Content of the article: "Pixel Dungeon: Quick introduction to forks and clones"
The Pixel Dungeon game was around for quite some time, and has gathered its own vast player base. It derives straight from classic ASCII-based randomly generated roguelike dungeon crawlers (you know the names), but introduces a more streamlined approach, which may appeal even for non-hardcore gamers. It is easier in some way, but still maintains an incredible depth, complex mechanics and steep learning curve, making sure you will die a lot during your playthrough, but will inevitably learn something new each time.
The developer made a clever move to open the source code of his project, which of course inspired other skillful developers to make forks from the game and incorporate their own clever ideas, in order to produce new masterpieces. There are quite a lot of them, and when I searched Google Play for "Pixel Dungeon", I was presented with a pretty long list. Not knowing what to pick, I started asking people about their preferences, but didn't have much success. Not many of them actually tried to compare different forks and stopped their choice on some specific one after briefly trying it.
So in order to develop my own unbiased opinion, I decided to install and play each and every clone available out there. The results do not claim any degree of academic accuracy, but may help other curios minds with their struggle to pick the right game.
The original. The one that started it all. Choose one of four heroes, each with different skills and abilities, and venture on a quest full of dangers to acquire the legendary Amulet of Yendor (I have no idea, who this Yendor dude is, but there is a common tradition for lots of roguelike games to make his amulet an ultimate victory goal). Fight monsters, collect loot, wield weapons, cast spells, disable traps, read scrolls, drink potions, defeat bosses, explore, learn, die a lot. There is a lot to be said about Pixel Dungeon, but I'd rather not – the biggest charm of the game is exploration, discovery, learning new stuff, grasping game mechanics, failing, and getting better with each try.
Shattered Pixel Dungeon.
What I wanted to talk about, though, is Shattered Pixel. Started as an attempt to tweak original PD to make it more balanced, it eventually grew into a separate game with quite a lot of differences. Most of them relate to inner game mechanics and not visible to average player. Aside from minor UI changes, you won't notice the differences from the two, until you play a lot of runs. So picking one over another is a matter of taste at this point.
Needed to be said that all of the games listed below are forks from either Pixel Dungeon, or Shattered Pixel. Going too much into the technical details and specifying the exact version they were cloned from has little to no sense, so instead we rather focus on gameplay differences: in the end, this is the only criteria the gamer would rely on when choosing to install specific clone.
With this being said, here we go! (Note: The games are listed in alphabetical order – I am not giving preferences to one over the other).
Hilarious restyling of the original Pixel Dungeon game. Instead of exploring stinking City dungeon in fantasy setting, we now explore the basement area of Classical Gymnasium, playing as one of the professors working there. Instead of fighting monsters, we will be chasing truants and lazybones, kicking their brains out with heavy library books. Every location and item in the game is re-made with student thematic in mind. We will have notebooks, markers, computers, office chairs, coffee pots, broken bottles, cafeterias and other integral attributes of student life. All this accompanied by ridiculous music and crazy sound effects. Absolute must-have for all the nerds out there (especially the ones familiar with Russian language – the game is translated only partially).
It's hard to tell the difference from the original Pixel Dungeon. It looks and plays exactly the same. And there is no craft in it. The screenshots in the store show something different, with adjusted color scheme and reworked textures, but in reality we get the same PD. Probably the mod was not correctly applied due to some bugs. The developer might fix this in the future (the last update was not a long time ago), so we'll see.
A fork from original Pixel Dungeon, which lets you choose difficulty level at the beginning of the run and adjusts various game coefficients based on your selection. Allows to disable permadeath for good and enjoy the game as your average casual dungeon crawler. Features storage chest for 5 items you can transfer between floors. Has optional degradation feature, where items you carry will deteriorate over time. Has additional progression system, where you gain skill points each level and can spend them to learn useful passive abilities. And, most importantly, rats now throw trash at you from the distance.
Goblins Pixel Dungeon.
Replaces regular character classes with goblin characters (check
Hell Dungeon REWARDED.
Same as regular Pixel Dungeon, except the floor maps are twice as big and loot amount increases tenfold (not enough inventory space to carry it around). More enemies, more items, more everything. For gigantomaniacs.
Moonshine Pixel Dungeon.
A very well made improvement to Shattered Pixel code with two available genders for each character class, and additional Gunslinger class, who specializes in wielding firearms and explosives. New weapons, items, monsters and even bosses were added. There are additional challenges you can complete to get new badges. A lot of UI improvements were implemented as well. The most interesting part about all this, is that a lot of features are initially locked, and can be added by spending in-game currency. The game is still in alpha – it would be interesting to see what becomes of it in the future.
