Developer/Publisher: Soda Dungeon/Armor Games
Platform(s): Android, iOS
Price: Free, with IAP. Note: This game is also on Amazon Underground where all IAP are free.
Discovery: Random browsing on the Google Play store
Playtime: Approx. 14 hours
Soda Dungeon is a an RPG/dungeon-crawler that is available as a mobile game on iOS and Android. If you’re familiar with the these genres, then Soda Dungeon doesn’t actually bring anything new to the table. But what makes it such an enjoyable game is essentially how polished and well-executed it is.
You start off as the unnamed player, who seeks adventure and riches left waiting in the ominous dungeon nearby. But as “a coward without a penny to your name,” you head to the local soda tavern in hopes of finding willing volunteers (called patrons).
The game progresses as you build your way up in terms of gold, items, reputation and more, constantly dumping your resources back into the tavern to create a better, more powerful team capable of going further in levels.
As players climb the floors, they must face off against mini-bosses, floor bosses, and finally the dungeon boss waiting at the very end on the hundredth floor. Every now and then, the party will encounter a split in which you must choose between the left door, right door, or to stay on your path. These doors can offer things such as a fountain to completely heal your party, or a trap that could poison multiple members.
But upon defeating the dungeon boss, Julius, the player is revealed that there are in fact multiple Dimensions out in the soda universe, each with more levels, more powerful creatures, and of course, more treasure. Thus, for every hundred-level increment, the player must start from the very beginning again and climb their way back up to the top, defeating the dungeon boss.
What Soda Dungeon does to prevent this from feeling too grindy is introduce the concept of “relics.” As you travel in between each dimension, a voice calls out to player and grants you fizzy power in the form of ancient soda and bottle caps. For each dimension (100 levels) you clear and portal you travel through, the player is awarded one soda and bottle cap by this mysterious entity. The soda relics affect general stats while each bottle cap boosts stats for a specific patron and even grants them an additional skill. Essentially with each new dimension it becomes exponentially easier and quicker to restart.
The overarching story of Soda Dungeon is revealed in your interaction with the NPCs of the tavern, dungeon bosses, and that enigmatic voice. The story continues all the way to the 10th dimension, but even then the game does not end. Players are then teleported to the final “Warrior’s Dimension.” At this point, the main challenge is to simply traverse as far as one can as levels – and relics – do not have a limit.
+ Features. Soda Dungeon has a bunch of features that, believe it or not, can entirely be paid from in-game currency. In-App-Purchases are available as simply a faster alternative to gold as some unlocks do have a steep price meant for later in the game. Some cool features include upgrading to a stable for pets, and being able to customize your patrons.
+ Convenience. The game does a very good job in keeping gameplay fresh, even after repeating levels hundreds of times. For example, there is a wizard that can teleport you further in the dungeon, allowing you to skip previously cleared levels, and the option to quick-sell to the merchant the pages of junk items you’ve accumulated during your ventures. Players can also look forward to upgrading features such the Coat Check that saves loadouts for classes, or the Magic Clock that makes auto-battling even faster.
+ Overall Polish. For an indie game, Soda Dungeon just does so many things right. There’s the lack of pressure to shell out money; little things like being able to turn off features for whatever reason and a compendium of information complete with stats and drop rates; and features that actually make sense and provide a feeling of reward once unlocked and leveled. In a sea that is that is mobile apps on the market, Soda Dungeon does what so many others fail to include.
– Arena is pointless. The rewards you gain for completing arena do not compare at all with the other choice of just dungeon-crawling, especially once you get a few VIP upgrades. This is on top of the four – yes, FOUR HOUR time limit for each battle. I pretty much tried Arena once and never bothered again.
– Item shop (Buy) is pointless. At some point the item shop (note, not the merchant) stops updating with items. Actually, there really isn’t a reason to have an item shop in the first place given the rate in which you acquire items from the dungeon.
– Items phase out very quickly. Trying to gain the best items as loot is often a key feature in dungeon-crawlers. Yet there comes a point in Soda Dungeon where a large majority of items become obsolete simply because stats granted from relics outscale them – an issue between percent vs. flat stat increases. There came a point where my Soda Junkies could easily one-punch monsters to death and I would skip entire floors worth of items. There’s also the issue of legendaries, which were meant to be powerful and sought-after items. By the time I got my first one, they were already obsolete.
– Limited choices for team comps. My dungeon-crawling became very routine at a certain point in the game. With each new dimension, I had a very specific order and team comp depending on how much I’ve unlocked. Without getting into the specifics, it went like this:
- With max Inheritance, upgrade tavern > 5 Dinner Boys
- 5 Conscripts with Dinner Forks
- 1 Priest, 1 Knight, 3 Thieves (with whatever was the best % crit dmg item)
- 1 Priest, 2 Dark Mages, 1 Knight, 1 Thief
The abilities that Priest (heal), Knight (no traps, no ambushes), and Thief (all treasures unlocked) have make it almost required to have at least one for smooth dungeoneering. This also leads me to my next point…
– Dark mages are OP. For whatever reason, the relic to increase magic attack is by percent while the relic to increase physical attack is flat. This pretty much phases out all ATK-oriented classes at some point. Toward end game all you really will be doing is dumping all your essences into improving your Dark Mage and having a party of five, on auto-battle, necroblast/noxin their way to victory.
• Beef up arena awards to give players incentive to play arena. For example, exclusive items (equipment, clothing, pets, etc.) from reaching certain milestones. Also, reduce the wait time significantly or use an energy system.
• Scrap item shop, or maybe even replace it with another feature. For example, “Combine” that lets you modify items by combining it with others or with runes you can earn as drops (or from the arena!).
• A lot of the other cons about Soda Dungeon unfortunately derive from an “endless” style game where things can easily scale beyond forethought. There are definitely ways to improve on the other cons I’ve brought up, but the decision lies on whether or not it is worth it at this point to address them as it involves changing some core features of the game. And honestly, it’s okay not to.
There’s no reason to not pick up this game because it’s free! What Soda Dungeon offers and does well far outweighs its faults. If you have no desire to upgrade everything or achieve a high score, stopping as soon as you clear the thousandth level makes for a worthwhile experience.
- Gameplay – 8/10 Nothing new, but very solid. Issues mainly appear at End Game.
- Story/Concept – 6/10 Soda in this game is more of a motif than theme. There really isn’t much tying it to the game and the story itself is forgettable.
- Graphics/Art – 7/10 Nice, bright colors but otherwise nothing to breath-taking. The monsters are weird but in a charming way. My favorite are the Flowstone, which I call lava-pudding. Also, Conscript is female?!
- Audio/Sound/BGM – 7/10 Nothing that stands out. I do love the sound of crit-chains, though. Music is good but each one sounds pretty different from each other and barely fit with the theme of each area. I really like the water theme (-5xs levels) and thought it was my own music the first time!
- Bang-for-your-buck – 10/10 It’s freeeee. At no point did I feel a huge pressure to give in to in-app-purchases.