There is the roguelite, where the ideas of permadeath and difficult combat are played with to create something that has those same values but appeals to the less patient player. There’s the roguelike, which at this stage in gaming history is usually so far flung from its low-bit routes and ascii art to be almost unrecognisable. Then there’s something like Caves of Qud [official site], which is so sure of the old school appeal it’s got a CRT filter on its display. At least it uses colour, I suppose. Set long after the destruction of all civilisation, adventurers start to roam into the old territory of the long-dead races that ruled there, seeing it as a promised land.
In development for 10 years and counting, it promises to kill you, confuse you and wonder you in equal measure as it arrives on Steam Early Access.
Those behind it, Freehold Games, also developed Sproggiwood, which John repeatedly called “fine” in October last year. Caves of Qud looks to have dropped all the cute, and indeed graphics, from that game and gone full steam ahead into hardcore roguelike. The kind of one where the press release claims I’ll be dead within five minutes more than once, but can’t wait to tell me about all the fantastic things they’ve made that will do that to me.
The other elements you’d expect from an RPG of this scale are there. It promises over 100 ways to customise yourself just from the outset, mutations being the reason for all your varied abilities. Wings and psychic powers not uncommon. There’s a crafting system tied to skills and survival is simulated down to hydration, heat and other basic needs. It’s also promised that NPCs will be suffering just as much as you and so can be exploited intelligently, either in combat or socially. They’ll have factions they’re allied to and hated by, which you can join or ignore.
As you can imagine, launching into Early Access is just the midway point of a very, very long development cycle for which there is currently no end in sight. You might have had your fill of procedurally generated, impossible to complete games by now, but the ’70s sci-fi and slight humour of this might equally be what you were waiting for.