The Intro

The Game

The Replay

The Verdict

The Intro

Title: Dungeon Hack

Release year: 1993

Developed by: DreamForge Intertainment

Genre: Roleplaying game (RPG)

Platform replayed on: PC

Roleplaying games.

Sometimes you want an epic tale that spans myriad hours of exploration, combat, and an unravelling plot.

Pillars of Eternity in-game screen
Pillars of Eternity (2015)—the last epic roleplaying game I played, for just over 94 hours.

Sometimes you just want to hack and slash myriad numbers of whatever’s standing in your way.

Dungeon Hack hobgoblins
Hacking and slashing hobgoblins

Dungeon Hack (1993) sits very much under the hack and slash classification, but with a twist. Where other hack and slash roleplaying games still full-length a plot, however thin, that will be the same every time you play (for example, the Diablo series, or the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance series), Dungeon Hack offers a unique wits every time.

How? It’s a customisable dungeon generator.

Dungeon Hack intro movie
It’s your dungeon—you decide what’s inside.

But can Dungeon Hack still generate an engaging hack and slash experience, thirty years on from its original release?

Let’s find out. It’s time to grab your gear and go dungeon probe in Dungeon Hack!

The Game

I first played Dungeon Hack shortly without its 1993 release. I remember it was flipside game I had hired out from the mail-order PC-game rental service that I used as a kid in the 90s.

(I’ve featured other games I remember renting here on Present Perfect Gaming, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, SimCity 2000, and Alone in the Dark.)

Renting consoles and panel games from the video store was popular at the time, but I was glad to have wangle to PC-game rentals. I didn’t have many games I could undeniability my own as a kid growing up in the 90s, so rentals definitely helped me have wangle to a much wider library of games.

I probably gave Dungeon Hack a go due to it stuff flipside Dungeons & Dragons game. I never played the tabletop roleplaying version of Dungeons & Dragons, but by the time I played Dungeon Hack, I had played several of the “Gold Box” games published by Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI) which were based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules, including Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989) and my personal favourite Champions of Krynn (1990).

Champions of Krynn title screen
Champions of Krynn (1990)

Dungeon Hack is moreover based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules, so I was immediately familiar with the nuts-and-bolts weft megacosm system.

Dungeon Hack weft megacosm screen
Many weft options in Dungeon Hack

If you’re not familiar with the rules, the transmission provided is exhaustive, if not intimidating. Since playing the old “Gold Box” games in the early 90s, I unfurled to play computer roleplaying games based on Dungeons & Dragons through the late 90s and early 2000s—games such as Baldur’s Gate (1998), Planescape: Torment (1999), Icewind Dale (2000), and Neverwinter Nights (2002).

Icewind Dale II in-game screen
Icewind Dale II (2002)

It’s pearly to say I was pretty well-appointed with the Dungeons & Dragons rules by that stage, so coming when to Dungeon Hack scrutinizingly thirty years later wasn’t much of a challenge. If you’re not familiar, well, be prepared to spend some time with the transmission to make sense of all the weft races, classes, and magic systems.

Dungeon Hack manual
Learn to play in the 90s often meant time with your throne in a game manual—no in-game tutorials here.

In Dungeon Hack you only create one character. Usually computer roleplaying games involve a party of adventurers, so you either create multiple notation from the outset, or create one and find allies withal the way.

Creating only one weft certainly ways you get into the whoopee quicker, but knowing you’ll be solo the whole time presents a challenge. Will you use sword or spells to defeat your foes? How will you heal? What well-nigh dealing with traps and locks? Or will you try to be a jack of all trades but master of none?

Having a party of adventurers helps imbricate all bases—in Dungeon Hack you’re all alone.

Dungeon Hack vacated in a corridor
Me, myself, and I in Dungeon Hack

Getting through weft megacosm brings you to the customisable dungeon generation screen. There is a wide variety of options here. You can retread the frequency of unrepealable things, such as how many monsters there are and how much treasure there is.

