This roguelike remake could be the most approachable the genre's ever been

Desktop Dungeons Rewind key art showing off four heroes
(Image credit: QCF Design)

Have you ever wanted to get stuck into a roguelike, but been turned off by genre staples like punishing difficulty and permadeath? Then you may want to make time for Desktop Dungeons Rewind, in which you quite literally make time.

This is a from-the-ground-up remake of the much-loved 2013 PC roguelike. The original quickly resonated thanks to its bite-sized play sessions, and its wealth of gameplay possibilities – enabled by a chunky selection of playable races and classes. Now, Desktop Dungeons is back with an extra useful trick up its sleeve.

How long does a satisfactory roguelike run take? An hour? Maybe two? How about ten minutes? That’s the length of the average Desktop Dungeons session. However, Rewind’s key feature will allow you to extend this, either to erase mistakes or squeeze as much value as you can out of a single run.

Break it down

But let’s back up for a sec, since that’s what this game is all about. Simply put, Desktop Dungeons Rewind is a tile-based roguelike and puzzler. You pick a race and class – each with their own perks and drawbacks – and delve into dungeons packed with monsters.

Your goal in each run is to eradicate the boss monster that has made a dank hole its home. But to do that, you’ll need to level up your character by working your way through the dungeon’s various mobs. And it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.

The real challenge in Desktop Dungeons Rewind, and the original, is in optimizing your route through each dungeon. Whenever you walk on a newly discovered tile, you’ll regain some of your health and mana. So the trick is to navigate carefully, only healing when you need to, and ensuring you can match the muscle of a map’s enemies as their strength – and yours – increases.

Along the way you can pick up helpful items such as potions and glyphs. These glyphs are often vital to success, and make use of your mana pool to activate a variety of effects. The most basic of these may be a fireball that hits an enemy without them damaging you. Others can swap your position with an enemy, or spawn a bunch of low-level goons which  you can farm for a bit of extra experience.

(Image credit: QCF Design)

Can I get a rewind?

Desktop Dungeons Rewind doesn’t mess with the fundamentals, then. But its time-bending novelty should help the remake feel even more accessible and beginner-friendly than the original.If you meet an untimely end on one of your runs, you’re able to rewind back to an earlier point. By doing this, you can keep the run alive and give yourself an opportunity to change tack and make different decisions.

It’s a feature that Desktop Dungeons Rewind arguably doesn’t really need, considering the average run won’t last you longer than a lunch break. This isn’t Slay the Spire, where a single session can take upwards of a few hours, and create the potential for enormous losses. But it’s nonetheless a welcome addition that should save you from kicking yourself after an unfortunate blunder or two.

I asked developer QCF Design if rewinding will play a greater role than simply letting you roll back a run. For example, could it be used to activate certain traits or be upgraded in any way? For the time being, though, it seems like the team is keeping the feature simple. Rewind activates on death, and isn’t really built to make any sweeping changes to your run. However, QCF noted that this could change based on QA feedback.

Desktop Dungeons Rewind screenshot showing off a character class and their abilities

(Image credit: QCF Design)

Zoom call

As for how the remake’s looking, I’d say it’s mighty sharp. The gameplay footage I’ve seen so far reveals a polished remake with straightforward yet charming 3D visuals. That’s quite a departure from the sprite-based original, but Rewind certainly feels more lively as a result.

My only gripe with the new look doesn’t actually have anything to do with its aesthetic – which is honestly lovely. My concern instead lies with the camera. You no longer have a full view of the entire stage. Instead, the camera’s a lot more zoomed in, putting more focus on Rewind’s visuals.

That of course has its strengths. It gives players a better look at the wonderfully designed heroes and enemies. But on larger stages, there’s potential for players to lose their sense of direction. You can pull the camera out, however – so hopefully that’ll be enough to get a better look at the entire stage.

There’s no release date as of yet for Desktop Dungeons Rewind, with QCF Design only saying it’ll be out “as soon as it’s ready”. But if you’re a roguelike lover, or looking for an accessible entry point into the genre, then Desktop Dungeons Rewind should be on your radar. If the developer has done its job well, you may find yourself making return visits, time and time again.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.