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Roguelikes - Where The Most Fun Is Dying

edited September 2012 in Social Entropy++
Hey guys, I'm here to talk to you about a little subgenre of CRPGs called roguelikes. What are roguelikes, you ask? You ever play Diablo? It's kind of like that. But harder.

To me, a rogulike is three things:

1) Randomly generated levels - It might have a static overworld (such as ADOM), but every dungeon you enter will be random each game you play. And trust me - you'll be playing lots of games.
2) Emphasis on combat - The typical object of a roguelike is to descend into a dungeon and kill the big monster, which is usually preceded by killing lots and lots and lots (and lots) of other monsters. Combat is the centerpiece of most roguelikes.
3) Absolutely brutal and unforgiving difficulty - I'm exaggerating a little here, but roguelikes are typically really, really hard. And when you die, your save is deleted, so you can't just reload and try again. As a result they're usually pretty niche.

An additional trait of the genre (but not something I consider integral to the core of it) are ASCII graphics (and once you learn just how much stuff is in your typical roguelike, you'll know why most roguelike developers choose to eschew graphics). Some people say tiles make the games less fun. I say, whatever, they're still roguelikes, so who gives a fuck.

So what are some roguelikes, you ask?

I - The Classics

These are the games that in some way are usually considered to be the inspirations of later roguelikes. I've tried to include links with further information if possible.

Rogue - The original. This is why all games of this type are called roguelikes. It's also the simplest of the genre, with the aim to reach the bottom of the dungeon, retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, and return to the surface with it.

Moria - Based heavily on Tolkien's works, the object of this game is to enter the Mines of Moria and slay the Balrog. A variant of this later became...

Angband - Another, more famous roguelike based on Tolkien's works. Also notable for the sheer numbers of variants it's spawned - far too many to list here, but it includes, ZAngband (based on Zelazny's works, though it later included an absurd amount of other things), OAngband, and ToME, which originally was a variant but has since become something entirely separate. There are seriously a ridiculous amount of variants for this game, just a few of which are listed here.

Nethack - Probably the most direct descendant to Rogue, it follows the same basic goals as its ancestor - descend to the bottom of the dungeon and retrieve the Amulet of Yendor - only with a massive amount of additional quests, items, monsters, side dungeons, and other things. Also notable because you can play as a tourist, which is the worst class in anything ever. A popular saying is "The DevTeam thinks of everything", referencing the fact that there is often an actual result for doing unexpected things. A popular variant of Nethack is...

Slash'EM - Which stands for Super Lotsa Added Stuff Hack - Extended Magic. It, well, adds a lot of extra stuff to Nethack, some of which was added back into Nethack itself.

ADOM - Probably my favorite out of this bunch. The world of Ancardia is being corrupted slowly, and the source is the mysterious Drakalor Chain. As an adventurer you must figure out what's wrong, and try and stop the chaos infestation before it envelops the entire world. The game includes multiple endings, an interesting corruption mechanic, and just a whole mess of stuff. Probably the game I've played the most - though I've still never come close to beating it. Also notable for the fact that the creator ran an Indiegogo campaign to resurrect development of it, and not only did it succeed, it wildly exceeded expectations. The game's development will be restarted and many new things added, assuming the guy doesn't just take the money and run. He's also still developing ADOM 2.

Dungeon Crawl - I probably have the least amount of time logged with this game, but I know people love it, especially the Stone Soup variant.

II -Games That Might Not Be Classic, But They're Old And I Still Like Them, Damn It

Here are just a few roguelikes I enjoy, but they were never particularly notable.

Alphaman - A goofy post-apocalyptic romp through a ruined world. You're to stop The Grinch from releasing deadly nerve toxin over the world... Or something. It's been a while, but I played this a lot back in the day.

Ragnarok/Valhalla - Based off norse mythology, you're to help out the gods during Ragnarok by bringing them their artifacts - Odin's spear, Thor's hammer, etc. It used to cost money, but now it's free. Also notable because it does, in fact, have a persistent save system.

