Check and mate!

ChessRogue

Author Chris Morris
Platform Linux, Windows; (open source)
Version 0.3.1
Website http://chessrogue.sourceforge.net/

ChessRogue: Hiding in a safe tunnelThe name says it all. A rogue on a chessboard. You are the king of white army. In fact you are sole remaining member of said army. But! You can still win by assassinating the black king after you singlehandedly defeat his soldiers. Not the last starfighter story again … Oh well. Roguelikes save for few exceptions have never been good in the plot department. This can be forgiven.

ChessRogue: Nine in a rowChess requires good strategy to win against a competent player. You need to plan carefully and sometimes sacrifice a piece to gain upper hand. ChessRogue is more about tactics. You will often wonder how to get out of a tight situation, what next piece to capture or ask yourself if getting to that treasure out there is worthwhile. Usually looking merely one or two turns ahead is sufficient but later this number increases. With only a single hit point this game leans heavily into puzzle genre.

ChessRogue: Graphical modeThe board is colored with alternating light and dark colors. Helps quite a bit with fighting bishops and making longer diagonal moves in general. There is also SDL mode but it is compiled only for Windows. Linux users need to some nontrivial dependency resolving to compile it first. The looks pass but controls are bit worse. Those of you with disdain for vi-keys will not be pleased. It is here as default control scheme. Sure, you can get around using number pad quite well at the start but later you must make two or three space moves. To do you that need to use the vi equivalent. Despite constantly displaying keys ChessRogue is not good game learn vi style keys because one mistake often means game over. Luckily there is keymap included. On Linux it can be put in home directory or made hidden and it will still be found. Ingame movement display will change to accommodate edits. Unfortunately good news end here. Said keymap states function keys, number pad, return key and other similar key cannot be remapped. Number pad fans are at a loss. People with non-qwerty keyboard layouts will need to edit crkeymap.txt file before playing.

ChessRogue: Lances and mantrapsChessRogue creates a board and sprinkles opposing pieces on it. The most variation in gameplay comes from randomized levels. Number and types of opposing pieces differ only slightly between playthroughs. Water layout defines how the battle will fare. You should look for best places to exploit skills you have and at the same time efficiently hinder enemy. On difficulty modes below expert first level will feature a water cross where you can trap pawns without much trouble and get them all. On toughest setting you need employ crowding tactics to pick them off. Moreover there might be not enough pawns generated to make diagonal capture ability available. Then on second level you may need to face sergeants with just basic powers. Surviving this requires a bit of luck which is against the spirit of chess. Sometimes ChessRogue will smile at you and place bishops or even knights in a spot where they are unable to make any moves.

ChessRogue: YASDAnother subtle but not without tactical uses rule is order of piece movement. Sometimes while observing enemy movement patterns you might deduce that pawn moves before this bishop does. Such knowledge may allow you to move into seemingly dangerous places because you know that a pawn must move first and only available spot to enter is one cutting off a path of aforementioned bishop thus guaranteeing you safety. This is difficult to pull off but very satisfying if played well. Also if you are in a losing position where every possible escape is covered try to look for places that can be obstructed with lucky piece movement. You might survive more than one ambush.

ChessRogue: Fear effectEarlier I have mentioned treasures. These are represented by white exclamation mark and come in three types. Fear effect makes enemy pieces flee from you unless you stupidly wander into a position where you can be immediately captured. Used well this may be helpful in separating tough pieces, splitting dense or well-covered formations or madly dashing to the exit. The last option does not reward you with additional points or moves but in later levels this might be wise decision. After all not much is left to be learned from all those dangerous pieces and you might get captured. Second effect is haste. Speed enables you to make two moves in a turn. Very useful. Finally, learning makes every capture count triple bringing desired new abilities to you faster. On the other hand you receive bonus score for every unexpired treasure when you enter exit. Do not bother with this much before you get your first win though.

ChessRogue: Secret weapons labCurrently ChessRogue presents two modes to players. Classic Pieces and no special challenge. Do not let yourself be deceived! Playing with classic chess pieces only makes for easier game because there is less possibilities to consider and fewer levels to get caught. Extra pieces are still present sometimes. They appear with special level entrances and inside those but are not counted in score list. They may still contribute to chain captures though. Overall new piece types make for more interesting play but much less balanced. You will note more than one time the aggressiveness of sergeants. They are by far more dangerous than generals because they cannot move back in orthogonal corridors. If two of them team up or one with a pawn in front be prepared to count that way out. If all your ways get generated with teams like this you know Random Number Generator hates you today.

