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Use your words to conquer this dungeon-crawling RPG in free Steam demo

Cryptmaster is an old-school dungeon crawler that blends typing puzzles with party-based RPG combat and an unquestionable sense of presence.

Cryptmaster - A horned, skull-faced figure stares at you from a crypt.

Cryptmaster is so bold and charming, I can’t help but grin just moments after it begins. The deep, resonant voice of the eponymous Cryptmaster booms over the opening titles, as the mysterious dungeon master peers over you, beckoning you back from the dead. This delightful upcoming indie creation is a blend of adventure games, word puzzles, and dungeon-crawling RPGs, and you can try it out right now courtesy of a free demo on Steam.

Featured as part of the Day of the Devs showcase for December, Cryptmaster comes from programmer and artist Paul Hart, alongside writer and designer Lee Williams (a lore master for survival game Valheim, and who also voices the titular Cryptmaster), with music from Steven Universe composer Steven ‘Surasshu’ Velema, and additional music and sound work from Catton Arthur. It’s a dungeon-crawling RPG game first and foremost, but there’s a lot more pieces to this spooky, necromantic puzzle.

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Aside from your movement, which uses the arrow keys to slide you through the environments on a square grid much like the classic dungeon crawlers of old, almost everything else you do in Cryptmaster is handled by typing. ‘Chest’ opens chests, ‘Jump’ hops you over pits, and the various moves of your four-person party are each executed in battle by typing them in on your keyboard in succession – ‘Hit,’ ‘Boot,’ ‘Jab,’ ‘Soothe,’ and so on.

To unlock these moves, however, you’ll first have to discover them by typing them in for the first time. To help you along, the Cryptmaster will frequently task you with guessing what mystery objects are in the chests and crates you open. You get a few chances to ask him how the item looks, feels, smells, tastes; can you read it or wear it, perhaps? Guess it correctly, and the letters of the item will start to fill out the blank names in your party’s spell book, making it easier to figure out the missing words.

Cryptmaster gameplay - The skull-faced Cryptmaster poses you a task to discover what item he's looking at: "Now, Joro, I think this is something you used in your days as a warrior... Tell me what I should do to it, to find out what it is."

You’ll also be given other letter clues when you defeat enemies in combat, which requires you to type in your different abilities as mentioned above. It’s a little reminiscent of classic zombie word game Typing of the Dead, although you’re given far more freedom here to cast spells from your repertoire as you see fit. While the default setting moves in real time, there’s also an option to play in turn-based mode if you want to take things at a more leisurely pace.

The whole experience is tied together by its presentation, from the striking monochromatic art to the tongue-in-cheek script delivered by the wonderful voice work of Williams as the Cryptmaster, along with the other characters you’ll bump into along your adventures. Much like any game that makes use of text interpretation, it doesn’t always have an answer to your weirder suggestions, but I’ve so far found it to have a pretty broad range, and in many cases even to have witty retorts for some things that clearly aren’t the ‘right’ answer but might be a likely joke response.

Cryptmaster gameplay - First-person view of the party looking at a doorway in an underground crypt with rock walls, stone pillars either side of the heavy wooden door.

The various component pieces of Cryptmaster come together into an experience that probably appeals to a specific type of person – but if you fall into that category like I do, you’ll absolutely love it. There’s even an option to play with voice instead of typing, if you’re feeling particularly eager to join in on all the deliciously dramatic dialogue.

Cryptmaster is set to release in 2024, but you can download and play its free demo right now on Steam. If you’re curious about trying it for yourself, you can do so here.

If all that’s got you in the mood for some good old-fashioned adventure games, we’ve picked out the very best ones to play in 2023. We’ve also rounded up the best indie games if you’re looking for more classics from smaller studios.

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