A couple years ago, Armor Games’ Soda Dungeon made the scene on the Android platform (and eventually on Steam too). It was an interesting, but unassuming game from the long-time veteran casual game studio. Soda Dungeon forges an innovative blend between the classic RPG dungeon crawler and a casual idle game, while managing not to sacrifice the best aspects of either genre.
Soda Dungeon, a free ad-supported game, had enough popularity to support a 9K reader sub-Reddit and a Wiki. But, like many Android games, it suffers from short-term play value. After a while, the repetitive play style wears down any remaining challenge, and by the time you’ve played through ten dimensions and made the warrior’s landing, the game’s played out its best hand. After so many levels, it just goes… flat (sorry!).
So far so good. I never saw it as a major game, just a fun casual diversion. I always thought it was underrated, and here it seemed destined to the dustbin of gaming history.
Announcing Soda Dungeon 2 ! Android players (that be me!) get early access, with ports coming soon to Apple and Steam – the full release comes July 12th, if memory serves. I’ve been playing it whenever I get the chance, and I must say, this pop has a lot more fizz than its predecessor!
Soda Dungeon 2 Is More Reboot Than Sequel
Fans of the first game will find no problem at all picking up Soda Dungeon 2, which keeps a similar pattern of play rhythm. In fact, at first glance, you might be tempted to suspect that they didn’t do all that much beyond a repaint. But after playing through a few dimensions, you start to notice that the game has layered on several features which give it depth.
The arena looks recognizable, but you can tell it’s had a facelift, just like the whole game.
Combat functions mostly the same. Stick with me, I’m building up to the good stuff. Although we do have new character classes with new abilities, and new critters, bosses, and a big bad as well, you’lkl be able to look at it right away and say “yep, that’s a Soda Dungeon game alright!”
After combat, the loot window looks the most familiar. Even here, you can see a few new features peeping in, with more complete combat stats and loot inventory.
Here’s a gameplay video peek:
And let’s go over the major added features:
A big book with the in-game compendium
A quest system
Many more buildings in town, with the wizard and armorer getting their own shops and adding a carpenter’s shop
A crafting system, using raw materials to create more items
Customizable AI behaviors
Character classes now gain new spells and abilities as they level up
At the same time, we still have the tavern upgrading its patrons via adding more pop (sorry, I’m Midwestern, it’s POP not “soda,” come and fight me), the essence system (purple sparkly stuff that’s an ethereal currency), the relics, the pets, all the stuff from the first game. They also fixed some of the more annoying quirks from the first game. Let’s explore these in-depth:
The New Crafting System
As you play through the dungeon levels, you accumulate a new kind of loot: raw materials in the form of random items, trinkets, and ore, the last of which has to be smelted into metals. Then you use these items at the armorer (“blacksmith” in the more modern parlance) to craft new gear. While we’re at it, we also have items with sockets, which take jewels that allow custom effects, which you can also craft here.
Here’s the party gear interface, with a couple socketed items on the nurse:
Between the item crafting and the socketed jewels, you have a new dimension to inventory management that brings to mind Diablo and other larger RPGs. You also don’t get all the crafting recipes at once; you have to beat dungeon levels for the armorer to learn new crafting recipes. It takes some getting used to, though, and makes treasure less exciting when you open a chest to get wood – which you already have plenty of.
You can also upgrade existing equipment at the same stop. This involves paying a price in both gold and “smithing crystals,” yet another currency-type resource which you acquire in the dungeon, as an arena reward, or just buy them outright. Oh, they also come in blue and red.
New Character Classes
Some are old, some are new, and some revamped. Everyone gets a new spell at level 25. The progression now goes:
Soda Junkie – Still the free-to-hire Neanderthal, but now learns “Big Burp,” an offensive attack
Carpenter – Starts with the “Nailed It” offensive spell and learns the buff spell “Sharpen”
Miner – An ore-focused character who learns how to turn an enemy into ore with “Transmute”
Nurse – Similar to the old Healer, but picks up the ability to poison enemies as well, and picks up “Group Heal”
Mystic – Equivalent to the original Conjurer, with a group damage spell and picks up the ability to “Recharge” group mana
Thief – Little has changed with the thief, but her “Pilfer” ability gains an attack value with “Ransack”
Huntress – Apparently replacing the Knight, as she has an area effect for the party not to choose bad dungeon portals, she also picks up “Mark,” which sets the enemy to take double damage for the next few turns
Darkmage – not much changed, even with the same old “Noxin” area attack, but now has “Curse,” which turns the target to stone
Blademaster – A serious improvement over the old Ragezerker, he can double-strike with dual-wielded swords and gains “Stun” against enemies later
By the way, your party size is now increased to six, over the old five. This leads to a few more interesting variations in mix-and-match strategy.
While we’re at it, the handy book also lists info for the denizens of the dungeon you’ll be encountering.
AI Tweaking with portals
The old portal system, which took you variously to warps, fountains, or traps, has been reworked. You no get three portals, one of which is identified but requires a key to unlock, and two mystery portals, plus the option to skip the works.
You pick up keys in the dungeon, but in auto-play, you can now set up the rules for portals instead of blindly following an either-or logic. You can set up when keys can be used for different features, and specify when one is to be reserved for the healing faerie, which also restores your mana, so pay attention to this chump.
You can also tweak AI in the arena. This is kind of a tease, because you don’t get the same service in the dungeon.
Summation : Soda Dungeon 2 is well worth a download!
I *dooooo* have a few little gripes though:
No inventory! Without going to the Blacksmith to activate “sell,” there’s no way to see everything you have.
Character AI in the dungeon is still fluffy. Left to their own devices, they will drain their mana shooting their hardest spells at the first few sewer rats they find, leaving no gas in the tank left for the big baddies they met later. Mayhaps, the arena AI scripting system is a promise to deliver the same to the dungeons later?
One feature they did remove is the little dungeon progress graph at the top of the screen. This used to make things easier to predict, but now you have to keep count to track when you’ll meet a mini-boss.
I like the added features and depth a lot, but now it feels like I have to go to five different places to adjust anything. There’s tavern upgrades in the tavern, upgrades for the whole town in the carpenter’s, a key settings dialog that I can’t access until I have a party ready, AI scripts you can’t look at until you have an arena party ready…
I’ll give the crafting system a pass, but I don’t know how much I can celebrate “yay, I got a cool new item” with “yay, I got a piece of a thing which I might be able to craft into a new item if I get some other pieces.” Which I can’t check ahead of time because I have no general inventory.
OK, there’s minor grumbles out of the way. Over the whole, Soda Dungeon 2 is a worthy successor to the original, and they did a great job just refining the whole concept.
There’s still a few more tweaks, perks, and features I haven’t even mentioned, because (a) they make cool surprises, and (b) I’m running out of both room and sanity.
If you happen to go the ad-less route, the starter bundle’s only $6, chump change. There’s also an in-game purchase of the all-pets bonus, but honestly I can barely find a use for about five of them right now. Never mind, it’s a free game with ads for the download, running with no issues on my Galaxy Tab tablet. I was happy to play Soda Dungeon classic for weeks; this is a beefed up version of that, so I can’t complain.