I’ve been playing a new-to-me iPhone game called Dungeon Raid a lot the last few days and I’m finding it to be extraordinarily great. It’s got a an ancestry in Roguelikes (Nethack, etc) in that it’s a randomly generated dungeon crawl with perma-death but its mechanics are similar to Puzzle Quest (or, more specifically, Bejeweled). I’m pretty new to the game but I wanted to keep a sort of log of the things I’ve learned about how to succeed at the game and I figured here was a good place because I haven’t been able to find much in the way of strategy guides online. The most useful I’ve seen is Jose Reyes‘, though as with all Rougelike games, there is some room for divergent opinions about what priority to put things and which strategy works best. That said, following the basic principles Reyes outlines will up your game demonstrably. The tips below are largely based off experience with Reyes’ approach and note that this will be a work in progress so nothing here is unequivocal, just notes from firsthand experience.
Early on Reyes is right: It’s all about XP. Kill as many monsters as you can, focus on XP boosting abilities and build up your stable of spells. A technique that has worked well for me is to prioritize monster killing every other turn so that you clear your highest total non-monster match on opposing turns. This allows your (hopefully) big matches to play off each other: Big monster match followed by big potion/coin/shield match, repeat. The reason for this is to get the most bonus matches possible per turn, understanding that especially early on you can easily absorb even several turns of monster attacks even without worrying about potions or shields since the monsters start off doing very little damage. The exception to this rotation is when a special monster appears at which point you almost always want to focus on clearing that monster because they give big coin and XP boosts and can do enough damage to give you trouble.
Upgrades early game should be focused on XP and damage boosting as top priority. Monsters always progress in strength as turns advance so you need to stay on pace with them in the damage department or you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by monsters you can’t clear every other turn. More often than not you should be able to match three skulls without a sword and kill two of them. If that’s not the case, you’re not devoting enough upgrades to dealing damage. Obviously XP boosting is important to maximize these early, easy kills into lots of skill ups. Obviously Strength upgrades are then the best since they grant both of these things together, and raw XP boost being second best. Reyes downplays the utility of base damage upgrades but I tend to think of it as a decent choice if there is no other XP or damage boosting option available on a level upgrade. Item upgrades granted from collecting shields should indeed never be taken for base damage (there’s always something better to put onto an item since you only get one) but given the choice between two cooldown upgrades and a cooldown plus a base damage upgrade, I’ll take the latter. If you can maintain a damage pace sufficient to kill three skulls unaided by a sword, you’ll rarely struggle to deal with regular monsters.
Your second tier of upgrades are the necessary defensive upgrades. I like to maximize the stats first since they offer two benefits each and the secondary benefits max out eventually and getting to that max fast is important for the later game stages. That means I prefer Dexterity, Vitality and Luck over the other choices, though as Reyes points out, don’t overlook Durability entirely. Given a lack of great upgrade options (which will happen from time to time) I would take Durability first, HP second, and base damage third. I disagree with Reyes about Life Leech since I think it’s always useful to do two things at the same time, it’s especially important if you choose not to select Heal as one of your spells since you’ll waste lots of whole turns collecting potions without this and if you’re focusing on keeping your damage output high it starts to pay off pretty quickly. Regeneration is secondary to Life Leech to me, but also useful if you decide against Heal and can be good in tandem with Life Leech. Never select either of these upgrades over Vitality or direct HP boost, however. Even at 15-20% Leech on a high damage output you’re likely to be getting less benefit in terms of survivability than pushing your max HP.
Some stuff to avoid, especially in early game: As near as I can tell the generic Cooldown upgrade doesn’t actually improve the cooldown on your spells, rather it bumps the current cooldowns globally by one turn. This is only directly useful in the edge case of having a spell that will prolong your life one turn away from cooldown and you can’t survive the current turn. Otherwise, skip it (though this is dependent on my estimation being correct that it doesn’t actually permanently lower the cooldown of all spells; if that is the case suddenly this spell is a top priority because it can reduce cooldowns beyond the max spell levels). Blunting is of limited usefulness in early game and Reyes seems to think it doesn’t scale well in the later game stages which is a good enough reason for me to avoid it, although as you start getting into later game it becomes much more useful to smooth out incoming damage especially from stubborn enemies who get stuck in less accessible corners, so probably around the time you pick your fourth spell you should start putting some Blunting upgrades higher in your priority list. Spikes is a tough call because I find its benefit to be minimal if you’re focusing on clearing out monsters to gain XP—by the time Spikes does enough damage to clear a monster you probably could have done it yourself several turns earlier. As Reyes points out it can be useful in helping with difficult special monsters but as I’ll point out below, if you have the capacity to wait out a monster and let Spikes kill it, you’ve either gone with Spikes as a core strategy or you hit kind of a stasis mode; in my opinion there are better ways to deal with annoying specials.
Read Reyes’ breakdown for convincing arguments in favor of Dazzle and Teleport. Dazzle I think is good, but since it doesn’t directly clear board areas it isn’t great as a first or second skill. Better are the skills that directly pull groups from the board. Reyes recommends Repair and I agree with him on that front but he also suggests Skill Elixir and I’m not sure I’m with him there. The problem is that these skills have to be applicable beyond the early game and while tons of XP is great early on, it gets less beneficial later when survival becomes more of an issue as the monsters increase in power. I actually prefer Heal, which does the same thing but gives you the actual HP instead of XP. The principal problem with Skill Elixir is that it re-purposes health potions which means you not only don’t get health from them but you then have to wait for them to collect back on the board in order to replenish your health. It’s risky to assume you’ll have enough time to do that without wishing you had some of those potions back. I’ve played games where I actually got both, but with two “clear-out” spells devoted to the same resource you end up getting less of each for every cast since the tendency is to try and stagger their cooldowns. So I recommend Repair as a first skill and Heal as another collection skill but I would avoid taking it until the third or fourth slot since it isn’t as critical early in the game.
