25 people found this review helpful
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 31.8 hrs on record (4.4 hrs at review time)
Posted: Dec 28, 2015 @ 10:49am

Early Access Review
Have you ever played a classic roguelike? I'm talking NetHack, ADOM, Dungeon Crawl, any of the games that started life as a nigh-incomprehensible block of ASCII characters. Old roguelikes were big on randomization but low on approachability, requiring you to know all sorts of interactions and tricks and symbols just to avoid dying to a bird or something. Caves of Qud plays like a classic roguelike that prioritizes fun over tricks, and does so with a unique setting and sense of style.

Character creation is a major highlight in Qud, allowing you to pick more than just attributes and a class (though even the classes are extremely interesting and varied). Being a post-apocalyptic sci-fi sort of game, you get to be a mutant if you want (yes, you want) and pick special powers from a hefty list of dozens. There's everything from telepathy and night vision to multiple limbs, flight, temporal clones, and mind crushing. These powers are on pretty generous cooldowns, and give you a wealth of tactical options in the game that a lot of roguelikes don't offer. My current best is a four-armed spastic teleporting rogue-thing that can emit sleeping gas or EMPs in emergencies, and I love him to the bits he will eventually be.

Once your character is made, you get dropped in the little town of Joppa with some intro quests to do and houses to loot. The quests in Qud give some much-needed direction, as the world is quite wide-open and there's plenty of places to get lost and die in. Dungeons are varied between caves, ruins, and higher-tech locales, and you can indeed get lost in the jungles and canyons between them. These places are populated with a colorful cast of creatures including rust crabs, goat men, and sentient ooze. The simple graphics are clear enough to distinguish the people and critters you encounter, and a very helpful Look function gives you all the information you need to know about approaching something new.

If it seems like I'm gushing about Qud, it's because I've never played a roguelike with so much depth and discovery that, at the same time, has so many user-friendly features. The menus are dense and busy but display everything you need to know in sensible order and with useful icons and colors. Item, skill, and attribute descriptions leave nothing to the imagination, so you'll never be left wondering where you should spend your points. And the quests really are fantastic signposts for the game, giving you more to do than the simple "descend and find the doodad" premises of the classic roguelikes.

It's not a perfect package, of course. If you've never played a classic-style roguelike there's going to be a significant learning curve, both to the interface and combat. You'll generally have enough tools to get yourself out of bad situations but learning how they work is going to take some experimentation, and it'll often be fatal. The activity log that explains what actions are being taken each turn is also too compressed to be terribly useful, and hopefully it'll be expanded into something easier to parse. There's no sound or music yet either, which makes it a good game to play while listening to music or podcasts but doesn't do any favors in terms of immersion.

These are all minor quibbles, and ones that will most likely be addressed during Early Access. Caves of Qud is already a rich and deep enough package to lose yourself in for hours on end, with plenty to see and do and try and die to and try again. It may take you some time to come to grips with the old-fashioned displays and interfaces, but the effort is well worth it. Fans of roguelikes, RPGs, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic games will all find plenty to enjoy here.
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