App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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AI Dungeon is like doing improv with a partner who is equal parts enthusiastic and drunk. It’s a game where you collaboratively create stories with an AI chatbot, but this bot has little to no memory of what you’ve already established or what the initial prompt is. The result is a game that’s charming, occasionally frustrating, but mostly just impressive in its raw creativity and spirit.
Every game of AI Dungeon starts the same way. You’re prompted to select a certain genre of story and your role in said genre. From there, the AI takes over and sets the stage for your adventure. There’s never a stated goal or objective, and it’s your job from then on out to keep typing responses to the game’s generated text to co-author your own, unique journey.
In games of AI Dungeon, I’ve been a space elephant in search of a relic known as “The Old Tusk,” a super spy that fell into a dreamscape and died in my sleep after killing a Russian asset, and even a time where I was a time traveling peasant that got shot in the chest before meeting a truck-driving devil who stroked my mustache and gave me a ride home. Every time you type into the black abyss of AI Dungeon, you truly don’t know what you’re going to get back in return, and that’s a big part of what makes it so fun.
Not a text adventure
I’m not sure I’ve played a game that can take in almost any amount of creative input and actually respond to it in a remotely coherent way, As a result, I found myself feeding AI Dungeon all kinds of lore and details in some of my adventures, and was impressed when the game actually tried to incorporate this information into its responses to me.
On the flipside, if I withheld detail and responded to each of my bots prompts with short action replies (like one might do in a standard text adventure), the game felt far less magical. AI Dungeon’s chat bot doesn’t have much of a memory, so it’s not unusual for stories to hop off the rails immediately unless you’re there to keep reminding the bot what your story is supposed to be about.
If you ever aren’t into AI Dungeon’s response to your input, you can always type “/revert” to go back and try again, but sometimes it’s also fun to follow and see how the game tries to put together a story that hops genres, trades out characters, and even takes control of your character to move things along.
Not every way that AI Dungeon breaks stories is always entertaining, though. There are times where my stories have hit dead end loops where no matter what I type, I keep getting the same reply over and over again. There’s also the problem with AI Dungeon not really having the ability to save your story progress, so you need to sit with it for dedicated sessions or be ok with half-starting stories a lot. Both of these are bummers, but for a game that doesn’t have a traditional structure where you’re trying to accomplish anything specific or “finish” it, they end up feeling like pretty minor inconveniences.
The bottom line
AI Dungeon is a fascinating game that gives back no matter what you put into it. You won’t always know what you’re going to get, though. Sometimes it’ll build on your story in a very thoughtful and creative way, but—at others—it’ll decide that your character is someone else entirely and that they need to die and that’s the end of your story. I can see how this might be frustrating if you’re expecting a game that acts like a traditional game, but I find AI Dungeon’s wild and ambitious abilities to co-create stories so fascinating that I don’t really care if the stories themselves end up the way I wanted.