Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island review

by on February 26, 2024
Reviewed On
Release Date

January 25, 2024


It feels like every week one or two exciting new Roguelikes are released and catch my attention, but this wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time “Roguelike” was a term reserved for games that feature you standing on a grid in a dungeon and trying to survive floor after floor of aggressive enemies and cursed items, and those who invested their lives in these games were delighted by their challenge. I can’t pretend I was one of these traditional Roguelike lovers of the past, but in recent years games like Void Terrarium 2 have done a great job of showing me their appeal. Well now the longest running Roguelike series is back to make me fall in love with dungeon crawling all over again, with a brand new entry in Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island.

As the game begins Shiren and Koppa (his talking ferret companion, obviously) have just finished their latest big adventure, and are having a well-earned rest. Upon waking they realise they’ve had the same dream about a girl in peril on a mysterious island, and head off on a journey to find out where this damsel in distress is waiting to be rescued. It turns out she’s on Serpentcoil Island, a dangerous place where adventurers from far and wide travel to try and get the treasure that’s rumoured to be trapped in an unkillable monster’s belly. Shiren and Koppa reckon that the treasure hiding in the beast is the girl, and so set off through a series of dungeons to save her.

If you’ve played a traditional Roguelike and/or another Shiren the Wanderer game before you’ll feel right at home with this entry, but for those of you trying the genre for the first time let me bring you up to speed. The dungeons of Shiren the Wanderer are randomly generated with all sorts of loot, monsters and traps waiting to be discovered on each floor, and if at any point you die you’ll be sent back to the inn at the start of the game with no gear and reset to level one. This probably isn’t too surprising if you’ve played a few video games in the last decade, but how you explore the dungeons themselves is where things get interesting.

A screenshot of Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island

Every action you take in Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island also allows any enemies to take an action, so if you walk, attack or even rest for a turn they’ll be able to do the same. This means as long as you aren’t blocked you can always run away from a fight, and also means if you want to fight you’ll need to make sure you bump into each other at the same time to ensure a monster doesn’t get the first hit on you. Most combat is as simple as exchanging hits with an enemy until someone dies, but with limited health and all sorts of nasties waiting for you that strategy will only get you so far.

There are dozens and dozens of ways to deal with enemies that might ruin you if you battle them head on. You’ll find all sorts of staves on your travels that can be fired to put enemies to sleep, teleport them to a random tile of the map or even swap places with them to gain the tactical advantage. There are scrolls which unleash powerful effects on all monsters in the room, like my favourite which causes monsters to attack the square behind them instead of you, which is perfect when a horde of nasties are coming to get you. You can even just throw arrows, rocks or even swords you don’t need anymore in a straight line towards them if you want, it’s all fair game in Shiren the Wanderer.

It won’t take more than a handful of floors of a dungeon for you to realise that there’s not nearly enough space for all the healing items, gear and food you need to carry in your inventory, but that’s where pots come in. These handy vessels only take up one slot in your inventory but can hold a whole load of other items you’ve collected to artificially expand your carrying capabilities. Like with almost everything in Shiren the Wanderer though there are loads of types of pot with wild and wacky effects, and if you don’t have a way to identify one it could end up destroying all your items forever. Sometimes you just have to risk using something unidentified though, and the consequences that follow are some of the most entertaining moments of the game.

All of the elements I’ve mentioned so far are things that have been in the series for over a decade, but Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island has a few of its own tricks up its sleeve. There are some online features which allows you to request a rescue on death or save someone else in need of rescuing, and doing this will either allow you to continue your run or net you some handy rescue points to buy buffs with. You can also see the average level that other players reached certain floors at, which is handy if you aren’t sure you’re ready to take on the next wave of enemies.

A screenshot of Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island

Above all else though, this entry in the Shiren series just feels incredibly polished. The early game feels just fair enough to be enjoyable for newcomers, the different features are incredibly well implemented, and the new 3d art style is absolutely gorgeous. It does just enough new to make it exciting for veterans, while inviting new Roguelike victims in with open arms.

There’s no denying that Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island won’t appeal to everyone regardless though. As much as this new entry helps make the genre more welcoming, it’s still an incredibly daunting task to jump into one of these games. Especially because despite all of the polish Shiren the Wanderer is still tough as nails, and there will be hundreds of times where you miss a couple of attacks and get wiped out by a basic enemy and feel cheated. It takes a lot of patience to become the thoughtful player needed to master this game, and if this isn’t you then there are plenty of other 2024 games that need playing.

Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is a phenomenal Roguelike for fans of the traditional, with enough new features and polish to recommend it with ease. If you haven’t played a Shiren game before though then caution is required, because these games aren’t easy and will happily kill you because of one stupid decision or impatient reaction. It isn’t an easy genre to love, but once you get invested you’ll never want to stop diving into those mystery dungeons.


A really well polished and enjoyable example of the genre
The new visuals are great
Has so many ways to take on enemies
Cool new online features


Can feel really unfair when you get unlucky and die instantly
A tough type of game to jump into for newcomers

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is a phenomenal Roguelike for fans of tradition.