IVAN - A thoroughly brutal (and just as thoroughly unfinished) roguelike. Especially interesting for the dismemberment mechanic, this game is even crueler than most games. Don't fuck with hedgehogs, because they will rip your head off, no joke. The game was never really 'finished', and I'm not sure if there even is an actual ending to it.

The UnReal World - Possibly the most bizarre roguelike I've played, there's no real goal to this game. You're a Finnish tribesman in the wilds of fantasy Finland, and you must survive. That's it. It's actually quite engaging, though, at least I found it to be so when I played it. Unfortunately, it costs money, and the developer has adopted a rather distasteful (to me) tiered registration system - you can buy the current version of the game for $3, the current 'major' version for $5 (gets you all the updates for the current iteration of the game, 3.14, 3.15, etc), and 'lifetime' registration for $35. Given how slow the development of this game is, though, I'd probably go with the $5 version myself.

III - Roguelikes - The New Class

Here I'll list some games that have come about recently - and by 'recently' I mean in the past five or six years. Development of roguelikes is often a slow, slow process, especially considering they're often released entirely for free.

DoomRL - A roguelike version of Doom. I don't need to explain the story to you. It's a surprisingly faithful adaptation, while still staying faithful to its roguelike ancestry.

Dungeons of Dredmor - Possibly the best combination of modern game sensibilities (a functional UI! A tutorial! Nice looking art!) with roguelike roots (difficulty, tile-based movement, etc). It's a fantastic game, and it doesn't hurt that the game has an excellent goofy sense of humor, which is something drastically lacking in most games today, I feel. Also, you can turn off permadeath if you want. But who would do that? Who, I ask you? It does cost money, but it's well worth it. Let my 67 hours played of this game show you how much playtime you can get from it (though 50 of those hours are from mistakenly leaving it on

Dwarf Fortress - The actual Fortress Mode of the game isn't a roguelike, but the Adventurer mode is. As it stands, though, there's not a ton to do other than wander around the absurd procedurally generated world and kill monsters in the most gruesomely detailed fashion imaginable.

Incursion - Based off the D20 system. I've never played this, but I've heard people talk glowingly about it.

Caves of Qud - Post-apocalyptic set in a procedurally generated world, with hand-written questlines. I haven't played much of it, but it looks promising.

Cataclysm - The most recent roguelike I've been interested in. Mostly because you're wandering around a post-apocalyptic setting and there are just drugs and guns everywhere. Feel free to snort some cocaine, kill a bunch of zombies, and then find out that you didn't actually kill any zombies because you're schizophrenic.

Spelunky - I totally forgot about this game. Spelunky is a unique sort of roguelike, blending a sidescroller with, well, a roguelike. There's a free version available, and they recently released an amazing XBLA version. Make no mistake, though - this game still has the difficulty of any of the other games listed here.

The Binding Of Isaac - Hey, ever want to play a religion-themed roguelike where you have to kill your mother (and later Satan himself) at the end? The Binding Of Isaac is for you. It's a weird, weird game, but fits well into the genre. Also, excellent music.

I realize there's a lot of stuff I'm missing here - there are seriously an absolute fuckload of roguelikes available. Also, yes, I know Diablo and those type of games are still technically roguelikes, but come on, everyone's heard of those.

Moriveth on


  • TallahasseerielTallahasseeriel Registered User regular
    Spelunky is super fun.

    everyone play spelunky.

    Speed RacerpremiumMorivethMaydayDarth Waiter
  • Satanic JesusSatanic Jesus Hi, I'm Liam! with broken glassesRegistered User regular
    edited September 2012
    My first roguelike was Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team, although it didn't really much dying in it.

    Also I must get around to playing Dungeons of Dredmor.

    Satanic Jesus on
    my backloggery 3DS: 0533-5338-5186 steam: porcelain_cow goodreads
  • Fire TruckFire Truck I love my SELFRegistered User regular
    Thread lacks Spelunky. It lacks my my support as well.

