glitterdeep, namely a misjudged pricing scheme and a bare bones release that’s doing its best to funnel you toward premium purchases. There are also performance issues underlying the game that see frequent crashes, slowdown and visual errors that mar the experience.
Graphically, the title uses an unanimated, board-game inspired visual style that allows for pretty 3D models to show off an interesting, sculpted art style. Whilst not animated themselves, these pieces are moved by invisible hands to recreate the concept of a physical game quite successfully. Sadly past the two main characters and limited generic enemy type there’s not a great deal more to see, with background and in-game elements being recycled through much of the games 49 dungeon romp. The game shifts the view on your playing grid in and out depending on its scale, which can make for a pretty experience at lower scales, but a confusing visual mess on larger boards that can take a moment to locate your hero. A strange choice was also made to produce chests as 2D illustrations mapped to some tiles, which sadly feels rushed. It’s a shame because when the game is playing well everything looks perfect, but it doesn’t take much to break the fragile façade. The title screen is the biggest indicator of this, with text on a plain blue background devoid of detail or interest.
In terms of audio, there’s a single musical track played through the game that is pleasant and runs for a decent duration before looping, but is easily disrupted and resets each time the player returns to the main town hub. Sound effects are comparatively loud and not particularly interesting, sticking to a selection of click and tapping noises for the most part. It’s a weak example of sound design.
There’s no real story to back up the gameplay in Glitterdeep, which is very much a wasted opportunity given that the three developers used campaign tools to establish an interesting name for the location and a borderline-comical sense of world that had the potential to channel a sense of satire on more serious dungeon crawls. If only a motivation were given for the games two protagonists, or a short text dialogue were included at the games out-set it would go a long way to making this title feel more original. Sadly we are left in the dark as to why we’re on a trek into the depths of Glitterdeep’s mine.
Gameplay mixes puzzle solving and light RPG mechanics into a relatively original take on the Dungeon Crawl subgenre. Each location is a grid, upon which three tiles will be exposed as chests, waiting for you to make your way to them and collect their contents. Collecting all three finished the level but you can retreat at any time with even one chest counting as a win for the short term-goal of unlocking the next chronological stage. You are dealt a hand of tiles that can be placed, one a turn, around the dungeon to build paths and lay walls. This is a satisfying mechanic that adds a good sense of player interaction to the title. Some stages will include monsters, which can at times lay their own tiles, and will actively seek to engage you in combat (which resolves automatically). On occasion these monsters will lay their own tiles, scuppering your plans. Tiles start off as simple open, walled and corner affairs, but open out into more interesting variants as you delve deeper and purchase new tile types for your deck. Some of these, including the dynamite tile, add additional layers of strategy to the game. You’ll escape with gold, which you will need to use to purchase more special tiles, health, attack points and armour in town in order to cope with later levels. Each level of the dungeon has an energy cost, and this is charged from a maximum total of 30, with energy replenishing over time in standard freemium fair. You can earn jewels with which to buy more energy, or potions to restore health in dungeons, but you’re ultimately better served levelling your health higher and trying again instead. At launch the game has one Dwarf for the player to control, and an optional second Priestess character who can be purchased for a mighty £9.99 (£19.99 with a bag of in-game currency), alongside the more traditional infinite energy purchase for £19.99.
As you can no doubt see, that’s a potential £30 for the secondary character and energy unlock, making this game significantly more expensive than your average premium title. This alone wouldn’t be an issue, as much of the game can be played for free, but there’s just not enough present at launch (updates are expected) to justify a purchase, or even to play deeper than floor 20 (by which time the game has established a second monster type aimed at having you purchase the Priestess). The core of Glitterdeep is extremely solid, and perhaps in a few months’ time it will be worth re-downloading this title and seeing if improvements have been made, but for now we can’t recommend playing in good faith.