Dungeon Hack dungeon customisation
Many options in Dungeon Hack

You can moreover turn unrepealable things on or off, including whether there are underwater levels, multi-level puzzles, or plane if there are undead monsters (we’ll get to the undead later on…).

Dungeon Hack mummy
A mummy attacks!

If you find all this a bit much, you can moreover select a generic easy/moderate/hard setting. There’s moreover a permanent death option, for the true gluttons for punishment, where if your weft dies, all of your saved games are deleted! You will lose all of your progress, and will need to start the game then with a new character.

Dungeon Hack weft death
Game over

Once you have settled on your dungeon customisation, you have what’s tabbed a dungeon seed number. This way, you could unquestionably share it with someone else, and they could play the word-for-word same dungeon.

With a weft created, it’s time to enter your own personalised dungeon…

Dungeon Hack dungeon loading
Your dungeon awaits…

There is a story in Dungeon Hack, though I use that term very loosely. Your weft is (forcefully) sent by a sorceress to retrieve an orb housed deep within the dungeon you have just created. What this orb does or why the sorceress wants it? Well, that would be way too much story for a game like Dungeon Hack. Your character’s motivation, besides not wanting to irritate the sorceress, is the promise of gold and treasure.

Dungeon Hack introduction
Greed. It’s all well-nigh greed.

Check out the Dungeon Hack intro video in full below:

The aim in Dungeon Hack is to explore and fight your way lanugo through however many levels you chose until you reach the bottom, and defeat the final boss. Each level presents a couple of creature types that will stand in your way of finding the exit lanugo to the next level.

Dungeon Hack going lanugo a dungeon level
Going down…

Unsurprisingly, the creatures you squatter increase in difficulty as you descend through the dungeon. But it wouldn’t be a roleplaying game if your weft didn’t increase in power and find new loot to equip themselves with in order to defeat these ever-increasing threats now, would it?

Dungeon Hack picking up loot
Lots of loot!

Dungeon Hack follows the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules closely, so anyone familiar will understand the wits points and leveling system. If you’re not, it’s when to that transmission I mentioned earlier…

Dungeon Hack manual
Creating strong characters

The game screen provides a first-person view, and everything you need to go dungeoneering. From this screen you can tenancy movement, make attacks, tint spells, navigate the minimap, equip your character, manage inventory, and monitor your health (hit points in Dungeons & Dragons speak) and supplies levels. Yes, all that on one screen!

Dungeon Hack undead beast
Watch those hit points! (bar near top left)

The only reason to leave this game screen is to view the larger version of the map of the level you’re currently on, or to wangle the menu where you can rest your weft (to heal, and prepare spells if your weft is a spellcaster).

Dungeon Hack Camp screen
Making camp

Once you understand how to use all these on-screen systems like movement and attacking, you’re ready to go monster hunting. There’s no in-game tutorial in Dungeon Hack, so if you’re unsure how to equip your weft or prepare your spells, you guessed it—back to the manual!

Dungeon Hack manual
A crash undertow in gainsay and spellcasting

Exploring levels in Dungeon Hack is like finding your way through a maze, well-constructed with wrong turns and sufferer ends, so the map is very useful when you find yourself needing to when track.

Dungeon Hack map
The map screen—useful for backtracking

There is no shortage of mortiferous denizens to rencontre your character, plane when the monster value is set to low. And there’s no turning when once you’re inside the dungeon. You can’t just run off when to town to recover and stock up whenever you get tamed up.

As such, Dungeon Hack is not just a hack and slash game—it’s a survival game too.

Dungeon Hack sheet ghouls
Might be time to run—low hit points and a swarm of undead approaching!

