|Author||Thomas Boyd, Rob Vawter|
One of few fantasy roguelikes set in norse mythology. Once a commercial product, now a forgotten freeware gem. The game starts when Fimbulwinter strikes. It is sure sign of incoming Ragnarok. Chaos engulfs known world while Jotuns and Valkyries prepare for the epic battle. Gods benevolent to mankind are outnumbered and underarmed. Norns have proclaimed their defeat. However, legends tell about a human hero who shall help the Aesir fight and perhaps tip the scales of battle. Thus your journey begins.
There are few key things a legendary hero is expected to fulfill. First is to free god Balder from Helheim by killing giantess Thokk and delivering her soul to goddess of the dead Hel herself. Next are gods’ artifacts. Spear Gungnir – Odin’s weapon that never misses its target. Thor’s mighty hammer Mjollnir which returns when thrown. Few mortals are strong enough to lift it. Sword of Freyr is his only weapon. Without it he shall be the first to fall on the plains of Vigrid. Finally Tyr need some way to participate in the battle with but one arm. Last thing to do is to hand Heimdall his horn so gods get head start.
Ragnarok allows you to choose your own path through the great tree Yggdrasil on which the world rests. Quests neither have to be solved in any strict order nor all of them need to be done to win. However, choosing right region to proceed into is risky action. Unless you get quite powerful many instant death await. For example entering river Giol may result in immediate attack of multiple Zardons. These creatures are able to use powerful mind blasts from other side of screen. Visiting ChAoS plane may leave you exposed to Hel dragons. Those beings always sense you, are able to instantly teleport to whatever location they desire (guess where it is?) and deal tremendous amounts of damage. If that was not enough they are six times as fast as you. Fortunately not all places are so unforgiving. On ocean surrounding Midgard you are warned of Jormungand’s presence.
The game world is full of wondrous places. Inhabitants, locations and most items are strongly connected to theme. Roguelikeness is hidden behind all that. Fortunes are present but not as cookies with a piece of paper inside. Instead ravens believed to be messengers of Odin will reach you and speak helpful bits of knowledge. Unlike NetHack they are never lying. Some areas are full of neutral and friendly races fighting your enemies. Sometimes you may encounter fellow norsemen. Help them to earn gods’ favour. Ultimately you are destined to take part in Ragnarok itself!
Some features deserve special mention. Your character can wear up to eight rings one on each finger (thumbs don’t count). It is quite uncommon for a roguelike and creates potential for interesting decisions to be made. There is a way to increase amount of fingers up to *sixteen*! With all that jewelry one must look funny. There is morality system which discourages cannibalism, genocides and killing loyal norsemen. Unfortunately it rarely comes into play because one has really to focus on making evil acts for punishment to kick in.
One thing that displeases is user interface. It is designed with selling this game in mind. Nothing wrong with that but it suffered in result. Experienced roguelike players will find space cluttered by all that buttons useless. Area map at the top is more useful for finding ways but it fails to distinguish some monsters. Combination of character and color is used to mark more than one creature forcing to look at close area display or use look command which is far worse than ADOM’s.
Another important issue is game balance. There are lots of opportunities to be instantly slain but also several tricks that nullify many challenges. Certain features are borrowed from NetHack. Dreaded cockatrice, secondary effects of scrolls and shop style to name a few.
All that combined make for a fun game with some quirks. Probably worth your time. Remember to use DOSBox.
Reviewed for Roguetemple by Michal Bielinski