[email protected] Review
A throwback and homage to the roguelikes of old, [email protected] brings a fierce, unforgiving ASCII world to life — which does its very best to take away yours.
Older and more experienced gamers may be familiar with MUDs — the text-only precursors of today’s grandiose MMOs, and the original roguelikes. [email protected] takes those old worlds and breathes life into them, bringing them into a modern 3D setting while still keeping the graphics decidedly retro and ASCII-based.
Dungeon runs for profit and fun
Built around running through procedurally generated dungeons, [email protected] lets you play as four different classes, each with different starting abilities. Unlike other titles however, the classes don’t really differ besides which abilities they begin with; wizard or warrior, ranger or amazon, you’ll still start off with nothing but a torch and your bare fists to beat down enemies. It’s a little jarring to play as a ranger who doesn’t have a bow, but fisticuffs serve surprisingly well to take down most enemies anyway.
The key differences between classes is those starting skills — certain skills are required to equip most weapon types, such as bows or hammers, and others such as Craftsman allow you to craft weapons, which is the only way you’ll earn weaponry to use in the dungeons. Most classes feel balanced, though the amazon seems significantly better with her combination of abilities.
[email protected] features procedurally generated dungeons; each run-through features a random, unique dungeon, though you can specify a particular seed in advance in case you want to attempt a dungeon your friends or favorite streamers might have tried. Each dungeon is a maze of rooms and corridors, punctuated by locked doors, traps, and monsters determined to see you dead.
Combat in [email protected] feels satisfying and fair. Even when just stuck with your fists, you’ll be punching the snot out of enemies whether they be the smallest spiders or great trolls with hefty weapons. Most enemies don’t really pose too much of a threat unless heavily grouped, though those with a bright colorful glow have enchanted weaponry — red for fire, green for poison, and so forth — and can deal a surprising amount of damage if you’re not careful.
You’re able to even the odds with weapons of your own, however. In your journeys around the dungeon, you’ll run into and collect various letters of the alphabet, as well as the occasional plans to craft a weapon. Each weapon blueprint requires owning particular letters, which make up that weapon — once you own them all, you can craft and equip it provided you have the necessary skills. Crafted weapons can be further improved by enchantment: alongside normal letters scattered about the dungeon, you’ll also find glowing versions. As with crafting, collect all of the required enchanted letters to add a fire, ice or poison effect to your blades.
Gaining skills is also straightforward, working on a standard XP system. Kills net plenty of XP, though destroying items of furniture and decoration each net a point of XP, turning [email protected] into something of a dungeon destruction simulator. Skills are split into rows, with skills being locked until their predecessor is learnt, though some skills are initially class specific; you probably won’t be using mana upgrades as anyone but the mage. However, [email protected] does allow you to choose how to develop your character — you’re able to gain mana and brandish wands as a warrior, or dash around as a hammer wielding wizard if you fancy. It takes longer to grind out the XP necessary to diverge from your class’s inherent leanings, but it’s certainly doable.
In standard roguelike fashion, you will die, and you’ll die a lot. Most of our deaths were from misjudging jumps over broken causeways, which felt a little cheap given the narrow margin for error with most jumps. However, unlike typical roguelikes there’s no real meta progression in [email protected] — each run is entirely separate, and nothing carries over to later attempts. You aren’t able to gradually improve starting stats or gear, which is one of the driving factors behind most successful roguelike games where, each time you die, you make some kind of persistent progress. In [email protected], a two hour run foiled by a misjump or a sudden swarm of mobs leads to nothing but frustration.
A community of dungeon masters
A nice extra feature of [email protected] is its dungeon editor: you’re able to build dungeons from scratch, placing rooms, props, and enemies as you wish. You’re able to pull almost everything from the actual game, and can set creature weapon loadouts and enchantments, key locations, and more. You’re able to make the dungeon as devious as you wish, so you’re free to add spike traps, exploding enemies and enchanted doors (which require a hit from a weapon with matching enchantment), and can share it with the world.
In a smart move, before being able to publish and share your dungeon, you have to validate it — meaing you’ll need to play through and successfully complete it yourself. If you build an unnecessarily complex dungeon which turns out unbeatable, you won’t be able to frustrate others with it until its retuned.
Other [email protected] players can vote if they like dungeons, so keeping an eye on the leaderboards for dungeons is a good way of finding new and interesting player-made dungeons to explore. You’re only able to have one dungeon published at a time, and each time you publish a new dungeon your leaderboard position is reset. A little restrictive, but understandable, and will hopefully cut down on awful, spammy dungeons.
An interesting cross between hack-and-slash and roguelike adventuring, [email protected] is a fun diversion, and serves well as a game to play after a long day of work. The dungeon editor is a great way to add longevity to the game, but the most brutal thing here is the lack of persistent progression.