Unsurprisingly for someone involved with interactive fiction, I also like console and computer role-playing games. “Black Knife Dungeon” is a simple implementation of a bare-bones RPG, where the goal is to descend through a dungeon, fight monsters, and collect loot to spend on getting better at descending through the dungeon and fighting monsters.

Gameplay: The game isn’t (and isn’t intended to be) a deep one in terms of mechanics or story; instead, it’s a simple dungeon crawl designed as a pleasant time-waster or distraction while watching television or a movie. You acquire weapons and armor, beat up monsters, and move on to the next level of the dungeon. There’s not a lot of space for tactics, although different monsters respond differently to different kinds of attacks. There is some satisfaction to gaining money and equipment of the course of the game, even if it’s fundamentally random. 5/10.

Mechanics: The core of the game is completing a list of goals by fighting random encounters in a dungeon. Combat is simply a matter of choosing a method of attack and hoping for favorable die rolls. It’s therefore more of a push-your-luck game rather than an RPG, with the main decision being whether you should return to the dungeon with your loot or press on. The only penalty to dying in the dungeon is missing out on a 10% money bonus, though, so there’s not much tension in the game. 4/10.

Presentation: The game is deliberately sparse, but there are some embellishments that make it naturally fit as a text-adventure rather than something like a console RPG. The areas you travel through are randomly generated, for example, but maps suggest that you search in certain locations, and so the room and enemy descriptions aren’t just there for flavor. There’s a frame involving an overworld town, and there’s a bit more latitude in movement there than in the dungeon itself. The game would have worked equally well as a choice-based game, aside from the nature of the competition. 5/10.

You might like this game if: You want a light diversion while watching or working on something else, and you like old-school RPGs.

Score: 5

2 thoughts on “Black Knife Dungeon, by Arthur DiBianca

    1. I defeated the Silver Knight on level 4 but didn’t try any of the post-game content. My general rule is that I play games for two hours (the period suggested for the IFComp) or until I reach an ending (even if it’s not the optimal one), whichever comes first.

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