  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    Oh yeah, totally forgot about Spelunky. That has been rectified.

  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Registered User regular
    Dungeon Raid! It's on iOS and Android and is cheap and so there is no reason not to own it

    Other than that, my exposure to roguelikes is pretty limited. Fatal Labyrinth on the Genesis (and subsequently Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection) and Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon are pretty much it

    It's something they need to put more of on consoles

    And yeah, Spelunky is a weird platformer/roguelike hybrid. I'm personally not a fan but tons of people love it to death

  • Fire TruckFire Truck I love my SELFRegistered User regular
  • TallahasseerielTallahasseeriel Registered User regular
    Doom RL is pretty fun too. Good thing you got that one covered Moriveth.

  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    Oh yeah, I should write about iOS/mobile games. Dungeon Raid, 100 Rogues, etc.

  • SanderJKSanderJK Crocodylus Pontifex Sinterklasicus Madrid, 3000 ADRegistered User regular
    Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is a my favorite roguelike, straightforward and open about 99% of it's effects but properly hard.

    ToME is pretty neat, ongoing development, a unique take on many roguelike ideas, and the engine is available for those who want to make their own roguelike.

    Both of these are graphical which at least for me is a must. I struggle with seeing the matrix and even your basic 16x16 sprite without animations improves my enjoyment a lot.

    Steam: SanderJK Origin: SanderJK
  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    I am annoyed because The UnReal World was offered for free, I got it at the last minute, and then the computer I got it on exploded. So now I can't play it.

  • BeastehBeasteh THAT WOULD NOT KILL DRACULARegistered User regular
    uhhh the binding of isaac?

  • lostwordslostwords Registered User regular
    I loved dungeons of dredmor! But I get too easily distracted so will play for a week or so the stop playing for months. I also can't help but love when roguelikes are wrapped in a sweet, dumb jrpg shells. Elona, shiren the wanderer, izuna, zhp, Pokemon mystery dungeon, do the etrian odyssey games count? Basically I wish more of those types of games came out for the psp or ds or even the dang iPad.

    rat.jpg tumbler? steam/ps3 thingie: lostwords Amazon Wishlist!
  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    Yeah, added BoI to the list.

    I don't think Etrian Odyssey games count, mostly just because the maps aren't random. But they are incredibly hard.

  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    So I'ma tell you guys about Michael Alexander, the character I just played in Cataclysm

    Michael immediately fled the shelter you start in, and was attacked by a giant spider. Though he managed to kill it with his bare hands, he was greviously injured and found refuge inside a nearby abandoned house. Inside the house, amongst the clothes and kitchen items scattered through the rooms, he found some cocaine. Snorting the cocaine, he found his way to the bathroom and began drinking water from the toilet. After slaking his thirst, he found a bottle of vodka and drank that, and then tried to sleep in the bedroom. He couldn't, and woke up several times to vomit, becoming quite hungry afterward. Raiding the fridge, he ate the meat sandwich and frozen dinners inside, and having used up everything in the house, wandered on, drinking the entire bottle of vodka and snorting the rest of the cocaine.

    In the next house he found nyquil. Finally, he thought, now I can sleep. He downed about five and passed out on the road to another house, vomiting again. At this point he was both deathly thirsty and hungry. Drinking all the soda and apple cider he could find did not slake his thirst - but one thing did. Toilets. He drank from another toilet until his thirst was slaked, at which point he puked again, making himself thirsty again.

    Making it to another house, he was attacked by a zombie and a boomer. Managing to kill both, he smoked the marijuana he found inside, and died of starvation shortly thereafter.

    I like to think he died happily.

  • ChicoBlueChicoBlue Registered User regular
    I have played Spelunky too much and I had to remove it from my computer.

  • Mr FuzzbuttMr Fuzzbutt Registered User regular
    Brogue is a good one. It has ASCII graphics as per tradition, but somehow also manages to be reasonably pretty. It also streamlines the interface quite a bit, and is really easy to get into.

    broken image link
  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular

    Seriously everyone should play Cataclysm though. It's got a crafting system!

