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Sunday
Aug052012

Free First Person Roguelike? Yes, Please.

I like Roguelikes. I like the randomized levels, I like the brutal but generally fair gameplay, I like the feeling of slow but genuine improvement as you fail a little bit better each time. (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, go look at the articles I wrote for Spelunky, or Dungeons of Dredmor, or Shoot First, or Desktop Dungeons, and you'll get the idea.) I also like free games that experiment with something new. So, even in a slightly rough, unfinished state, Delver makes me very happy indeed.

Coming as so many good things do from TIGSource, Delver is "a first person action roguelike"... an attempt "to combine the mechanics of games like Ultima Underworld with the depth and replayability of a roguelike." In practice, right now it plays a little like Doom, a little like Nethack, and a little like The Legend of Grimrock. Which, itself, plays like a lot of old classic games. Here's a video where the designer speaks for himself a bit:

I've only done a couple runs through Delver so far, but there's a lot I like about it.

  • The interface is minimal but functional. A hotbar, popups for map and inventory, and a key that toggles between mouselook and interaction with the mouse pointer. That's all it needs, so that's all it has.
  • The world feels at least somewhat complex - nothing like Nethack levels of madness yet, this is still an alpha version - but intuitive. If a trap is on the floor and you can trick an enemy into walking on it, the trap will harm them instead of you. You can also trigger traps by tossing unwanted items onto them (hence the Grimrock comparison), which gives you a good reason to pick up "junk" like skulls, or keep items after their usefulness has run out (wands out of charges, swords you've already got better versions of, etc).
  • Combat is simple but satisfying. Enemies vary in attack patterns and potency, so you'll need to put some thought into which ones to tackle first, and how (melee vs ranged combat being the primary distinction).
  • The game never stops, so you need to be on your toes about things like inventory management and checking the map. I like that I need to find a safe spot to do those things.
  • I like the aesthetic. It's intentionally low-fi, but charming. Good music, too.

It isn't entirely without its problems - there are still some bugs in there, like combat sounds disappearing when I enter a new level sometimes, and I don't like how random the enemy respawning seems to be. It is in the flavor of Roguelikes to have enemies respawn, but in this it seems like a room I just cleared can suddenly have bad guys in it when I go back in, and that's aggravating.

That won't end well for anyone.

Still, I expect I'm going to spend quite a bit of time with Delver. It's still being actively updated by developer Chad Cuddigan - the latest build is only a few days old, and apparently he's working on getting bows & arrows working the way he wants now. If you like it enough to toss him a couple bucks and you have an Android device, it's also in the Google Play store for $2, which seems quite reasonable to me. (It looks pretty great on my Nexus 7.) The Windows version is totally free, though, so get delving.

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