In order to survive Dungeon Hack, you will need to manage your resources: your hit points, your food, and your spells if you have them. Once your hit points and spells run low, it’s time to rest and recover. Resting requires food, so you’ll need to be on the lookout for increasingly throughout the dungeon to ensure you don’t run out (food availability and supplies consumption levels can be adjusted when creating your dungeon to increase or subtract the difficulty).

Dungeon Hack rations
Found some food.

Speaking of survival, I think it’s well-nigh time I rolled up a weft and started my replay of Dungeon Hack!

The Replay

It’s unchangingly a difficult visualization in a roleplaying game: which matriculation of weft should I build? You need to wastefulness playing a weft you will enjoy roleplaying with making them an constructive weft in the game (or in other words making them as powerful as possible). Particularly in computer roleplaying games, there can be such a thing as a weak character.

Dungeon Hack is not a game forgiving of weak characters.

Dungeon Hack killed by a slithermorph
You will die in Dungeon Hack. You will die a lot.

I knew there would be some good choices, and bad choices. For one, given the claustrophobic nature of the dungeon, I knew that melee gainsay would be preferable to ranged gainsay most of the time (literally hacking and slashing). I didn’t want to be constantly running virtually trying to maintain loftiness between my weft and the target to let off an thunderstroke or a spell. This would moreover run the risk of running into increasingly monsters.

I needed a fighter.

Dungeon Hack fighter
The archetype tank: dwarf fighter

But I moreover needed healing. I knew it would be easier to rely on healing spells than resting vacated (pro tip: tossing healing spells mid-battle saves lives). I moreover knew that there are unrepealable buffing and protection spells that will be very useful in keeping my weft in the fight, particularly versus undead foes.

I needed a cleric.

Dungeon Hack cleric
A wise cleric

I was scrutinizingly there, but I wasn’t sure my fighter would be worldly-wise to terminate everything powerfully with sword and shield alone. I needed some powerful offensive magic.

I needed a mage.

Dungeon Hack mage
An evil mage

But wait, that’s three weft classes I need. How do I segregate between the three?

I don’t. I multiclass.

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules indulge for unrepealable combinations of classes to go together. The goody is you have wangle to increasingly skills and abilities. The downside is you level up very slowly—you wilt that jack of all trades but master of none I mentioned above.

Enter the fighter/cleric/mage. I was restricted to stuff a half-elf if I wanted to be this matriculation (a quirk of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules), so half-elf it was.

I named him Tanis, without one of the heroes from the well-known Dragonlance series of Dungeons & Dragons novels.

Dragonlance Companions of the Lance
Tanis Half-Elven, third from left

I had my weft ready to waif into the dungeon, but first I needed a dungeon to waif into! It was time to customise.

Dungeon Hack dungeon customisation
Let’s make a dungeon!

I didn’t want this Dungeon Hack replay to be too long and frustrating, so I made it a relatively easy dungeon. Ten levels, low monster amount, lots of treasure and food, and of undertow no permanent weft death. However, I did include undead monsters and a water level, which I knew would bring their own challenges (as we shall soon see).

With the nonflexible work done, it was now time to enter the dungeon…

Dungeon Hack generating dungeon
Generating dungeon…

I wasn’t expecting much resistance on the first level from the types of monsters I would face. As it turned out, it couldn’t have been increasingly generic fantasy: goblins and orcs!

Dungeon Hack goblin
A goblin approaches.

The archetype low-level fantasy enemies didn’t prove to be much of a challenge, but I did have to watch getting hit—my weft didn’t start with many hit points.

Dungeon Hack orc
An orc attacks!

Surviving the first level, my next rencontre wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from Dungeon Hack

Dungeon Hack reprinting protection
Copy protection in the 90s

That’s right—classic reprinting protection! And I couldn’t stave it; I had to squint up the word in the transmission and type it in. I was concerned this would wilt a regular occurrence when going between levels (or saving a game, as I’ve seen in other games from this era), but thankfully it turned out to be a one-time thing.

Upon inward the “password”, it was lanugo to level two of the dungeon.

