Have You Played… Ancient Domains Of Mystery?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Ancient Domains of Mystery (ADOM) might be my favourite traditional roguelike. To some extent, the ranking depends on my mood, but ADOM has a remarkably well-tuned sense of progression to go along with the usual cluster of quaffable quandaries and randomised dungeoneering. Its sprawling depths are as perilous and perplexing as the pits of Moria and Hack, but the overworld is a fixed entity, with settlements and themed dungeons placed across it. I’ve played it for as many hours as any other game in existence and still find new challenges to overcome whenever I visit.

For those who came to know the term roguelike in recent times, ADOM is a fine entry point into the genre that spawned the term. The overworld structure and storyline of encroaching chaos offer stronger incentives to push onward than the usual dungeoncrawling objective. Many foguelikes simply ask you to go deeper until the magical macguffin is in your grasp but ADOM presents you with a firmer sense of purpose and belonging in the world.

It’s also far more accessible than it was when I first played it back in the mid-nineties. Recent releases have attractive tilesets built in so you won’t have to worry about plugging them in yourself, or deciphering ASCII symbols to understand how many dragons are in the room with you. I still prefer the ASCII graphics but that’s what years of playing does – familiarity can make stubborn fools of us all.


  1. Tukuturi says:

    I haven’t played with the tileset on yet but the art is looking great. I believe a Steam release is in the works as well.

  2. Steve Catens says:

    ADOM is my favorite classic roguelike as well. The thing that I like about ADOM, besides the satisfying level of depth, is that even though it’s challenging, it’s well designed enough that the player can usually make more or less intuitive decisions about the difficulty of a given area, and quickly determine if it’s someplace they should be. I get more of a sense that I’m living or dying based on my own decisions rather than spontaneous difficulty spikes, than I do in some other similar games. In a number of the other big name classic roguelikes, you’re likely to encounter some random unspeakable horror that you never really had a chance against, mixed in an area with far less challenging opponents. For me that crosses the line from “challenging”, to completely arbitrary.

    This game has spikey hooks, and the tileset version is highly playable. I don’t recommend installing it if you have anything to do for the rest of the day. Or the next.

    I’m really looking forward to the sequel when it gets graphical support.

  3. Chaoslord AJ says:

    It’s really good. I played it back then with the ascii and the style really grows on you after a time.
    Never made it past the tower of flame (seperating the intermediate from the advanced players) and nowhere near a possible ending but still so much fun. Would gladly throw some bucks at the screen.
    As a true roguelike the things carried over when you die is the highscore/ character dump and your experience as a player, no unlockables to ease the game over time. Permadeath. Hunger. Timed corruption. Monster vaults. Out-of-depth monsters. Player trolling enemies like rust monsters and cats.
    Everyone should try this gem.

  4. quietone says:

    THE roguelike. For me, roguelikes are actually ADOMlikes.

  5. mwoody says:

    I once did the math on how many hours I’d spent playing ADOM. I stopped when I realized it would be at least a triple-digit number, for fear that I’d find a fourth digit was needed and have to reconsider all my life decisions.

    It actually is already on Steam in beta thanks to the funding from their very successful Indiegogo a while back, but it won’t be available on the storefront until it’s released. However, that should be any day now.

  6. Gothnak says:

    I used to play Angband and Moria at Uni in the early 90’s and they took up loads of my time. I also played a chunk of early ToME for a while, but haven’t gone back to a roguelike for a while.

    I booted up the latest version of ToME over christmas and for me it was a bit of a mess. There were a huge amount of skill trees, weapons that all seemed the same, hundreds of stats and the combat was pretty boring with the levels uninteresting too compared to those old one tile rooms and corridors.

    What is a good roguelike that has simple (Basic D&D like stats) stats, a huge, vast array of cool weapons and cool enemies. Hundreds of skill trees and character abilities for a character who might bump into a baby dragon and die in one hit seems overkill.

    • protorp says:

      Sounds like Crawl would be right up your street… link to crawl.develz.org

      Weapons may not be strictly a huge vast array, but when magic, god powers, decks of cards, invokable items and race / background features are factored in you have an endless range of ways to play the game. All this with no skill trees (relatively simple skill training and stat progression), a heavy combat (ok and combat avoidance) focus and as far as possible no arbitrary game mechanical “tricks” (think unlike NetHack, my other favest Roguelike).

      I’ve sunk chunks of time into pretty much all the major ones since NetHack, and Crawl is the only one I perservered with enough to achieve a full victory. Several updates since last I played it, I sense another run coming on having waxed so lyrical…

    • SubmarineRocket says:

      Brogue! link to sites.google.com

      Brogue is basically the roguelike, condensed. It’s an Interesting Scenario Generator, almost. The weapons behave in different ways and affect your combat tactics, the monsters are interesting and can act on you, your equipment, and the world (there’s a kind of Bloat whose blood eats the floor away). Stealth is intuitive, there’s lots of cool little events in the dungeons (imprisoned monkey!), and the UI is elegant and mouse-friendly.

      It’s also available on tons of platforms. Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.

  7. Darkheart says:

    Just downloaded this gem for the first time. Played the tutorial and now I’m a bit intimidated by the dozens of key commands. Shelfed it for now and will come back when I have some more time.
    So far ToME is my favourite Rogue-like, but this one looks mighty interesting, too.