ChessRogue: Shogi pieces includedWeak point of ChessRogue are its first levels. There is barely any challenge offered even the first time. Unfortunately patience requirement is significant. Imagine getting captured somewhere in midgame. You brain got used to solving difficult situations with advanced pieces on board and now you are back to fighting just meager pawns. Boredom has great potential to turn your thinking off at this point resulting in getting owned by that brown ‘P’. Quite frustrating.

ChessRogue: Super power gainedSpecial predesigned areas are another not so great addition. There you will find prearranged pieces and a boss waiting to be conquered. Exit does not appear until the special opposing piece is captured or (at the fortress) zoo wall is smashed. The problem is the special level is the same every time. Once you figure a strategy (or a few) for solving that puzzle it becomes more like a boring chore to overcome. You need just to make no mistake executing the plan. A plan, which is very similar every time. To add insult to injury capturing cannoneer (boss of second predefined area) while in classic piece mode is useless because there will be almost no sergeants available to load the gun.

ChessRogue presents very entertaining challenge. It is worth recommending it especially to masterminds. In late game with plethora of moves to make try to make the longest chain capture possible. My personal best is 27 pieces taken in a row. The joy is overshadowed by low replayability of early game, poor quality user interface and somewhat by game saving possible only between levels.

Lost, apocalyptic, magical, beautiful, dark, absurd world

LambdaRogue

Author Mario Donick
Platform Windows, Linux, MacOS
Version 1.6
Website http://lambdarogue.net/

LambdaRogue: Outer DungeonThere are two races dwelling on Earth. Mankind and Drekh’Nar. Friendly relations last long but finally a “good” reason to start fighting gets found and war erupts. There are many casualties on both sides. However, neither race had significant advantage until Drekh’Nar acquired the enchanted sword of mankind’s general from a traitor and cursed it. This act caused men to suffer a major defeat and soon they were forced to surrender. Price for losing the war was great: banishment to underground forever. LambdaRogue is a game about exploring locations deep within earth but at the same time shaping future of mankind.

LambdaRogue: Destroyed hivePlay style of this roguelike is close to Angband’s. Dungeons are nonpersistent creating unlimited resources for player to scavenge thus inviting you to grind. However, this is not as simple. Difficulty of a given level is not constant. Killing enough monsters of given type will cause a stronger variant to spawn. Lost hit points do not regenerate naturally. You have to use health restoring consumables which cost you some credits. Early game is a race to get powerful enough as fast as possible in order to earn credits for food and medicine. Weaker characters are going to have tough time starting off. At times it will be more beneficial to descend to meet fresh strain of enemies because these new “basic” specimens will actually be weaker than toughened variants of currently fought monsters.

LambdaRogue: Forgotten RealmAn uncommon and controversial feature is ability to have game saved for a gold fee. Permadeath will claim the lot of your early characters but when you finally hit it big and afford life insurance the tension is no more. A streak of mistakes may force you to go back to earlier point in game but the cost is now insignificant. Life insurance cost increases linearly while your earnings do so quicker. Major roguelike defining point is harmed and decrease in challenge reflects this. Most important reason for going this way is LambdaRogue is primarily aiming to tell a story. If a promising character would get sliced by the grim reaper close to final game player may not return to know how all of this ends. Thus greater tolerance for errors.

LambdaRogue: The Lost OutpostMajor driving force of LambdaRogue are quests. Those provide story pieces and items crucial to game completion as rewards. Other ways to know more about the World of NeoTerr are to purchase text books from library or to discover them through mining. Certain professional ranks require a specific quest to be completed to obtain it. Other ranks need a certain skill set to be matched. A quest log is available. It lists all people who asked you for a favor by dungeon level.

LambdaRogue: CatacombsAmong many facilities in town workshop stands out. Here player may drop items to have them disassembled for some resources like wood, metal and stone. Subsequently those may be used to create a powerful unique item. The problem is amounts required to do so. Only a fixed number of slain monsters will drop items on death. To collect needed quantity one effectively has to purchase cheap stuff from shops to disassemble. In effect resources become merely lots of credits. Exception is stone which is easily harvestable from plentiful rubble.