And immediately I encountered a large threat pensile me…

Dungeon Hack bugbear
Blood pressure rises—an incoming blow, and very low hit points.

A bugbear that could really pack a punch. I was concerned the ramp up in difficulty from the first level was going to be an exercise in frustration, with unvarying dying and reloading.

And this is why I didn’t plane consider turning permanent weft death on. Getting killed was a unvarying occurrence. Sometimes in Dungeon Hack, you just get unlucky with your strikes not getting through, and your foes getting lucky breaking your defence. It’s expected, and you just reload and try again.

Dungeon Hack shadow
Struck by a shadow!

Level three brought the first encounter with the undead: ghouls.

Dungeon Hack ghoul
Don’t let the ghoul touch you!

This gruesome creature causes paralysis from the touch of its claw, meaning you can no longer attack. Strangely, while paralysed you can still move your character, so all you need to do is retreat to safety and wait for the effect to wear off.

Dungeon Hack paralysed by a ghoul

Undead creatures in Dungeon Hack were moreover one of the reasons I decided on including cleric as one of my weft classes. Clerics in Dungeons & Dragons have an worthiness (from whichever deity it is they pray to) to “turn undead”. This sees clerics calling upon holy power to literally turn undead creatures virtually and gravity them to shamble away.

Dungeon Hack turning undead
Turning undead! A sheet ghoul turns away…

It doesn’t unchangingly work, of course.

These two ain’t turning…

And it was well-nigh to get worse surpassing it got better, with the discovery of wights and wraiths deeper lanugo in the dungeon.

Dungeon Hack wraith
A wraith reaches out…

These torturous creatures phlebotomize levels from your weft upon striking. This is a big deal, as levels are nonflexible to come by in Dungeon Hack (and therefore under the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules). A lot of monster slaying goes into each level earned, so you can’t sire to lose levels. Unless you’re willing to alimony your distance, it will midpoint a whole lot of reloading.

Dungeon Hack wight
Ouch! A wight drains a level of experience.

Level phlebotomize attacks were flipside one of the reasons I played a cleric in Dungeon Hack. I knew that there was a cleric spell which can protect versus level phlebotomize attacks: Negative Plane Protection. That is, once your weft is of a upper unbearable level to tint this spell.

Dungeon Hack memorising spells
Memorising Negative Plane Protection spells.

It doesn’t remove the threat completely, as if you get hit while protected from the spell you lose the protection, but it did remove a lot of the frustration.

Dungeon Hack killing an undead monster
Vanquishing the undead!

I was happy to leave the undead behind, as I progressed deeper into my customised dungeon. But undead paralysis and level phlebotomize attacks made way for brute gravity attacks, as I stumbled into a labyrinth of minotaurs.

Dungeon Hack minotaur attacking
A minotaur swings his axe in my direction.

I was well-nigh half way through, and I had once undertaken some serious slaying. Dungeon Hack keeps a running total of the fearsome foes you have slain.

Dungeon Hack monsters vanquished screen
Serious slaying!

I had moreover managed to level up my weft a few times by this point.

Dungeon Hack weft sheet
Level up! Fighter/Cleric/Mage levels 5/5/4 respectively

But it’s not all well-nigh monster slaying in Dungeon Hack. There is some light puzzle solving involved as you navigate the dungeon levels.

There are keys to find.

Dungeon Hack unlocking a door
If the key fits…

Puzzles to complete.

Dungeon Hack puzzle solving
A little game of pin the plume on the helm

And subconscious locks to find.

Dungeon Hack subconscious lock
Pushing that loose stone on the wall will unshut the way.

I mentioned whilom when I was customising my dungeon that I had included a water level. Well, I found it when I went lanugo a flight of stairs and found myself completely submerged in water.

Dungeon Hack underwater level

How are you supposed to overcome this challenge?

The cleric to the rescue, once again, with a water-breathing spell!

