Life And Limb Loss: Epilogue

By Adam Smith on October 9th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

I just lobbed a fire bomb at a couple of crossbow-wielding blobs but I got it all wrong and ended up on fire with one of my arms hanging off. Thankfully I’m a cartographer so I can quickly make my way back to a healing shrine using a safe path, essentially teleporting myself to the dungeon level’s spiritual hospital. Once there I found that there were too many enemies nearby, hunting me, so I couldn’t perform the ritual and heal myself. My arm dropped off. Doesn’t matter. It’ll grow back. I’ve been playing Epilogue, a roguelike that snubs orcs, dwarves and the like, and instead creates an ever stranger world, one that changes from level to level. There’s a very sizable demo here, and a video and more thoughts below.

Odd as the enemies often are, Epilogue isn’t a surrealist romp through the same old rules of the genre. The difficulty is striking. Roguelikes are rarely easy but, despite providing lots of hitpoints at the start, this one is harder than completing postgraduate studies in tungsten punching while swimming in lava. Then it gets easier…which is a strange thing to say, but true. It’s about learning the systems, realising that going down a level doesn’t necessarily mean being overwhelmed, because every level, even the first, has valuable things to discover. Play patiently and it’s possible to be an efficient and constantly improving monster slayer, but you’ll have to use all of the skills and items at your disposal.

Skills are based on class, which range from botanical cultivator to spacetime nomad, but every character also chooses a skill proficiency, so it’s possible to be a ranged cultivator, a melee cultivator, a shield bearing cultivator and so forth. There must be some powerful combinations but so far, with the wealth of options, I’ve just been experimenting.

Like IVAN, the roguelike I’d most like to see back in full time development, Epilogue tracks damage to different parts of the body, so limbs can become battered, broken and useless. ‘Gecko’ is a trait that causes severed limbs to grow back and that’s the kind of ability you’re going to need to reach the game’s end, not that I’ve managed that yet.

The other stand-out feature, and this is from just a couple of hours playing, is that enemies actually use equipment. Kill them and they will drop the weapons they were using and the armour they were wearing. They even have classes, which determine the type of equipment they use and therefore how they are best defeated.

There’s also a pantheon of gods to devote yourself to, bosses of varying ferocity, massive variety between levels and all sorts of other clever stuff. The interface is decent too, with mouse control possible for most actions thanks to context-sensitive clicking. There’s even an integrated tutorial!

My biggest gripe is that combat tends to throw up a bit too much textual feedback, splashed all over the bottom of the page and rather cumbersome to decipher.

If you have any interest in roguelikes, do at least try the demo. The full version is £4.99 from Desura and is also seeking the Greenlight of Steam.

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14 Comments »

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    Bugamn says:

    This sounds interesting, specially the character customization.

    By the way, didn’t enemies in nethack also use items?

    • rawrty says:

      Not sure if rhetorical or not , but yes they can. It’s why you never want to leave your stash pile unprotected, ideally it should be in a chest protected by Elbereth. Else you will come back to a level with any humanoid monsters armed to the teeth.

      • The Random One says:

        Elbereth only works if you’re standing on the tile it’s written on.

        • Crane says:

          Not so!
          If you write Elbereth in the dust with your finger, it gets smudged when you move off that square.
          However, if you engrave it with a wand or write it with a marker pen, it remains in place and repels monsters after you leave.

          • The Random One says:

            Hmm, you’re right. I remembered reading on that one huge depository of Nethack FAQ’s all by one single woman, before there were all the wikis, that Elbereth only worked if you were on the spot, and the common tactic of using it to protect stashes was bunk. I probably confused it for the fact that it doesn’t work on an empty square.

  2. krisanto says:

    Ahhh, IVAN… the only roguelike I ever enjoyed. From what I remember, you can use your dismembered limb as a weapon or as a source of nutrition. I wonder if cannibalizing oneself is possible here as well.

  3. Baf says:

    I don’t know if I’d call enemies using equipment a “standout feature”. This is something that’s as old as Nethack, as anyone who’s ever gotten killed by a kobold wielding a Wand of Death will tell you.

    • Baines says:

      It’s a standout feature because so many games don’t do it. Not just classic Roguelikes, but also the offshoot branches like the very popular Diablo branch. Developers in part don’t want to deal with the extra code to handle it, and in part don’t want to deal with the balance issues that arise from it. (There are some other issues as well, but those are the two main ones.)

      There is also the question of just how far the game takes the idea of treating monsters logically and/or as computer controlled “players”, but that gets into a different area.

  4. MythArcana says:

    I honestly can’t find any graphical roguelike with true hardcore game play that tops Stone Soup, especially with the new .11 update last week. ToME is nice also, but Stone Soup just has more trouble to get into generally. Vulture NetHack (also highly recommened) is amazing, but is much more visceral with shorter gaming sessions (due to YASD and all). Retail titles trying to get into this niche category had better excel at *some* mechanics other than relying on the usual number crunching and such; there are just too many open source and free roguelikes out there which stomp all competition which are trying to mimic the mainstays.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Oh crap, there’s a DCSS update? So much for October. I guess I’ll finish Borderlands 2 in November and then start looking into Dishonored, Sleeping Dogs, and XCOM.

    • The Random One says:

      A new DCSS update, you say? Maybe I’ll revisit Chucky the troll ranger.

  5. razorramone says:

    The graphics look very similar to Realm of the Mad God, is it the same developer?