    Is ADOM the game that birthed the genre?

    • klops says:

      No, that would be Rogue (roguelike) or some even earlier game in the 80s. ADOM is relatively new in the genre and released during mid 90s.

      • teije says:

        Rogue is from 1980. If you have even a passing interest in RPG history, rouge-like or otherwise, the CRPG Addict’s blog is your source. He played Rogue a few years ago and the posts are still accessible.

        His more recent Nethack posts are an awesome read.

      • Darkheart says:

        Thanks for the info guys! Now that you tell me I remember having read that Rogue was the game that gave the genre its name.
        CRPG Addict is a blog I havn’t read until recently, so I will have to look up the older posts.

  8. Skabooga says:

    Ah, ADOM. Even with shameless save-scumming, I never was able to beat your regular ending, let alone any of the special ones that seem insane to try and complete. How do people accomplish such things without resorting to copying save files and putting them back after death? I would be fascinated to know.

    • klops says:

      By playing the game four-digit number hours. And by reading spoilers. And by playing with dark-elf rangers.

      Although sort of save-scumming was almost necessary since the saves tended to become corrupt. Or still do? I I haven’t played much post-Indiegogo ADOM. With higher-level builds I saved regularily, copied the savegame(s, one might break when saving) to a safe folder and continued. Of course, if died the backup saves should be gentlemanly or ladylikely removed, but the save game corruption was a huge problem with late-game saves. Reloading your level 40 Halfling Barbarian and noticing that the save is broken does not work, hurts. Hurts big time.

    • jrodman says:

      A lot of it comes down to focus and dedication.

      If a game like this really grabs you such that you play it day after day, month after month, you can learn a lot. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys thinking through possibilities of how to avoid every encountered death, and continue to ratchet forward your competence and excellence at the task before you, you can achieve very impressive heights of expertise in specific games like this.

      Save-reload tends to actually avoid this process. You tend not to think through all the possible ways you might have avoided a death if you see it as an annoyance.

      That said, I don’t think I could ever go back to thinking this way about games again. It required more energy than I have for them these days.

    • jbd says:

      I’ve beat this legit twice. The first time was one of my most intense moments in gaming ever.

      I did not play for thousands of hours. I did read the Andy Williams ADOM pages.

      Once you get over the cusp of understanding and technique, after the opening parts the only real difficulty spike is near the finale.

  9. kalzekdor says:

    I’ve actually been playing Sil (link to amirrorclear.net) recently. It’s a nice tactical Angband variant. Brutal, but fun.

  10. jenkins says:

    Is the use of ‘foguelike’ a fortuitous typo? Does this imply the existence of a heretofore unexplored genre which purports to be a roguelike but isn’t? A fauxglike, as it were?

    • Mr Coot says:

      It might be a hint at the demographic playing. For old and young foguies. I am ok with that.

  11. Mr Coot says:

    Wow yes, keen to see this on Steam and the built in tile sets look lovely! This is probably my 3rd most played roguelike after Nethack and Angband/Moria. Must’ve been early version I was playing because I don’t remember there being a fixed Overworld. Not sure why I stopped playing ADOM, I think it went into a lull of development – but at the time it was a single person maintaining it in his spare time.

  12. Shardz says:

    Ahhhhh tiles! Now we’re talking! Nice! However, upon firing it up for a look, I could not get the program to EXIT except by Task Manager! I guessed at Shift+? to get a help screen, which did mention the Z key should be exit (and a mouseover confirmed I wasn’t seeing things), but getting that to work proved to be frustrating.

    • Darkheart says:

      Got confused by this, too. The Z key actually only exits the menu you are in. If memory serves right capital Q exits the game.
      You can look up the keys in-game.

  13. King in Winter says:

    I remember playing this quite a bit along several other Roguelikes… on my Amiga. This one, I recall, had the time limit. Going underground mutates you irrevorcably, until you devolve unfit for adventure.


    ADOM was one of my favourites, although a few more recent ones (or more recent versions of older ones) ended up displacing it. I was too bad at it to live past my second dungeon, whatever I chose it to be.

    Did the Red Rooster Inn thing ever got solved?

  15. NathanH says:

    Ooh, it’s now got mouse support. The mouse controls aren’t great, but they exist and are useful so that makes it about fifty-four times better.

  16. bonuswavepilot says:

    Nethack 4 lyfe, yo! (Although this does look interesting too – I reckon I’ll wait until the proper Steam release and give ’em some monies). Also, if you’re looking for in-depth roguelike-related entertainment, I can recommend the ‘Roguelike Radio‘ podcast – been listening to those guys for years now.

  17. Fnord73 says:

    Oh goody me, yes. Even got past the Tower of Flame *once* without save-cheating. Its an amazing game if you got 100+ hours to kill, say at work.

    • klops says:

      TOEFL is the hardest part of the game. You’re weaker compared to the first Orb guardian compared to later guardians. And the ****ing heat burns your stuff.

      • Fnord73 says:

        Oh god, yes. Flashbacks. The fucking fire. And the first time I found out that they could sacrifice me. And… And… Just cruel.