Dungeon Hack memorising spells
Breathing underwater made easy.

Aside from the need to outbreathe underwater, the level plays out the same as any other level. You can plane rest underwater (figure that one out).

Dungeon Hack water elemental
Facing fearsome water elementals

Swimming to safety, I plunged deeper into the depths of the dungeon. I was getting tropical to the bottom, and the mortiferous creatures I was encountering unfurled to unhook some serious damage.

Dungeon Hack tlincalli
Poisoned by the scorpion-like tlincalli!

Despatching the last of these dungeon denizens, I knew the end was near. Without slaying hundreds of monsters, what final horror awaited my fearless adventurer?

Dungeon Hack undecorous dragon

A mighty undecorous dragon!

It was flipside cleric spell that helped me take lanugo this intimidating drake: Spiritual Hammer. Summoning throwing hammers, I hurled them from a distance…

Dungeon Hack throwing a spiritual hammer at the undecorous dragon
Hammer time

Finally, “big blue” went down, and the orb was in sight.

Dungeon Hack throwing a spiritual hammer
The end

Job done. It was time to go home…

Dungeon Hack ending sequence
The sorceress has her orb…and you have your treasure.

Here’s how my weft ended up:

Dungeon Hack weft sheet
Lucky 7—each of my Fighter/Cleric/Mage classes reached level 7.

Surviving Dungeon Hack, with a dungeon I had created myself, that’s got to be a satisfying experience, right?

Here’s The Verdict…

The Verdict

Dungeon Hack is repetitive. Dungeon Hack is frustrating. Dungeon Hack is difficult.

But Dungeon Hack moreover does exactly what it promises: a customisable dungeon trickle experience.

Dungeon Hack choosing a weft face
The many faces of Dungeon Hack

There’s no lamister the repetition. Dungeon Hack is a hack and slash roleplaying game, which ways a whole lot of fighting. In ten levels, I slayed over 300 monsters. And remember, I had the monster level set to low!

Dungeon Hack Monsters Vanquished screen
Vast value of vanquishing

With that value of monster slaying, and given the difficulty of some of the attacks you squatter (such as paralysis, level drain, and poison), a level of frustration is inevitable, as the rolls don’t unchangingly go your way.

Dungeon Hack examining a wall
Death comes for you in Dungeon Hack.

Also unsuspicious the windbreak to entry with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules (for those unfamiliar), it would be easy to dismiss Dungeon Hack.

Dungeon Hack wits level tables from the manual
Tables upon tables in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition

But that would be a mistake, as I think Dungeon Hack provided an wits unique to its era of 80s and 90s computer roleplaying games (check out Classic Game Sessions on YouTube for a unconfined video on dungeon crawlers from this era).

Dungeon Hack moreover kept me coming when for increasingly (something I experienced in my recent playthrough of Max Payne, which moreover features repetitive but engaging gameplay). The famous “just one increasingly turn” miracle from the Civilization series became “just one increasingly corner” in Dungeon Hack, as I found it very nonflexible to stilt myself yonder from my customised dungeon.

Dungeon Hack exploring
I wonder what’s virtually that corner…

Dungeon Hack offers an incredible value of replayability, plane if the overall wits will be the same. Not only is there a myriad of dungeon and weft customisation options, but I encountered less than half of the monsters in the game.

Dungeon Hack unorthodoxy naga
A unorthodoxy naga—thankfully I only encountered one of these in my dungeon…but what well-nigh next time?

To come full whirligig to where I started this, sometimes we’re not looking for a sprawling roleplaying epic featuring political intrigue and ramified weft interactions.

Sometimes we’re looking for something a little less mentally taxing. Sometimes we just want to pick up a sword, ready our spells, and tuition headfirst into danger.

And Dungeon Hack delivers.


So, have you played Dungeon Hack?

Dungeon Hack title screen
Dungeon Hack The End
That’s it. That’s the end.

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