Your second skill should instead be some sort of panic switch: Your go-to spell to get you out of a tight spot. There are several, most of them focused on mitigating special monsters: Banish, Exorcise and Teleport are the foolproof ones, but also Counterattack and Freeze can be reasonable panic switches though only if you just need a single turn of breathing room. Less reliable panic switch spells might be Explosive Armor and Explosive Potion could work if you like to live on the edge (or Fireball and Slash if you really like taking risks) and a few that aren’t recommended but can serve the purpose if you don’t mind the decent chance that your tight spot isn’t aided by your fallback spell like Boost Damage, Disarm and Shatter. If you don’t mind sitting on Dazzle without popping it every time it’s off cooldown, it can be a middling panic switch as well. My favorite panic switch is probably Teleport because it can aid in multiple-special situations plus it guarantees you won’t go out of the oven and into the frying pan if a new special replaces a dealt with one. Exorcise would be my second pick only because you still can get some XP from the evaded monster where Banish is just a problem solver and nothing more.
The big question facing you is probably going to be Dazzle vs. Enchant for your third slot. Enchant is pretty fantastic in that it’s just a free upgrade, every time it’s off cooldown (and there’s no reason not to use it every cooldown). Yet, it has a very long cooldown that is even long when fully upgraded. My recommendation after fiddling with both is to take Enchant if it comes up relatively early in the game and then don’t bother upgrading it unless there is absolutely nothing else worth choosing. The few extra turns between availability aren’t really worth the wasted upgrade. However, if you see Dazzle first, take it instead (the side benefit to that being that if you don’t see Teleport for a while, you can still hold back on being aggressive with Dazzle and use it as a pseudo-panic spell).
Some spell combos to avoid: Skill Elixir/Heal/Explosive Potion/Mana Potion; Dazzle/Treasure; Dazzle/Golden Touch. Also avoid the Boost spells (Boost Armor/Boost Damage/Boost Gold/Boost Health) as they are nice but not as useful as their free-clear counterparts (Repair/Disarm/Treasure/Heal, respectively) and any of the more random spells which you can’t control: Earthquake, Fireball, Magic Sword, Slash and Trap.
It’s certainly a viable strategy to skip the second free-clear spell (Heal or Repair) and go for either Treasure Chamber or some kind of killer combo. If you’re already taking Repair and Dazzle, it might be worth considering swapping out Heal for Scavenge: Dazzle-Scavenge-Repair could be a poor-man’s Enchant. If you do select Enchant, you may consider taking Mana Potion instead of Heal to run through those a bit faster.
The key thing is to make minor adjustments to your upgrade priorities depending on what you decide to do spell-wise: If you aren’t going to take Heal, make sure you put extra effort into upgrading Vitality and Luck early in the game when you aren’t at risk of death from a few regular monsters; if you decide to use a secondary panic spell like Freeze, beef up your defense and focus especially on damage so you can maximize the extra turn.
Equipment upgrades should follow the same basic strategy you’re using for level upgrades: XP, damage, HP, defense and then everything else. However, be cautious not to upgrade to a piece that isn’t compatible with your previous enchantments lest you lose a hard-earned bonus. Likewise, if a new item has an upgrade and a secondary benefit that provides a free boost in another area (say a shield that adds +1 to damage but also happens to add +5% Life Leech), always take the double-upgrade even if they’re both fairly low priority improvements. Occasionally I’ve seen an item that grants upgrades in three slots, though I don’t remember seeing one like that which didn’t also come with a downgrade on something as well. In that case I still take the upgrades, since netting two is still better than just taking one, but note that a two-up item with a downgrade elsewhere is a net gain of one upgrade and only worthwhile if you deem the downgrade to be inferior to both ups.
Your second choice beyond a double upgrade would be any item that casts a spell on upgrade: I’ve seen items come with Enchant and you can’t beat having an upgrade give you another upgrade (the side benefit of which is you get to see two sets).
Just The Start
These are notes from my experiences early on in my career as a Dungeon Raider. My strategies are likely to refine as I try various things and compare notes with other players. I said up top but it bears repeating that this is stuff that has worked to a certain degree for me so far, but I’m interested in improving. If you have any tips or strategies, I’d love to hear them, either in the comments section or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll try to update this and add more discussion as I continue playing.
One thing I’m most interested in hearing is what people’s strategies are in regards to waiting on the spells you want: Is it better to hold out longer to get the right combo or should you work with what you get? I also kind of glossed over spell upgrades which reduce cooldowns: Some games I try to max out the spells to churn through them faster, other times I focus on more immediately beneficial upgrades to stats. Thus far I haven’t been able to determine which is more likely to result in a successful game.
I’m also curious as to which class people are playing. I’ve stuck with the Ranger for the most part to this point as I have him up to level 5, but the arrows are infrequent enough without Volley (which I can’t see being a viable spell choice) to only be occasionally useful. I do have the Mage unlocked who looks like an intriguing alternative with his free (that is, non-spell-based) mana potions.