Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hankering for Old School Dungeon Crawling?

Ah, the old days of RPG goodness have never really gone to far.  For some of us retro gaming lovers, and geeks, we love our “Roguelikes”.  What is a roguelike?  Rogue is an old Ascii based dungeon crawler in the style of classic pen and paper table top role playing games.  The beauty of such a game is the lack of a need for minimum two players.  There have been so many different roguelike games over the last 20+ years.  Curious what a few of them are?  Let me give you a few that have a special place in my heart.

adventure_castle First off, let us start with Atari’s Adventure.  This seems to be the one game that has spawned a lot of great titles over the years, but isn’t exactly the one credited with the “roguelike” experience.  The game play was extremely simplistic in comparison to so many games that have come after it.  However, it was the maze’s and the fact it was the first RPG experience on the Atari VCS/2600 console.  For some geeks, with a good imagination, had a great experience with this game, including myself!Rogue_Screen_Shot

Next up comes the namesake this this genre of games, Rogue.  If you look at the screen shot, you will notice how it is entirely in ASCII?  Considering the game was written on an old UNIX system that was not designed to display tiles, or graphical sprites.  To get around that issue, ASCII symbols were set to represent various items, monsters, and the character within the game.  When color screens started coming out, certain aspects obviously gotten a color tone added to give a bit more detail to each level.  Back in the days of UNIX servers, and monochrome screens, a dash of color was probably a godsend to gamers, and geeks.


Along comes Windows and Linux.  Along with these comes more colorful and vibrant displays.  With that comes the ability to display tiles and graphical sprites.  However, Rogue has long since disappeared.  Old games don’t die, however.  They get cloned and renamed.  Hence we now have Nethack.  Nethack is actually based off of a roguelike called “Hack”.  Hack introduced some new concepts to the game that was quite welcomed by players.  Nethack opened the game up to multiple platforms so it could be experienced by numerous players.  Not only has this seen versions on Linux, Windows and Apple Mac, but there is a browser based version!  The innovation brought on by Nethack was the ability to choose between classic ASCII or colorful Tiles.  Both provide the same excitement, but one just looks “prettier”.

Since then, numerous geeks and programmers have created a variety of variants with different themes.  Some are direct translations of Nethack!VulturesEye

Falcon’s Eye, and it’s successor Vulture’s Eye, take the basic gameplay mechanics of Nethack and give it a 3D isometric view.  The game will remind a lot of the first Diablo even.  In some cases, I dare say, it has been mistakenly called a Diablo clone.  However, Diablo itself is a roguelike.  The isometric view gives the game a new level of depth and takes the game to new levels of enjoyment.  It is still the same old game, just a modern look.  Falcon’s Eye developed stopped a few years ago, but Vulture’s Eye continues the legacy.  Vulture’s Eye is the same game as Falcon’s, but a few graphical changes in the HUD, and new features added from time to time.

Powder If you want a good roguelike for your Nintendo DS, I recommend Powder.  There is a version of this roguelike for Mac, Linux, Windows, PSP, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS.  All play the same, and is quite a bit of fun.  I have compared the Windows and DS versions, and I am truly impressed here.  Don’t let the blocky 8-bit graphics throw you.  This is a great game.  Like most roguelikes it seems simple, but it is deeper than you realize.  The touch interface for this game is well thought out, and easy to manipulate.  Due to a lack of a keyboard, the game has been iconized so you can easily find the commands you need.  Some commands are automatic for the DS version as to help eliminate the tediousness of having to click on things.

For those looking for a Sci-Fi twist to their roguelike experience, you are in luck with these two examples.AliensRL

First off, give a shot at AliensRL.  This title is designed and looks just like the classics it is based off of.  No titles, just a colored ASCII display.   It is an interesting title placing you in the role of Ellen Ripley on LV-426.  You explore corridors, rather than dungeons, and are essentially chased by the Aliens.  You have a limited amount of ammo and must seek out more, along with the exit to the next level.  Running out of ammo and being surrounded by aliens will only mean meeting an early demise.  Not something you want, obviously.

DeckerLast one I am going to show you hear is Decker.  This is a take on the Cyberpunk 2019 and Shadowrun style of RPG’s.  It also features a much more interesting looking interface to better represent the style of game you are playing.  Rather than sneaking around in corridors and dungeons, your character is exploring the inside of a computer and the internet seeking valuable information to sell.  You are doing that while running from, or fighting antivirus software, firewalls, anti-intrusion protocols, ICE protocols, etc.  It is definitely a title that the aspiring hacker will enjoy.

Of these homebrew titles, there are some major releases that have surfaced over the last 20+ years that have taken the roguelike experience to a more marketable, and expansive level.  Games like the Diablo franchise are examples.  Many classic RPG’s on the popular consoles have followed this example, such as the Legend of Zelda series and Phantasy Star series.  You can also find examples in early arcade titles such as Venture.

DiabloVenture - ColecovisionThe Legend of Zelda - NES

Give these games a shot.  Don’t let the primitive appearance throw you off.  Graphics are not the only the thing that makes for a great game.  Great games include elements of excitement, adventure, story, and playability.  All of these titles offer just that.  They also span across numerous platforms so you can find a roguelike for you and your gaming platform of choice.

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