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.

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.

A New Addition to the Major Roguelikes

ToME4

Author DarkGod
Language Lua (with some elements in C)
Platform Linux, Windows, OSX; (open source)
Version 3.9.9 beta 18
Website http://te4.org/

Hidden TreasureToME4 (or Tales of Maj’Eyal: Age of Ascendancy) is the latest in a series of roguelikes made by DarkGod, famed for his creation of PernAngband/ToME2.  It has moved away from the Tolkien setting with its own original fantasy world, and no longer has any ties with the Angband series – indeed, the gameplay is now vastly different.  Its most notable features are its intricate character development system, with points invested to unlock or improve talents individual to each class, and its very smooth interface, which supports full functionality through either mouse or keyboard.  These combined with an intense development pace and a vast number of innovative gameplay features have contributed to ToME4 being crowned Roguelike of the Year 2010.  Oh, and it’s also quite fun.  Often in the roguelike scene people talk about the 4 major roguelikes of ADOM, Angband, Crawl and Nethack.  I think that with the advent of ToME4 we have a fifth member.

Blasting The MasterToME4 currently has 8 races and 17 classes, with more being added at regular intervals.  One controversial feature is that many of the races and classes are initially unavailable and must be unlocked through reaching milestones or completing quests in the game.  The game is spread over a large world with several continents and over 30 dungeons.  Some dungeons have very unique layouts and mechanics, such as the collapsing tunnels in the sandworm lair.  As you would expect of a major roguelike there are several hundred enemy types, and they tend to have access to the same abilities as the player classes in true “player as monster” fashion.

Sher'Tul FortressThe game supports both graphical tiles and ASCII mode, with additional options for in-game music and sound effects.  It also represents the actions of spells and abilities with procedurally generated graphical effects.  Unfortunately these and a few other issues can cause the game to run slow on even fairly decent computers, and some players may need to tweak the video settings to make the game playable.  The graphics, sound and music combine well with the intuitive mouse interface to make for a very modern looking game, whilst still preserving full ASCII and keyboard support for traditionalists.  Overall the game is incredibly friendly to those with no roguelike experience, with tooltips for all enemies/items/statuses and extra game modes allowing additional lives and easier play.

Undead AboundThe talent system is the heart and soul of the game.  Each class has access to around 10 distinct talent trees with 4 talents in each tree.  Characters get points to invest as they level up, and can use them to improve existing talents or open up new ones.  Each talent has stat and level requirements to unlock.  Talents include lightning bolts, stealth, aimed shots, defensive auras, and many many more.  It’s an incredibly flexible system that produces a lot of variety in play, whilst giving the player a large amount of choice in how to develop their character.  Melee types are of especial interest in this system, as instead of simply bumping into enemies players must also consider the best use of activated and sustained skills in overcoming their foes.

One vs ManyThe best thing about the talent system is the variety that exists between the classes.  There is some overlap of talent trees available, but the majority of them are unique to their own class.  Many classes also have their own specific resource bar, often with individual ways to replenish them.  For instance the Cursed class has a “Hate” bar which is filled by killing enemies, encouraging the player to maintain intense killing sprees to keep their abilities at peak performance.

Low HealthThe major fun in the game comes from exploring the dungeons and killing enemies, with careful choices being made about which talents to use and when.  With over 40 abilities available on some characters there are a lot of tactical decisions to be made.  The game is not afraid to break away from tradition, with no food clock, auto-identification of items from early on, and consumables (potions/scrolls etc) replaced by activated “runes/infusions” with cooldowns. Whilst some veteran roguelike enthusiasts may miss the item management gameplay elements the changes do help focus the game purely on the combat. The runes/infusions system especially helps to prevent players from simply amassing potions to escape any harm, and require careful play to use at the optimum time.  The inevitable deaths in the game come entirely from HP-reducing attacks – there are no cheap death rays or instant killing enemies, though monsters that can stun or freeze the player are particularly dangerous.  Gameplay is tight, challenging and very fun, with many interesting bosses and edge-of-your-seat fights.

A Dark CryptThe Inevitable DeathThe game is still in beta stage, and this is noticeable in some of the performance issues and in rough edges at various points.  However it is still eminently playable and completable, and development is ongoing at a breakneck speed.  The last 3 months of 2010 alone have seen 7 major updates, including a great many new features, dungeons, items and a wealth of major gameplay changes.  DarkGod is very active in the ToME community and eminently responsive to suggestions and contributions from players.  For 2011 he is planning a vast upgrade of the tiles with impressive new artwork from Shockbolt, and additional classes/races/quests/zones to move the game out of beta stage.

A sneak-preview of the new-look ToME4:The New Look TrollmireThe New Look Kor'Pul

ToME4 is built on the T-Engine 4 roguelike engine designed by DarkGod, with the core engine code written in C and Lua and module files written entirely in Lua.  The engine is open source and is reported to be extremely flexible and adaptable to new roguelike projects.  To find out more about ToME and T-Engine and to download the latest version visit http://te4.org/

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.

ARRP 2010: Teratogen

Teratogen began as a project to test how well Go language lends itself to roguelike game development. It is graphical and hex-based. There have been several roguelikes with hex maps but Teratogen does it right. Your goal is to go down and find the source of mutagenic Tau wave while not getting chewed, bitten, maimed, crushed or shot. Survival horror adventure at its best.