LambdaRogue: MeteorLambdaRogue has gods. You choose one at character creation and may only interact with that deity. Other divine beings will contact you if they desire or … you actually met them. If you are good enough an opportunity for deicide may arise. A potentially grindy prayer mechanic allows one to make contact with patron deity. Every time you press ‘p’ it is counted as a single prayer. Remember to press it at least once or that one guy (or gal) up there will get angry at you. Fortunately sacrificing items on altar increases total prayer number by a considerable amount lessening the problem a bit. Still, expect to lean your finger on ‘p’ a few times.

LambdaRogue: The Book of StarsRecently it is popular among roguelikes to present players with graphical user interface to attract new players and ASCII for veterans. This is good unless those also bring different features impacting gameplay. Unfortunately LambdaRogue commits this sin. ASCII mode displays much larger map area allowing for pleasant exploration. SDL mode feels claustrophobic in comparison even with small tiles option set to true. However, it has minimap which marks NPCs if you have talked to them already and stairs if you have used them before. This greatly speeds up travel through places you have visited in the past. In ASCII you have to wander until you find what you are looking for or juggle interfaces. If you ascend it is worthwhile to watch ending sequence in graphical mode. Text alone just does not do it justice.

All in all LambdaRogue is successful as a medium to tell a compelling story without resorting to linear progress. With two functional interfaces veterans and newcomers alike will find it easy to get in. While not as replayable as most roguelikes it has passed 1.0 version milestone and is a complete game able to stand on its own.

Preview: Traction Edge

Traction Edge

Author Mongrol
Platform OS X, Linux (source only)
Version 0.1
Website http://code.google.com/p/tractionedge/

What would X-COM look if you left out non-battle phases? Have a look at Traction Edge. Version 0.1 is not much beyond technical demo but already gives you several officers to choose for each of three patrol missions. Your objective is to eliminate all opposition. Choose people with at least 10 points of strength. This allows to carry muskets which are much better than pistols.

Traction Edge: Bashing the doorTraction Edge: Hostiles spotted

You can just blaze through levels. Resistance is going to be small because enemy decision making capability is very limited. They act only if your agents remain in their view. Otherwise you are free to jump from behind an obstacle fire two snap shots point blank and hide again. After you kill last one mission is completed. If you explored fully last level but cannot see anything to shoot at destroy some walls. Surely some slither was placed inside stone.

Traction Edge: Patrol membersTraction Edge: Equip officer

Traction Edge was first released for ARRP 2010. Next version was announced to be revealed on ARRP 2011. To check out the game you need either to have OS X or compile from sources.

The 2011 7DRL Challenge is over!

And so it was that 99 brave challengers entered the 2011 seven day roguelike challenge!

Of those, 46 returned alive, claiming to have a finished and playable game… Now it is your turn to judge!

The Newcomers (First 7DRL Challenge)

Experienced (2 7DRL Challenges)

Gentlemen (3-4 Challenges)

Singing, happy drunks (5+ Challenges)

Ongoing 7DRL Challenge

The challenge has started! Many entrants declared start date and game title. Announcement thread is over seventy posts by now but there is still time to proclaim participation until end of March 6th. A success thread for victorious challengers is already created.

Visit http://7drl.org/ weblog to read how development struggle goes or to learn that other authors are also desperately tracking down a bad pointer reference on the 167th hour.

ARRP 2010: BOSS

BOSS: ShopFor ARRP 2010 a very old game was resurrected. BOSS is a variant of Moria. Its last official release was for ancient computers. Having this gem back is very nice. However, in spite of lack of science fiction themed Angband variant BOSS generated minimal attention. Answer to why is that is fairly simple.

Playing BOSS could be considered retro gaming even by roguelike standards. Monochrome ASCII display combined with interface significantly inferior to those seen nowadays can take a great deal of dedication to overcome and get into. With competition in genre so great one would rather play something else.