  • MadEddyMadEddy Creepy house watching youRegistered User regular
    Dungeon Crawl is possibly my favorite game of all time. Not just my favorite roguelike or computer game. Gotta do it with the ASCII, though. I dislike the graphical version.

  • JarsJars Registered User regular
    edited September 2012
    there was a roguelike thread not too long ago

    anyway nethack is my favorite. I've done a couple ascensions. I liked angband too but it got so tedious that I could never stand to beat it. tried stone soup, gave up at level 2. didn't like it.

    tourists are not that bad actually. now healers? there's a bad class

    Jars on
  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    I couldn't find the roguelike thread, so I figured it'd be okay to make a new one.

  • JarsJars Registered User regular
    Moriveth wrote: »
    Yeah, added BoI to the list.

    I don't think Etrian Odyssey games count, mostly just because the maps aren't random. But they are incredibly hard.

    EO games come from the old SSI gold box(pool of radiance etc) games which were standard D&D rpgs

  • EndEnd Registered User regular
    I am awful at roguelikes

    and I wouldn't have it any other way

    I wish that someway, somehow, that I could save every one of us
  • IloveslimesIloveslimes Everett, WARegistered User regular
    At PAX I got to meet Gaslamp Games, the people who made Dungeons of Dredmor. They had a challenge at their booth and if you could make it to level 3 of the dungeon, you got a plush Diggle.

  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    Oh man that's cool. I admit I was sorely tempted to order a plush diggle.

  • GoatmonGoatmon Companion of Kess Registered User regular
    Jars wrote: »
    there was a roguelike thread not too long ago

    anyway nethack is my favorite. I've done a couple ascensions. I liked angband too but it got so tedious that I could never stand to beat it. tried stone soup, gave up at level 2. didn't like it.

    tourists are not that bad actually. now healers? there's a bad class

    The most fun I ever had in Nethack was rolling a valkyrie.

    Get gauntlets of power, and make your god happy enough to get mjollnir.

    While wearing the gloves, a valkyrie can throw it at an enemy (Which will then be struck by lightning) and it will return to your hand and re-equip itself.

    You get to be Thor. And that is awesome.

    Switch Friend Code: SW-6680-6709-4204

  • BahamutZEROBahamutZERO Registered User regular
    I'm a fan of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, myself.

  • GoatmonGoatmon Companion of Kess Registered User regular
    I'm still regularly playing Binding of Isaac. It's really nice to have a roguelike that has a very short timeframe. Even if you win, you don't have to spend hours and hours into it to get that far. It's sort of a casual game that still demands that you pay attention and learn from your mistakes.

    Switch Friend Code: SW-6680-6709-4204

  • KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    I played the shit out of Moria as a kid on my old Mac Performa and even my Dad's ancient gray Powerbook (with trackball!). Even though we did work around the permanent death thing by copying our save files, it's pretty incredible how immersed you could get in this UI made entirely of ASCII characters. A capital L, purple capital D, or big red B before you were ready could be terrifying. I can probably still name most of the monsters each letter corresponded to.

  • 2 Marcus 2 Ravens2 Marcus 2 Ravens CanadaRegistered User regular
    This thread. I like this thread.

    I play the original Rogue all the time. It's one I can just pull up and jam on for five minutes (that's all I'll last anyway) and move on.

    Spelunky is great, and the XBLA version is a million times greater. It's one of my favourite games. Period. Also, try the death match mode with a few friends. Clearly a different beast altogether, but it's a silly good time.

    One of the few excellent games on the Xbox Indie Games platform is Cursed Loot. Or Epic Dungeon. It changed names somewhere along the line and I can't remember which it is now. But it's a much faster paced, action oriented title that really freshens up the formula. It's also quite easy for a rogue like, although it still ain't no walk in the park.

    Also, Dungeons of Dredmor for all the reasons listed above.

    Oh! And on the Wii/DS there's Shiren the Wanderer. I've not really jumped into it much yet, but it's an interesting take on the genre, and on two platforms that don't really offer...any other alternatives.

  • 2 Marcus 2 Ravens2 Marcus 2 Ravens CanadaRegistered User regular
    Etrian Odyssey is more of a Wizardry descendant. Still an excellent franchise. EO 3 probably has the more hours logged into of any of my DS games.

    Also, The Dark Spire is a super badass Wizardry type game on the DS.

    Rogue and Wizardry style games are probably my favourite in the RPG realm. Demon's Souls/Dark Souls borrows heavily from them, which is probably why I love those games so much.

    I don't think I've geeked out this much around here in a while. Feels good man.

  • JerkbotJerkbot some kind of hypnotist Registered User regular
    edited September 2012

    if it's not an impossible, incomprehensible mess, you're a roguelike casual.

    Jerkbot on
  • MarshmallowMarshmallow Registered User regular
    edited September 2012
    I think Azure Dreams on the game boy color was my first exposure to roguelikes.

    I have some fond memories there. Wonder if it would be worth looking into again, if only to see all those rad monsters you could team up with once more.

    Marshmallow on
    Dee Kae
  • 2 Marcus 2 Ravens2 Marcus 2 Ravens CanadaRegistered User regular
    I really like the relative simplicity of the original rogue. You just jump in and start adventuring. The depth of a lot of its successors can be fun, but I find myself going back to the original most often.

    I want this to be my actual tombstone. Except with my name on it.


    Makes me chuckle every time.

  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    I usually just name my roguelike characters the same name but sequentially.

    Also, in Cataclysm I just escaped a horde of zombies by blowing up a gas station.

    ... Then more zombies cornered me in a house as I downed painkiller after painkiller.

  • Rogue LemonRogue Lemon AVATAR BOX TOO TIGHT, 50 YEARS DUNGEON!Registered User regular
    Yessss. I love Roguelikes.

    I tried out Gearhead a little while back. It's a different sort of game in that it's less about the combat and a lot more open-ended and forgiving. My experience was as follows:

    1. Try to create a mechanic-type character to trick out my sweet giant robot.
    2. Fuck that, too complicated and poorly explained!
    3. Buy a pistol that fires rockets. Hell yes.
    4. Wander aimlessly, earning a living as blood sport arena fighter.
    5. Use my winnings to to buy a flying mech.
    6. Accidentally crash it into a mountain.

    I regret none of it.

    STEAM: BioSpark // POKEMON: 0303 9578 6730
  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    Another character in Cataclysm found a truck, and used it to run into many, many zombies until I crashed it into a wall and couldn't figure out how to get out.

    A later character found that one's corpse. And that's how I found out the world is persistent.

  • 2 Marcus 2 Ravens2 Marcus 2 Ravens CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited September 2012
    That's my friend's profile picture. I usually just use my name, but I'm too lazy to go get killed by a troll right now and screencap it.

    Because it has to be a troll. That's the exact wording my tombstone needs.

    Edit: I think I need to try this Cataclysm.

    2 Marcus 2 Ravens on
  • JarsJars Registered User regular
    after the ranged weapon changes rogues quickly became my favorite class. if you found a blessed scroll of enchant weapon early that was it. you won. a stack of +3 daggers destroyed everything including shop keepers

  • MorivethMoriveth BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWN BREAKDOWNRegistered User regular
    Edit: I think I need to try this Cataclysm.

    I'm really enjoying it. There's not much in the way of goals right now (you can get a quest from the guy in the shelter you start in, but I don't know what else there is), but it's interesting.

  • premiumpremium Registered User regular
    Anyone else try the latest dwarf fortress update?
    In adventurer mode now you can become a vampire who is also a necromancer and lead a ridiculous undead army to wipe out anything in your path while being ridiculously hard to kill because you are a vampire.

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