Perfect Pixel Dungeon.
Nothing perfect about it, actually, except for improved UI and translations to some languages. Without investigating too deeply, it looks and behaves exactly like the original Pixel Dungeon. Surely, there are new items, monsters and levels added, but this will be relevant for someone who already got bored with the original and wants to try something a bit different.
Implements the neat idea of adding Undo command to rewind your last 10 turns. It can be activated at any time, even after death, and thus should make original Pixel Dungeon a bit easier. Not different in any other way.
What is the first thing we read when starting new Pixel Dungeon game? "The Dungeon lies beneath the City…" We were never told anything about this City before, about it's history, lore and inhabitants. Well, now we are, with this clever fork from the original game. It features the entirely new starting location: a full-fledged city, inhabited by various NPCs, who are ready to provide you with quests, shops, recreation, guides, advices, and number of other services. "One does not simply leave Pixel Dungeon" is irrelevant now, as we will travel back and forth a lot. UI and gameplay mechanics were changed as well, but seeing that we literally have a completely different game here, it does not make sense to describe all the changes in detail. The game supports mods, so the amount of provided content is potentially limitless.
Developers of this one went even further, making a remix to Remixed Dungeon (which in turn is a remix of original PD), but based their fork on Shattered Pixel instead. Woohoo! As it's predecessor, this one also features a full-fledged City with quests and NPCs. The same 7 classes are also available here. Along with other gameplay improvements, which again, are so vast, that it is pointless to describe them all. Just give it a try, if you are interested in more "story-based" dungeon crawling.
Skillful Pixel Dungeon.
Each of the original 4 character classes now have a skill tree and can learn new powerful abilities upon level up. In addition, the gold you collect can be spent to hire mercenaries – the AI controlled warriors, rogues, wizards or hunters, who will assist you in your journey. There are also some weird trade interactions with Rat King character, who may offer you some help for a price. In addition to this, the game allows to tweak its many parameters, adjusting enemy behavior and stats. Several difficulty levels are available, to pick exactly the challenge that will match your skill and knowledge. Storage chest with carry your selection of items across floors. And if that's not enough, there is also a fifth playable character, Hatsune (not sure if she was named after some anime character) with her own story line, consisting of several pre-designed maps. They are not finished, though, but will probably be developed further.
Soft Pixel Dungeon.
An attempt to make Shattered Pixel much easier and less punishing for inexperienced players. It has less enemies, more useful items, increased search radius and the possibility to save/load your game at any time.
Sprouted Pixel Dungeon.
Features larger dungeons, some additional levels and monsters that adapt their strength based on your progress. To compensate longer exploration times, almost every monster drops meat now. Dew vial allows to bless equipment. Grave stones became essential for progress. Bosses are now harder to deal with. Other game mechanics were changed as well. Will suit experienced players.
Summoning Pixel Dungeon.
Adds new weapon type – staves, which are able to summon minions. Adds fifth character class – Conjurer, who specializes in wielding staves. A lot of original items were reworked to become more cool. Some additional enemies were added to offer more variety. Everything else works the same.
Yet Another Pixel Dungeon.
As always, the project started as an attempt to fix some issues with original Pixel Dungeon, and eventually grew into something completely different. This time, the effort was focused on increasing the gameplay variety. This was achieved by reworking initial character classes, monsters, bosses, items, enhancement mechanics, scrolls and potions. Four difficulty levels were introduced. A lot of game mechanics were changed. Thus, we now have water-skins, which can be used to replenish lost health, and oil lantern to light our way. The latter is especially important, as surroundings now affect stealth and evasion possibilities, encouraging a more tactical approach. Each chapter now has 6 floors instead of 5. Equipment deteriorates over time and we need to use repair kits to get it back to normal. Shops became more frequent and abundant. A lot of UI changes were introduced as well. Too much to talk about – better give it a try.
Your Pixel Dungeon.
Features a map editor, which allows us to generate custom maps. Wait, don't get too excited. You can't manually place walls, corridors, items and monsters. Instead, you create a lists of weapons, armor, potions, scrolls, monsters, special rooms and special items that may appear on your floors, and let the generator do the rest. The maps created this way can be exported to share with your friends, but not more than 10 of them. Not sure if anyone would be willing to seriously dabble into map generation (except for fun), but the app is there, if you want to try. Oh, and it also has a tutorial dungeon – one that original PD was lacking.
If you know about any other Pixel Dungeon fork which I forgot to mention, please write down in the comments. I will gladly review it and add to the post.
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