Teratogen: MutationTeratogen: WendigoTeratogen: Dog things

On each floor there will be zombies and other mutated monsters. You have your hand gun and ammunition for fifty shots. When that ends or you get cornered prepare for a brawl. Various inhabitants of this wasted world generally do not exhibit much intelligence although eagerly follow blood trails. Whenever you splat a monster a disorganized red stain appears. Walk through it and you will leave bloody shoe marks.

Teratogen: ArmorTeratogen: DeathTeratogen: Deep down

The difficulty in Teratogen is your survival is based on two factors. Not getting killed which barely works on top floors and not losing one’s humanity which hardly works on deepest floors. Every defeated monster takes some of your humanity on death. As you become more and more deprived of your very self mutations manifest in your body. These are always very beneficial and useful. You are tempted to fully clear each floor … but that way lies madness. Before you make it halfway to the heart of evil you will turn into a chaos spawn without aware mind.

Teratogen: Sense mindsTeratogen: BloodTeratogen: Phase

Mutations are especially noteworthy. One of them is lightning usable every fifteen turns. Use it near a group of enemies and watch as it arcs from monster to monster electrocuting everything in its path. Another is named cryogenics. Freezes targets into neat ice cubes patiently waiting to be shattered. Do so before they thaw or take time to run away. There is space for eight skills but only two are going to be filled.

Sadly development appears to have been put on halt. Google dropped a certain module from Go which is crucial to Teratogen’s code. Since the language has incomplete Windows support the game is playable only on Linux. Without a significant code overhaul this project will get easily forgotten.

ARRP 2010: Dance of Death

Dance of Death: ForestDance of Death: Map

Dance of Death is a flash roguelike game. You could be playing it right now instead of reading this review. While wonderfully portable you may need to agree few times to give it more storage on your hard drive. World inside is fully persistent and needs some space. It is divided into pieces just like wilderness map of ADOM. In DoD though, you can only move by going through borders of current area. Remember to use the ‘m’ap key to find the stairs to visit. Look for hints in your quest log. Finishing this dungeon means victory.

Dance of Death: Character generationDance of Death: Plains

Skill based nature of Dance of Death makes creating right character crucial. Carefully tuning your attributes and skills can make the game a breeze. Lets take armor skill. The more heavy pieces of protective gear you wear the more it encumbers you. Up to a certain point decided by armor skill adding new parts will enhance your safety. Continuing above this threshold actually decreases your protection because burden makes you less capable of efficiently using your armor.

Dance of Death: DungeonDance of Death: Coastline

Hit point regeneration system is unusual. This does not happen automatically as time goes by reducing tedium of resting after every battle. Boring pillar dancing is gone as well. To heal you have to eat corpses. After a meal you will be revitalized for a short time. During this phase your health regenerates very fast. It is actually so quick there is no need to wait for hit points to reach maximum. Go find another monster or some new treasure. Revitalization is likely to end sooner. Unfortunate blow to this good design are never rotting monster corpses. With several in your pack you can munch some when in bad condition then run away a little while revitalization lasts and come back to finish wounded enemy.

Dance of Death: HillsDance of Death: Mountains

Inventory takes a while to get used to if you have played roguelikes before. Hit ‘i’ to access it and when you highlight an item DoD will present you with number of actions you can take. Remember you need to eat not just to repair health. Bad things happen when your sustenance counter reaches zero. Overall a fine game with a strong coherent world but lacking in content due to still early development phase. Winnable in 15 minutes on second playthrough.

ARRP 2010: Expedition

Expedition: StormExpedition: Inventory

Expedition is just what the name suggests. You take an expedition into the unknown! Find unclaimed land, found a colony there and sail back to impress the royalty of Spain and get rich.

After being granted an audience in Alcazar of Segovia you start with two caravels, one carrack plus a bunch of sailors led by three captains. Make good use of 6000 maravedies you have. To establish a town you need to drop off one hundred people there and build a plaza. So take some colonists along. They are cheap but keep in mind they need to eat too.

One thing to note is controlling your expedition is not exactly straightforward. Left arrow will turn to portboard and right arrow will turn to starboard. Repeatedly pressing left arrow will not get you to America (*cough!* I mean Asia); you will sail in circles instead.

Expedition: Ship damageExpedition: Arriving home

Ships have hull integrity points. Hazards like storms and reefs damage them. If a ship loses all integrity points it sinks possibly forcing you to forsake some cargo. Damaged ships sail slower so it is imperative to keep them in good condition. To make repairs you need free men and logs of wood. Take at least one carpenter with you. Two hundred logs should be enough to make it one way. Devastate some forest to get enough wood to get back safely.

Game is prone to sudden crashes. A rare event but even a hurricane is not as dangerous to your progress. On the good side Expedition has three interface modes to choose from. Java curses based, libjcsi based and graphical.

Expedition has fitting music. Just listen to it while sailing to new lands. Playing the game may seem easy but avoiding storms and trying to not let your crew starve at the same time is bound to cause troubles. May the winds favor you!

Download current version here.

Expedition: RepairsExpedition: Unfavorable weather