Desktop Dungeons: Rewind – Beginners Strategy Guide

With the release of Desktop Dungeons: Rewind, have you encountered this game for the first time? Are you sending adventures to their deaths in every single run? This is the guide for you! With these 7 tips, you’ll be raking in boss trophies in no time.

7 Tips of Effective Dungeoneering

Introduction

Hi folks! I’m a longtime Desktop Dungeons player and was a playtester for Desktop Dungeons: Rewind. One of my biggest hopes for this remastered version is that it will draw in new players.

While it’s an awesome game, Desktop Dungeons does have somewhat of a learning curve. The devs have worked hard to ease new players into the game, but it’s still a challenge. With this guide, my goal is to help folks who are struggling to get a foothold!

1: Don’t Fight Your Equals

Minecraft has “don’t dig straight down.” Rocket League has “don’t break a headlock.” And Desktop Dungeons also has such a “rule #1.” But unlike these two games, Desktop Dungeon’s rule is completely counterintuitive: Whenever possible, never fight an enemy that is the same level as you.

To understand this rule, we first need to review two important game mechanics.

Bonus Experience

When defeating an enemy, you gain experience equal to the enemy’s level. But if that enemy is higher-level than you, you gain bonus experience based on the level difference: x(x-1)+2, where x is the difference in level. This translates to +2 extra experience for a 1-level difference, +4 for a 2-level difference, and +8 for a 3-level difference.

If you want to defeat a boss, you’re usually going to want to get up to at least level 7 or so at a minimum. The higher the level, the easier the boss fight. At the very least, you will usually need enough base HP to tank a single hit from a hard-hitting boss! Therefore, in order to win a dungeon, you should always be going for higher-level kills. Gaps of 2+ levels are great, but 1-level gaps are more than enough to get you the levels you need.

If you do not fight higher-level enemies, you will lose.

Strike Order

Strike order can be a bit confusing for new players. There are complications and edge cases (e.g. First Strike), but in general:

  • If the enemy is the same level or higher than you, the enemy strikes first.
  • If the enemy is lower level than you, you strike first.
  • When in doubt, stand next to the enemy on the map. If it turns towards you, it will strike first.

Note that same-level enemies generally strike first, just like higher-level enemies. This means that an enemy one level below you is usually a much easier fight than an enemy at the same level.

Conclusion

Given that you should always be going for higher-level kills, and that same-level enemies strike first, you aren’t getting much out of same-level kills. They don’t give you bonus XP, but can still be fairly difficult fights. It’s better to take a slightly trickier higher-level fight that will grant you the bonus XP.

There are some situations where killing a same-level enemy makes sense. For example, on a cramped map, you may not start with the resources to take on level 2 kills as a level 1 character. But your mindset should always be the same: fight same-level enemies as a last resort.

2: Leverage Levels

In addition to increasing your stats, leveling up restores 100% of your health and mana while curing Poison and Mana Burn. Level-ups are massively powerful, and you should always try to take advantage of them. And I do mean always – this resource should be used in every dungeon.

But how can you control when you level-up? It’s not always possible, particularly in early levels. If a kill will take every last inch of your health and mana, you’re already getting pretty good use out of the level-up! But for harder fights, using a “level-up catapult” is invaluable.

One of the best times to leverage a level-up is during a boss fight. Here’s how it works:

  • When you’re close to leveling up, often to level 8 or level 9, heal up and restore mana in preparation for the fight.
  • Hit the boss and cast glyphs until you’ve expended your health and mana.
  • Slay one or more low-level enemies that you can kill in one hit (see #3) until you level up. Be careful with First Strike and Death Gaze enemies – they can still kill you!
  • Use your newly-restored health and mana to finish off the boss.

You should almost always plan to use a level-up catapult to slay a tough boss. But don’t neglect the strategy for other tough enemies – it works on them too!

3: Save Snacks for Later

As you gain levels, you’ll start being able to kill the weakest enemies in one hit, without retaliation. The community often refers to these enemies as “popcorn.” The WONAFYT glyph often has the effect of making an area of the map into a “popcorn bowl” to which the lower-level enemies are summoned.

Popcorn is very tempting. It is just sitting there, begging to be slain. But in most circumstances, do not eat your popcorn prematurely! There is no reason to kill it now when it can be killed at any time. Save it for removing Cursed, pleasing gods, and most importantly, level-up catapults (see #2).

Note that some enemies do not make tasty snacks. Goblins and Gorgons are the most problematic because they will fight back unless slowed. Tankier enemies like Meat Men and Zombies are also harder to kill.

4: Know Your Tools

Desktop Dungeons is all about choosing your fights wisely. As combat is mostly predictable, you can pretty easily figure out what enemies you can defeat. The challenge is in realizing the potential of the tools at your disposal!

Your goal is generally to find higher-level enemies that are defeatable (see #1). When considering whether to fight an enemy, take a look at the combat prediction – in particular, the number of tick marks on your health bar. You’ll rarely be able to kill a tough enemy by striking it to death – you’ll need some help! Think about what tools and tricks you have access to, and consider whether they are enough to swing a fight in your favor.