BOSS: DepthCuriously the game has several things noteworthy to offer. Player has computer equipment slot where he may put his Commodore Vic-20, Boysenberry Laptop or other such machine. Shops in town offer various services. For example you can have your sex changed for five hundred dollars. Among things you might find are Vogon Commanders reciting poetry at you, refitted Jarwangian Armor pieces, Daisyian Screwdrivers and Daisyian Umbrellas.

BOSS: SeattleIn past days Moria overshadowed Angband while it was still in development. Today for BOSS to break through something more than a port is needed. BOSS needs active maintainership to regain its beauty. Maybe not a whole rewrite like NLarn developers attempt but a solid set of changes and interface overhaul.

ARRP 2010: NLarn

One of ancient and very influential roguelikes of past is Larn. Many veteran players have very fond memories of that game. NLarn is a rewrite with modern roguelike features added in. It has color, smooth interface, friendlier controls and … auto-travel?

NLarn: TownNLarn is winnable and has most features of original Larn in. First thing to notice is color and bustling town with inhabitants who tell rumors when nearby or bumped into. Fortunately they will not pick items up so you can still store items on the ground without worry. Annoying thing is citizens will continue to flood your message area while you are taking a course in the College of Larn.

NLarn: GenocideGameplay itself has not changed that much. Vision range is reasonable now. Items may stack on single floor tile and have blessed/uncursed/cursed status. Chests are true containers. Traversing level boundary will correctly place the player character on corresponding set of stairs. Charisma attribute which was only used in determining strength of charm monster spell is gone. Finally monsters behave in intelligent way. They use weapons against you and may follow you through stairs to another level or fall through trap doors to wait for you on next floor.

Magic is altered too. Genocide is a scroll instead of a spell, few other spells were cut. Among them is sphere of permanence, famed spell extending duration of timed enchantments to eternity. Axing it is good balancing move but I still miss it for its awesomeness factor. On lower difficulties lightning and fireball do not destroy statues like they used to.

NLarn: InventoryOther large set of differences affect NLarn interface. Keys are changed to work in different way. Many are rendered obsolete by inventory view where all actions can be chosen in object-verb fashion. You no longer enter buildings with ‘e’. ‘>’ is the key here, culling a unnecessary command. Item interaction screens are very nice and easy to use. The only place where original Larn still has partial superiority in interface division is bank view. Gemstones were put into a nice table which allowed to comfortably sell a stone and withdraw/deposit money in one visit. Moreover values of all stones were visible at the same time.

NLarn: EndgameIt is version 0.6.1, still far from 1.0. Many features wait to be implemented. In upcoming versions I expect hounds to vaporize magic missiles, addition of carried artifacts like Scarab of Negate Spirit among others. There are no curses, taxes nor slippery volcano exit. Summon demon spell is not yet there. Overall NLarn is much more attractive than its predecessor even in current state. Improved interface, color and auto-travel are guaranteed to win over Larn’s completeness for everyone but die-hard players.

ARRP 2010: Toby the Trapper

Toby the Trapper is a roguelike about someone without direct means of hurting someone. All Toby can is lay traps for unwary enemies. Before he finds his first gem he is unable to kill enemies! He can dig so remember that if you are caught in a dead end.

Your main enemies are Ogres, stupid slow smelly creatures. They are not much threat unless you allow one to walk close to you. The brute will then do something very unpleasant to you and then devour the remains. Ogres are not all alike and are described by adjectives like bug-eyed, sweaty, dumb, swollen, etc. When your trap takes out a bunch of them at once you can actually tell exactly which ones got blown up. Another breed of common enemies are vampire bats. They fly over your traps but you should soon find a way to dispatch them.

Each cave level will either contain a gem to be found or a boss to be defeated. Gems give powers in succession. This means you can skip a gem but this will not cause you to skip a trap type. Bosses are unique enemies each with its own strengths. Defeating them may take more clever tactics. Every few floors color theme changes to influence playing mood but this has no effects on actual mechanics.

Finally Toby defeats Wuggy the Warlock gaining himself fame and glory! Or is it? Your action in caves below Turgylton determine what future you get after completing the game. For those who want more thrills hardcore mode awaits with higher mortality rate.

Interesting fact to note is Toby the Trapper can be played exclusively with the number keyboard. There are few commands besides walking. One thing to desire is morgue files. The game does not even dump death screen. There is not much else to complain about.

Toby the Trapper
Toby the Trapper
Toby the Trapper
Toby the Trapper

ARRP 2010: Dungeon Monkey Unlimited

DMU: Fancy roomThe first seven day roguelike ever written was called Dungeon Monkey. It was hardly worthwhile to play but an interesting performance art at the same time. For ARRP 2010 another game by the same author was released: Dungeon Monkey Unlimited. It is much more developed and has nice graphics. Furthermore it is one of few party roguelikes.

First you should make at least four characters. Character generation consists of choosing a gender and a race. Then attributes are rolled. You can opt to have attributes rerolled until you are satisfied with results. Each set of stats is checked whether it satisfies minimum values for class membership. Weak person cannot be a warrior, stupid one shall not pick mage and only most pious are able to become knights. I believe if you get a set of attributes disallowing any class the game automatically rolls again.

DMU: ColdThe game has magic system which will put you into some hard choices in spell selection. Each caster has certain amount of spell gems dedicated to precise magic realm and several that can hold any arcane knowledge. All spells require varying amounts of gems to memorize. Some part of spell require gems to be of specific magical realm. For example Confusion needs one lunar plus four others while for Call Beast you must have thee earth and one additional. Individual spells are also nicely done. For example most games make Death Ray a useless thing working only on creatures that were no problem anyway. Here it helps a lot and actually kills your targets more often than not. Of course undead are immune. The trick here is enemies may cast it too and will do so with prejudice instantly killing your best character. Also DMU as a true roguelike and unlike many RPGs will allow you to cast beneficial spells on the enemy so beware. I did exactly that after replacing my ranger’s acid spray with acid weapon. Consequences were dire.

DMU: TropicsAfter you start a campaign a climate with setting is picked for you. It may be prehistoric snowy lands, norse themed misty swamps, greek themed dense jungle, a forest in steam age or who knows what else. Then you get some storyline. Game is played both in wilderness and enclosed areas. Monsters and treasure are generated once and more can appear only when you camp. You can click destination on map and party will find shortest route to location and start marching. If any character steps near a monster battle begins. Unfortunately path finding algorithm does not disregard unmapped areas and will happily lead you into ambushes. Right click on a free spot to have camp option. As far as I know map can be accessed only by hitting ‘M’ on keyboard. Other useful shortcut is shift+’Q’ to save and exit to main menu.

DMU: A questDungeon Monkey Unlimited has plenty of items. Later in game it is advisable to collect only items eligible for identification or gear superior to what you have. You will collect enough money for everything you may desire before arrival at Morgantown. In a point well into the game I stood before quite embarrassing decision. I found magical white dress which boosted both attack and defense but party spell caster (a necromancer!) was male. My munchkin nature prevailed and I gave it to him. Then the random number generator revealed even greater mockery. In second castle there was available for purchase … a magical swimsuit. Now that was an insult! That time I did not buy enchanted item despite its usefulness. You can imagine my joy when later a magic black robe was found for my caster. I immediately swapped the dress for the robe. Everything was all right except … the mage doll looked disgustingly ugly in black robe, white wizard hat, white gloves and white shoes. This is one argument why ASCII games are better. They do not bring forth such problems.

Overall DMU is short and fun game that makes controlling a party of adventurers a painless experience. It is one of the best to date in the latter category.

ASCIIDreams Roguelike of the Year 2010 – Results

The results are in! going against all laws, conventions and best-practices of roguelike development, DarkGod rose and took the grand-prize for himself and the community around ToME-4. Congratulations!

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Dwarf Fortress and DoomRL continue holding strong into the hearts of the roguelikers.

Thanks to Mr. Doull @ ASCIIDreams for keeping the tradition.

There were 167 entries and 1675 votes. This is the top ten for 2010, congratulations all!

Check this article for the full ranking

Rank Roguelike Votes %
1 ToME 4.0.0 384 22,9%
2 Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup 294 17,6%
3 Dwarf Fortress 171 10,2%
4 DoomRL 95 5,7%
5 Rogue Survivor 69 4,1%
6 Angband 44 2,6%
7 Goblin Camp 34 2,0%
7 UnNetHack 34 2,0%
9 Brogue 32 1,9%
10 POWDER 31 1,9%