[Review] Drawngeon: Dungeons of Ink and Paper – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Drageus Games
  • Publisher: Drageus Games
  • Release Date: 24/12/2019
  • Price: £4.49 / $4.99
  • Review code provided by Drageus Games

Intro

2019 was a big year for me when it came to expanding my gaming horizons. I tried a few different things that I had never played before and ended up loving them, such as my first Persona game and my first Space Exploration game. My big jump in gaming this year wasn’t digital, though, but physical. 2019 was the first year that I tried playing Dungeons and Dragons. The first time that I played didn’t jive with me since it was in a group of 12, but being introduced through a tiny group of four really drew me in for good. That’s why Drawngeon: Dungeons of Ink and Paper caught my eye on a day where my D&D group ended up having to cancel.

Natural 20

Drawngeon is one of those games where the presentation just makes me smile. I’ve always been a big proponent of style and aesthetic in gaming, moreso over the years when I noticed the way that some genres can sometimes get homogenized in their presentation. Drawngeon sets a tone with the presentation and keeps with it in every way it can. While the style of the art took me a little while to get used to in a world where things tend to be as polished as they can be, I did quickly find myself to be utterly charmed by it. The sketchy look and layout of characters, monsters, items, and just the whole world really reminded me a lot of quickly jotted down notes at the game table and maps drawn out on a grid in a few seconds by an overexcited dungeon master. Most things are fairly clear of what they are meant to be and that is what really matters. It’s a charming twist in design that really endeared me to the game right off the bat and reminded me of my own doodle scribbled in the margins of notebooks.

This extends to the sound design as well. Each action that you take is accompanied by a variety of sounds that are all cute in their own way. It’s not super obvious but if you are paying attention you can hear the page turning, pencil strokes, paper tearing, and dice rolling. It is a downfall that the game entirely lacks music though. While I don’t mind a game that thrives on the sound of actions and I don’t want a little music loop that is only a minute long and repeats incessantly, this is one of those games that I tend to throw on a podcast or music of my own while I am playing as it can feel too quiet at times otherwise and the action sounds could get repetitive.

Delving deeper…

If you have an interest in rouge-like games, this might be worth at least taking an interest in as it does have a repeating loop of starting back from the beginning every time that you die, but with the added bonus of being able to spend points that you gained on previous journeys to better equip yourself for the next one with all manners of items. This removes a lot of the irritation at dying as you’re not losing everything but carrying over a few small benefits. I was supremely excited the first time that I was able to buy a battle axe to take in with me and use it to destroy my enemies without mercy. There is experience to level up as well while you are in each run so there is a consistent feeling of progression whether you live or die. The only time that the repetition starts to wear on me is when I die and do the same little quests at the beginning over and over. The game isn’t particularly long itself once you actually figure out what you’re doing, but there is a replay value to it. There are different classes to choose from at the start with each having their own feel and style that leaves playing as each one a different experience. 

There is a lack of direction when you first start playing that will be off-putting to a lot of players who need that. I don’t expect a game to hold my hand the whole way through or even through the entire first area, but I will admit that I was left floundering when I first started playing and it was more or less pick a class and go. There is a steep beginning learning curve that leaves me unable to recommend this to younger children for the most part, unfortunately. The most direction that you are given is little drawn buttons that are meant to indicate function, which could lead to a lot of irritation when you first begin playing if you are unsure of what to do.

Old school

The gameplay itself is grid based dungeon crawling in first person with very old school controls. You’re moving on a grid system, only turning slightly side to side for looking around  you with actual turning moving you a locked 90 degree rotation. Getting used to the controls took quite a while. I had never played old school dungeon crawlers growing up so this was a control scheme that I just was not used to playing in, the same way my little sister often struggles with getting the feel of the controls in my old Playstation One collection since her first non-handheld consoles were the PS3 and Wii. Playing it has a habit of just feeling dated. For some people that is going to be an upside and a nostalgia kick, but it didn’t do much for me and often left me feeling a little frustrated. On one hand, I recognized the way that it was thematically on the money, but on the other, I do like being able to play my games without control frustrations. Even after playing the game extensively, I still expect to be able to flick a stick for a slight turn rather than push a shoulder button to rotate on a grid. That is definitely completely on my ingrained gaming habits, but you should be ready for it going in if you’re not used to unconventional controls.

The controls frustrated me again in one aspect that I have yet to find a solution for. This was originally a PC game and that shows a lot in the way that it is controlled. The switch does have the benefit of the touch screen, but I was left having to play entirely in handheld or tabletop mode in order to make use of it. It simply is the best way to make use of the inventory management grid, which can be really annoying to navigate with just button presses. The lack of explanation comes into play with this as I still, sometimes struggle to get the items from my inventory and into the hands of NPCs because moving them from one to another did not reveal itself to me by any way other than touchscreen use for a long time. It was simpler just to touch the screen and be done with it, leaving me unable to recommend this game in docked mode without touchscreen use to minimize your struggle with the controls.

Return to the table

Drawngeon is a game that I am capable of recognizing has a lot of merit for certain people, but the problem is that those people are not me. That’s fine. Not every game has to be for everyone after all! It does, however, leave me in a sticky situation as a reviewer. This is not a game I would recommend to a lot of people since it is filling a very niche function in the gaming library, but if you are willing to try out some old school gaming style, the price is light enough that you could expand your palate with little risk.

Pros

  • Utterly charming style
  • Ability to eat literally any item
  • Sense of progression even when losing
  • Appealing price point

Cons

  • Clunky controls are hard to get a feel for
  • Will be off-putting for many players
  • Lack of direction leads to early game fumbling

Verdict
Old school challenge and style make this a hard start for unaccustomed players, though charming presentation might draw them in anyway.
3.5/5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *