Tuesday, 20 March 2012

7drl reviews: Asylum RL

Asylum RL by scotchfield 

Available here

Well here we have a roguelike written again in Python with libtcod. I don't want to say too much about it because it would spoil it for people but basically you are in an Asylum and escaping. It's very big on story and atmosphere and includes lots of sound and text. Judging from the journal pages you collect while playing I don't think it's going to be too long.

Unfortunately I didn't complete it due to one very silly little thing that made it hard for me: there's no auto-repeat on movement. You have to move across these big maps, some fixed, some randomly generated, and you have to press a key once for every movement square. You might say "so what?" and "that's the same as a lot of games". I don't know, but I really felt my arm muscles hurting after playing this for a bit and I didn't notice on any other games. You're restricted to using exactly WASD too; there's no way to change that.

7drl reviews: Dead Night Forest 2: The Lost Caravan

Dead Night Forest 2: The Lost Caravan by Edwin DeNicholas

Well um, wow. This roguelike has full 3d model graphics, blood splatters on the screen, fps combat with swinging sword, lovely starry sky, campfires that blaze merrily, trees and so on. Also full sound effects.

But is it really a roguelike? There's no ASCII graphics, the combat isn't turn-based. I think the levels are procedurally-generated but that's about the only box ticked.

Maybe not helped by spending the last week or so playing turn-based games, I failed hard at the real-time combat and kept dying hard and fast.(And this is on the easier mode of the game, without hunger!) It is well done though, with the ability to hold the mouse button to power attacks, and the type of attack being determined by the last direction the mouse was moved (like in Mount and Blade).  Attacking upwards flips your opponent satisfyingly into the air. 

I'm sorry that I don't have more to write about it. It's certainly very impressive and shows what can be done with Unity in just a week. It's just that instead of feeling like I'm playing a roguelike, I felt like I was playing a cheap version of a different sort of game. It really brings home one of the features of ASCII roguelikes: they are created by people who don't have to worry about the graphics. Usually the creators are programmers and not artists. By having ASCII graphics everyone is "equal" and it's the gameplay not the graphics that is important. Games like this cross the line and aspire to greater things, graphically speaking. Although they have much, much better graphics than the ASCII games though, suddenly you're comparing the graphics to Mount and Blade or Skyrim and they are falling short and looking like the hobbyist creation that they are.

7drl reviews: Ascension of the Drillworms!

Ascension of the Drillworms by kieselsteini

Available here

Ascension of the Drillworms is a really good game. It has cool, atmospheric music, and a graphical tiles presentation that reminds me of old ZX Spectrum games. It's written in C using the Allegro 5 game library.

You can find items, equipment and weapons.Part of the strategy involves which 4 gadgets you will choose to equip and which 4 "programs" you will run. There are things that will shield you, add to your damage, add to your accuracy and so on. Combat is ranged combat using your gun and your accuracy starts out bad so you miss a lot. The enemies shoot back at you. They start out as spidery crab things; later there are boss crabs that spawn smaller crabs; a new humanoid enemy appeared once I had cleared a few maps too.

To transition to the next map you simply find a cave entrance graphic and go in although sometimes you just stay there and don't go to the next map and have to come out, so I'm not sure if there's some task you have to perform on each level first or if some caves are just like that. Maybe they recover your stats.

You have three stats: armour, oxygen and energy. Armour is basically hp and can be fixed by spanners, Oxygen goes down with time and can be fixed with oxygen tanks. Energy is the weird one. Various devices you find use energy but I'm not sure if it's an ongoing cost or a "one time installation charge". All I can tell you is that before I worked out there was an inventory and character screen I had full energy, but then later, when I installed lots of stuff I never seemed to have any energy.

Anyway, it's a great game. I think two things would improve it though: one would be a couple of simple little sound effects for shooting and being hit and so on; the second thing would be a score of some kind or an indication of what level you were on.

7drl reviews: Cogmind

Cogmind by Kyzrati

Available here

OK, well this is a good game. SF setting, you are a robot. I'm sure there's a plot but I'm tired of typing them out, honestly! Basically you go about, being robotic. There are all these parts to pick up which are equipment for different slots. There's also other robots going about doing stuff, including excavating robots which excavate the level, which is like time-lapse procedural generation of the level and therefore pretty cool.

Although the presentation is absolutely excellent (written in C++ with sdl) the display can be a little confusing and intimidating to begin with. It's obvious that there is a lot of complexity both beneath the surface and on it. Pressing F1 shows the keys, of which there are a lot: dropping items, detaching pieces of equipment from yourself, activating and deactivating equipment, firing, moving, etc.

There's even sound effects in the game, although a limited selection, so you may find they grate after a bit, but having any sound at all marks a roguelike above its fellows. The text appears and disappears with a cool effect too.

The items in the world are also confusing to start with. You start off in an area with tons of stuff around you, all different letters, symbols and colours, and you can't make sense of it all. It's not like say nethack where you start off with a limited number of things around you so you can gradually learn what's what. Fortunately when you are over something on the floor it shows what it is in the "scan" section of the screen, and pressing x allows you to mouseover or key over items in the world to learn what they are.

The first level you start on (I think it's the scrap heap) gets you used to picking things up and equipping them and also combat. It felt slightly wrong to shoot the poor little other robots since they weren't attacking me, but I was stuck for what to do at the time and the excavators seemed to have finished excavating the level. They do blow up satisfyingly into their constituent parts.

Eventually I found the stairs and went to the real first level and wow, that's when the action begins. You can't take 5 paces without getting your wheels shot off! Fun and cool, although rather tough! It's rather exciting and different to have multiple enemies chasing you around shooting at you.

Then I hit a bug while equipping an assault rifle and it was all over. NOoooooooooooo!

What a shame! I hope the author can fix this bug because it's a great game, and random crashes hurt great games. What am I typing today! It's like a robot reconfigurized my brain!

7DRL reviews: The Challenge

The Challenge by Xlambda

Available here

OK The premise for this game is amazing and apparently came out of a lively forum discussion. I'll let the author explain it:

"Play a young and hopeful programmer trying to write a 7DRL as he faces certain doom in the Dungeons of Development! Get through the dungeon before the Seven Days of Magic are over! Wield powerful weapons such as vi and emacs! Run from bugs and segfaults! Drink massive amounts of coffee to increase your laziness! And other stuff."

So, the game is written in Java with the help of a ui library and an fov library. It's a great premise as I said, the ascii presentation is good. There are objects to pick up, ranged and mêlée combat and everything fits in nicely and sometimes humorously with the theme.

Unfortunately there is a big problem with the game in my eyes. Despite the author promising: " Lots of fast-paced dungeon-crawling fun." the game is actually very tedious and slow when it comes to combat.

1. There is no diagonal movement.
2. It takes quite a lot of hits to kill a single creature with mêlée (like 5 or 6) and there's no visible indication on screen that anything is happening (like letters could have flashed or something) so you end up getting bored of spamming the key to attack and hold it down until something happens. That isn't good or fun.
3. Even worse, if more than one monster is attacking you you can't even hold the attack button down because you get a promt "more" and you have to press space each turn, which means you have to get into a direction-space key spamming cycle. Awful.

I'll be honest, I got so frustrated I didn't finish my first game and exited the game on the 2nd level.

With a couple of simple changes to make this combat not tedious this could have maybe been a really good and fun game. If anything it stands as a warning to test your game for playability before releasing.


 I have gone back to the game and persevered. The combat becomes a lot less tedious when you get updated weapons (text editors). The ranged combat (via "patches") is fun and aoe kills multiple enemies. So I solved the game as seen below. (It's easy to solve really, I suppose the challenge would be getting the best score).
Another criticism I would have though, is that while the inventory system lets you feel like you are doing something, it would be more convenient if lesser weapons were dropped when you got a better one, buff type items were used immediately etc. There's no actual need for an inventory system in this game.

Monday, 19 March 2012

7DRL Review Roundup! Warden

Warden by Michal Walczak

Available here

OK this next roguelike is written in python with libtcod and as such it looks clean, pleasant and works as you would expect. The plot is very loosely based on a piece of lore from Dragon Age: Origins, so you are a grey warden going into a dungeon at the end of his time to take down as many monsters as you can.

And goodness me there do seem to be quite a lot of monsters here! Not Vicious Kobolds level of monsters, but still quite a few. We are a powerful @ indeed!

The main mechanic is a little tricky to work out. You have a stamina bar and a power bar. The stamina bar seems to decrease gradually as you move about and increase when you beat up monsters. Usually when it hits zero you get a purple message about stuff taking a toll and it goes back up to 70, but sometimes you die. I'm not quite sure what's going on there, to be honest. As for the power bar, I didn't really take much notice of it.

The gameplay is simple: a maze of passages and rooms, lots of monsters, one "artefact piece" per level that you have to retrieve before you can descend into the sultry "O". Sometimes there is a helpful potion that does something to one of your bars. Something positive I think.

I've really got nothing against this game. It's fine for what it is. I'm just a little disappointed with the fact that it didn't really have a gimmick of any kind so the gameplay is a little boring. This is the author's first game though and he has managed to create a roguelike which feels like a roguelike and works, which is more than some people have managed who finished games this year, so congratulations for that and I hope next year he enters again to build on this success with a game with more of a unique feel rather than a libtcod demo.

Lastly I was a bit disappointed too that you can't move diagonally. Also there could be a bug with the high scores (see below) as I seem to have got one game entered twice.

7DRL Review Roundup! The Adventurer's Guild

The Adventurer's Guild by Nolithius

Available here

This roguelike is written in flash and I have to say, it's one of my favourites of the 2012 7drl. At first I was worried that I wouldn't be able to save the game into my super secret special "rogue vault" and play it forever, disconnected from the net, but it turned out to be easy to use firefox to view the info of the page, view the media and save the .swf file to my hard drive, so panic over!

There are several innovative features in this game: Firstly you control a whole party of 4, not just one character, which has shades of old infinity engine games and new Spiderweb software games. Killing monsters nets you money, which you actually need to pay the four characters at the end of each day. A day is a certain number of turns, and if you don't have enough to pay people at the end of it, they leave, although they will come back next day if you make enough money.

The four characters are not all the same. Each one has a different hp and mp (or energy or something). The first character, Oslo is basically a tank. He has no special moves but is strong has lots of hp; Rayn has a javelin attack that kills monsters in a row; Kohn is a healer with aoe heal; Remi has a whirlwind attack which attacks in a circle around him. You can switch characters at will by pressing 1-4.

Since you need money and the lower level monsters give more money (I think), the key is to descend quickly rather than try to clear a level. If you try to clear up then you'll waste time and you won't have enough money and people will leave.

This is really a fantastic game. I love it. Unfortunately it does have some bugs. Sometimes people get stuck and end up separated from the party (they normally follow the character you're controlling automatically). This isn't a big deal though because they re-join-up when you descend to the next level. Sometimes the stars that are used for the aoe healing spell persist on the screen, but again this isn't much of a problem unless they block your way (I can't remember if you can walk through them).

The last bug I encountered though is serious. Basically, sometimes when you descend you will just see either a blank screen or one square, and not be able to see your characters. I think it only happened to me when I had one character left but I can't be sure. One time it happened I did manage to move out of whatever I must have been stuck on and continue normally. The last time it happened though, pictured below, there was nothing I could do to continue.

I'm not sure if there is an end to the dungeons going down and down but it's a marvellously fun and well-done game and with the bugs fixed I'm sure people will be playing and talking about this game for years to come.

7DRL Review Roundup! Wyrm

Wyrm by Eben Howard

Available here

What you think when you first load up this Java game is: Wyrm? I'm not a wyrm, I'm a snake! Indeed this entry does bear more than a passing similarity to the old "what should I code in BASIC" / "what crappy single game should we put on this phone for people" standby.

So you are a snake, sorry, Wyrm and you eat things and you get bigger. Now, you might think that snake, played rogue-style, which is to say: turn-based, would be too easy. Well, the monsters that you have to nom-nom-nomerize to get bigger attack you if are next to them, so it's harder than you might think. Once you get the hang of it though you get to know the patterns of the monsters and can clear the screen quite easily, which results in victoreh! (As pictured, obtained by graspee).

So, it's quite fun, and it definitely has replay value until you clear the screen, but that won't take you many tries, and once you have done it there isn't much to make you want to play it again. The core gameplay mechanic is fun though so it would have been cool if there were more levels with more gameplay elements that were gradually introduced level by level.

Of course the main consideration with this game is: it it really a roguelike? Well, you have procedural generation of a sort: random walls on the screen, and you have combat of a sort, and you have ASCII graphics, so I suppose it is a roguelike. My initial reaction would have been to say that it wasn't a roguelike, but it does tick the boxes.

7DRL Review Roundup! Fictional Roguelike

Well the 2012 7DRL (Seven Day Roguelike, or "rougelike" for WoW players) finished on Saturday, and a good large number of people actually created a working game in the seven days allowed, so I thought I'd do a review of them. I'm not guaranteeing that I won't run out of steam before I get through all of them though!

Fictional Roguelike by Tritax

Available here

This roguelike is written in Java and you'll need to download version 1.7 manually to get it to work.

Well the gimmick with this roguelike is that the screen is designed to look like the dungeon maps out of TSR Dungeons and Dragons modules. And very pleasing to the eye it is too: all clean lines and a grid, with the whole dungeon level fitting on the screen at once.

The actual game is rather simple. You have a maximum of 4 hit points but you're not actually a mage, you're a warrior I presume. There's no equipment or gold to pick up and no stats beyond the hit points I mentioned. There's only one enemy: a "k" (presumably a kobold) which you bump into to kill. You get to hold down the . key in between fights to gain your 4 hp back, and it kind of feels like bad luck rather than skill when you eventually die, as I did and you can see on the screenshot.

There's supposed to be bosses every 4 levels and a boss on the 17th and last level, a treasure to collect and ascend to the surface with. I didn't notice the boss on level 4 though. Perhaps I skipped him, as best strategy is to take the stairs down as soon as you find them since you're only risking losing by clearing the whole level.

Tritax wrote the engine for this himself, so I'm hoping that maybe next year he will build a more complex and engaging roguelike with this engine. As it stands for this year, Fictional roguelike is very nicely presented, but too simple and uninteresting.