Here is a sample of tools you can use, with a particular focus on early-game combat:

Glyphs

For most characters, a glyph that helps you deal damage or take more hits is one of the most accessible ways of slaying higher-level enemies. In fact, BURNDAYRAZ is guaranteed to spawn in every run, so you can always count on it for a boss fight at minimum. PISORF, if it spawns, is also excellent. Other glyphs that give you an edge in combat include BYSSEPS, GETINDARE, WEYTWUT, ENDISWAL, HALPMEH, APHEELSIK, and CYDSTEPP. Finding any one of these glyphs early on can be enough to get you through the first few levels alone.

Class Abilities

  • Many classes have tools that specifically help defeat certain types of enemies.
  • Berserks will eat Warlocks for breakfast, Priests are great Zombie slayers, Monks love to beat up Meat Men, and so on.

Items

Many of the most common items sold in Desktop Dungeon shops are great for getting your character over the hump of defeating higher-level enemies. A simple Pendant of Health is more than enough to swing a fight at early levels, while a Troll Heart will provide longer-term benefits. Fine Sword provides an excellent damage bonus. Quest items (unlocked via silver class challenges) are often even more impactful, if a bit more situational.

Gods (once unlocked)

Many gods offer cheap boons that can help swing a fight in your favor. Worshiping Binlor, Tikki, or Jehora will give you a helpful glyph. Jehora, Earthmother, and Glowing Guardian all have ways to boost survivability. Taurog’s Blade is an amazing early damage boon. And Glowing Guardian is notable for the extremely powerful Humility, which essentially lets you get an experience bonus for fighting enemies with same-level stats. This is just a sample – gods have many complex powers that are beyond the scope of this guide.

So, how do you choose the right fight? It’s not always easy. But by knowing what tools you have available, you’ll figure out how to punch above your weight in no time!

5: Explore with Intention

Blackspace is the main way to restore health and mana between fights. Aside from certain classes, glyphs, and other situations, you don’t generally want to explore during a fight because the enemy will regenerate too. The rate of regeneration – for both you and the enemy – is 1 HP per level per tile. This means that you can rarely simply out-regen an opponent of equal or higher level. Do note, however, that there are many exceptions to this guideline, the most obvious being the Monk class.

In the earlier portions of a run especially, don’t feel bad when you inevitably waste blackspace while scouting the map and searching for targets. But if you have a good target in sight, and you only need to explore to restore health and mana, don’t unnecessarily waste blackspace!

  • Because blackspace restores both health and mana, it can be difficult to get the two bars “balanced.” For example, a Warlord will often be mana-hungry, while a Priest will take a lot of exploration to fill their enormous health pool. When health and mana are “unbalanced,” consider trying to get value out of the more abundant resource so it doesn’t go to waste.
  • If you have excess health, you might use it to take out an annoying lower-level enemy like a Goblin, Gorgon, or Meat Man that you could have trouble killing later without taking a hit.
  • If you have excess mana, consider using it for “utility” glyphs like Endiswal, Imawal, or Wonafyt.
  • Halpmeh and Bludtupowa are purpose-built for converting one resource into another. When using Bludtupowa, try to position your character so that you reveal tiles that are otherwise inaccessible.
  • Sometimes, avoiding waste can be challenging due to map geometry. For example, you may need only 1 tile of blackspace, but your only option is to explore 3 or more tiles at once. Therefore, when low on health and mana, prioritize tiles that will reveal lots of blackspace. It’s a very subtle trick, but will help avoid wasteful exploration in the long run.

6: Save Your Spikes

This one is simple. Save potions for the dungeon’s boss fight(s), or otherwise most difficult fight(s), whenever possible. Usually, you really shouldn’t need to use potions for the leveling phase. This principle also applies to other mechanics that can be used to “spike” your health and/or mana, be they items, boons, or other sources.

For curing Poison and Mana Burn, it’s best to rely on level-ups (see #2). Serpents and Wraiths pose little threat as long as you can level up off of the kill.

7: Eyes on the Prize

This final guideline is one that’s easy to forget amidst the chaos of a dungeon. There is only one requirement to complete a dungeon successfully: Slay the boss(es). Everything you do in a dungeon – leveling up, obtaining boosters, purchasing items, worshiping gods – all of it is for the purpose of preparing you for one or more final fights.

Is there a level 9 Goo Blob sitting there, being annoying to kill? There’s no need. Stay focused on the goal!

Egor Opleuha
About Egor Opleuha 7011 Articles
Egor Opleuha, also known as Juzzzie, is the Editor-in-Chief of Gameplay Tips. He is a writer with more than 12 years of experience in writing and editing online content. His favorite game was and still is the third part of the legendary Heroes of Might and Magic saga. He prefers to spend all his free time playing retro games and new indie games.

2 Comments

  1. Any tips for dungeons with multiple bosses? A single boss usually chews through all my resources.

    • It’ll depend a lot on the dungeon and situation, but in general I recommend being extra-conscious of your level-up timing. Maybe plan on killing the first boss using a catapult to level 8, and then the second boss using a catapult to level 9. Most bosses in Normal and Hard-difficulty dungeons shouldn’t require potions to defeat with a well-timed level-up, particularly if you have access to a spiking boon from a god.

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