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The creatively named Delvers' Dash is a roguelike cooperative racing game that features a World of Warcraft aesthetic and fairly complex game play for a racing game. To my knowledge, random level generation and racing have never been combined which makes this game something of a first. The plot is that the queen of the dark elves has stolen the Sun Stone and fled into the underworld with it. Now it's up to a band of brave adventurers to get it back lest the surface world never see another sunrise. Fortunately the underworld is not some giant maze, it's just a downward path. Unfortunately, it's still very much full of traps and monsters.

Players get to choose between four classes (Knight, Mage, Thief, and Priest) and four races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling) for a total of sixteen combinations. Each class has certain perks and the races have strengths and weaknesses. The knight is the only one with melee attacks, the thief disables traps when he passes over them, the wizard casts spells that buff party members and debuff enemies in range, and the priest heals hit points and dispels curses. The human gets nothing (good or bad) and always rides a horse, the elf detects secret doors but gets fewer hit points and rides either a unicorn or a stag, the dwarf has more hit points and has bad turning and acceleration but great top speed in his steam punk mine cart/go cart contraption, and the halfling rides a pig and is too short to be affected by a number of traps. The gameplay is pretty simple, descend into the underworld as fast as you can without dying. Characters gain levels increasing in hit points and powers as they descend and fight the occasional clustering of monsters, avoid traps, or grab loot on the way down. Occasionally, the game will drop the players in an arena where they either have to solve a puzzle or fight a boss monster that's sitting on the only way down. Now remember the plot from earlier? All of these obstacles exist to eat into your time. If you don't get to the queen before she passes through the gates to her kingdom, that's it. No more sun, dark elves win.

This is where the game will either draw you in or lose you completely because this is a game of time management, shared between people, and dependent on the whims of RNGesus since the level is randomly generated. If you screw up early and waste a lot of time it often becomes next to impossible to win which is bad when the average game lasts twenty to thirty minutes. Other times it barely takes any effort at all. Don't misunderstand me. This is a cool game. The melding of three fairly disparate genres into a single product is really quite impressive but I'm just not sure who they were expecting to like this game. I expect WoW players will probably find it shallow and repetitive because it has little in the way of game progression (there are unlockables but I never got far enough in to find them) and I think racing gamers will find it convoluted and be turned off by the cooperative elements. This game could be a godsend for a gaming group with a lot of patience or a masochistic streak but for most people I expect it won't do much. It has single player options and competitive racing modes but it's pretty clear that these were afterthoughts. I give the game a 3/10 for most people, a 6/10 for anybody who has a close collection gaming buddies who like any two of cooperative play, randomness, and racing games, and 9/10 for groups that like all three. It's really cool both at the level of concept and execution but the collection of mechanics just don't have an ecological niche in the gaming landscape and I doubt they ever will.

reQuest 2020

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