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

ARRP 2010: Cracks and Crevices

Title screen of C'n'CC'n'C fight

Version 0.5 has two quests available. Completing the second results in victory. You have very limited turns before your first quest “Adulthood” begins automatically. Villagers kick you into the crevice and expect to stay there two days. Look to the right side of status bar for date and time.

Strong point of Cracks and Crevices is unified ‘u’se key which greatly reduces time needed to get into the game. While interface is well done (not counting a few bugs) playing experience is not as smooth. C’n’C is actually real-time. If you do not make a move during a specified interval character is assumed to be resting. Depressing effect it has on tactical play is very visible. Even on easy setting (up to 3 seconds per turn) one tends not to think when fighting because waiting too long will give opponent a free turn.

Combat is much less dynamic than expected. Most attacks end in misses and armor system is plain deflection. With two points of armor you can windshield kobolds. With four you do the same to orcs and so on. Accomplishing second quest consists of getting enough armor to be invulnerable and patiently bashing away until you opponent dies.

Definitely C’n’C is in a state where only hardcore roguelikers or those who wish to help author develop the game would want to play it. If you do press ‘3’ to heal at the temple for free. Hopefully next version will be easier to get into.

C'n'C slaughterhouseC'n'C end game boss

It has more serpentine heads than a snake pit

Hydra Slayer

Author Z
Language C++
Platform Linux, Windows; (open source)
Version 6.0
Website http://www.roguetemple.com/z/hydra.php

Hydra SlayerSeven Day Roguelike Challenge in 2010 was very fruitful. There were fifty games released. Some of those are inspiring enough to have a successor. Math: the Roguelike is successful in this regard. Hydra Slayer is another game based on kind of mathematics but was written in even shorter timeframe. First version appeared after one day of coding and another of playtesting. Its uniqueness to the world of roguelikes is based on two factors.

During two months of its existence Hydra Slayer had astounding number of seventeen releases! And that is not counting archives uploaded just to fix really minor bugs which did not have own version. Such development speed is virtually unheard of in this game genre.

Hydra SlayerSecond but no less important factor is theme and scope of the game. Hydra Slayer focuses on a tiny fraction world but fleshes it well. As a student of long forgotten profession you venture deep into Hydra Nest to make yourself a great career. Your goal is to slay all hydras on a level. To kill one you need to behead it. The trick is you cannot use your shortsword (-4) if target does not have at least four heads. Same rule applies for blunt weapons and shield bashes. To use a trisector (/3) on a hydra it has to have number of heads divisible by three.

To further complicate the task hydras have tendency to regrow heads which frankly is not news to anyone. Slayers would be well advised to use weapon imbued with element most effective at defeating chosen beast. Swinging a flaming claymore at a fire hydra will only get you double the quantity of heads you cut. However attacking with a bone bastard sword may give it opportunity to regenerate only one more.

Hydra Slayer

Fortunately there are many items left by previous warriors who were well provisioned. They did not have knowledge of hydra slaying art which you have. Runes of decapitation, runes of cancellation, scrolls of transmutation and potions of power juice are some of things you will find. There is no point describing them here because help system in game is neatly designed.

Main strength of Hydra Slayer is unique theme and easily understood interface. A fine coffeebreak game. After defeating ancient hydra you can ascend and score but also go down for more challenge. Sadly it becomes boring rather quickly.