Freeware Garden: The Wizard’s Lair

The colourful company of rogue-like DEATH!

Obviously inspired by the classic Rogue and apparently by Mystery Dungeon too, The Wizard’s Lair is a very traditional, well crafted and thus very addictive rogue-like. It’s also one of those relatively rare commercial indie games that eventually go freeware so, uhm, it also is a polished, feature-complete thing.

Telling you about its typically silly plot involving the murder of an evil wizard would be wasting your time, as would mentioning the procedurally-generated dungeons. Mentioning the many monsters and traps, the powerful weapons, the lovely food that’s scattered around, the varied types of armour, the multitude of spells and the dozens of secret traps and teleporters, on the other hand, is supposed to make you want to play the game.

Hello Evil Puppet! You're looking particularly odd today.

I really enjoyed being killed by an Evil Puppet on dungeon level 1, a Skeleton on level 2, an Ochre Jelly on level 5, as well as being burned to death by traps and starred to oblivion by an Oculus. I haven’t reached the final boss hiding on level 30 yet, but I’m sure to keep playing until I do – owing to its tactical, exploration-heavy, turn-based nature. I like how attacking first makes a difference and I absolutely love encountering new enemies and grabbing fresh loot.

Hacking and slashing and reading from ancient scrolls doesn’t seem like it’ll get get old any time soon.

16 Comments

  1. lowprices says:

    Having been introduced to the genre by Dungeons of Dredmor, and fallen in love with many games with Roguelike elements, I’m finally moving onto the more traditional Roguelikes. I just picked up TOME last night, and will be adding this to the list. Any others I should check out?

    EDIT: Thanks for the suggestions, Ladies and Gents. I shall give these a try. Out of curiosity, do any of these have graphics, or am I going to have to learn to decipher ASCII art?

    • tumbleworld says:

      Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup (aka DCSS) is rather awesome. Genuinely varied playstyle, depending almost entirely on which god you align with.

      • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

        ^ This. Not only does DC:SS have a lot of nice features (like the explore command, bound to ‘O’, that gets your @ to explore the level automatically) but it hits the sweet spot for me between complexity and obfuscation, is nice to the player without being condescending, and has a metric fuckload of classes and races, including octopus-man and sentient cats. It also allows almost any combination between them (I rather like Troll Rangers, which carry giant boulders as their long-range weapon). And it even has a rather functional tutorial!

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Nethack is glorious and free. I’ll have to try this out for sure. Are there any other recent roguelikes akin to Dungeons of Dredmor? I bounced off Hack, Slash, Loot pretty hard.

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      You should play Ancient Domains of Mystery. It’s extremely hard, but it’s still years ahead of its time.

      • caff says:

        I second this – ADOM is an incredibly deep game, but ultimately requires a lot of patience to learn (and some it’s dungeons are impossible to traverse as they scale monsters the deeper you go, so you need to be cautious and learn to run away!)

        ADOM is very rewarding if you play carefully. I would advise watching a good player on youtube – of which there are very few – but try watching some Gordon Overkill videos link to youtube.com

        You should invest some time in learning the key controls using the ? key when you get to the map screen.

    • Scrofa says:

      Try Brogue. It has unusually gorgeous ASCII-graphics (very colorful and has dynamic light and just awesome spell effects), rather simple mechanics, but it’s also really deep and has a sense of interactive fiction adventure.

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        Harlander says:

        Incursion is worth a look, even if it does, for some unfathomable reason, inherit Omega’s utterly godawful inventory management system.

        PRIME (a fork of ZAP’M) is pretty much sci-fi Nethack in the best and cleverest possible way.

        Prospector is roguelike space opera. Caves of Qud is Gamma World-esque post-apocalpse malarkey, though I think its development has paused.

    • Baines says:

      If it were currently in a game bundle or something, I’d suggest looking at WazHack. It isn’t free, but is a side view take on Roguelikes that uses a “time passes for everything only when you are acting” mechanic.

      The reasons I can’t recommend it for full price is that it is $10 for a game that honestly feels incomplete. Beyond its bugs, there are various features that just don’t seem finished, and it borrows enough from Nethack that you end up expecting even more from it than it offers.

      (I only bought the game because it was part of a Blink Bundle, which I was actually buying for a different title. I figured WazHack would be awful, but it turned out to be the most entertaining of the bunch to me.)

    • jenkins says:

      If you’re asking, I’ll toss Angband into the mix. Depending on your point of view, either it has fewer bells and whistles or is a more purely roguelike experience. Also has graphics packs if that happens to be your speed. I’ve played most of the venerable roguelikes in my day (Rogue, Telengard, Moria, et al.). Didn’t care for DCSS, oddly enough. Nethack felt too silly to me after a while. Lost many hours to ToME, but haven’t felt the same love for it now that it seems to have abandoned its ASCII roots in its post-kickstarter life. ADOM is still on my list.

      YMMV obviously, but Angband is the game I’ve been coming back to again and again over the last 20 years. Plus, I still hope to beat it eventually.

    • Gothnak says:

      A really old version of TOME had the Player start as a ghost on the bottom level and try and work their way up to the surface. It was all about running from staircase to staircase, but you were a ghost so were super stealthy and could walk through walls. Of course, every single item you could find was super epic at that level, but your health was so low, you had to seek out weak creatures and try and level up VERY quickly. Great fun in very short games, i think my best attempt, i got 6 levels up from the bottom.

  2. Quiffle says:

    Sword of the Stars: The Pit is a refreshing sci fi take on the genre. There’s also Doomrl, which plays remarkably true to its fps origins.

  3. Jim_Lahey says:

    I registered on the site just to say that this game is awesome, and free – my favourite combination. Doesn’t seem to be all too difficult though (I’d be happy to stand corrected) I got to floor 10 on my 3rd run before starving to death. I’d already found the exit, my OCD for full exploration got me lost in the a maze…

  4. tormos says:

    I have to say that this game is pretty easy compared to most roguelikes I am aware of. I died on level 20 my first try, and to a death that seemed more like ill luck than any particular lack of skill.

    • Jim_Lahey says:

      Sounds like my experience. There are too many good items scattered around to really make the game very challenging. Damn fine time waster though

  5. caff says:

    I really like the graphics but…. no diagonal movement!

    Nice game, quite unforgiving with traps (especially the pit ones) in corridors.