The Roguelikest: Caves Of Qud On Early Access

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.

It’ll run you £6.99 on Steam Early Access for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can still download an old ASCII version free for Windows if you’re curious.


  1. tanith says:

    So how does it compare to Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup? Whenever I look at roguelike games DCSS is sort of the gold standard just because it’s so varied and big and customisable and fairly balanced.
    There are so many different races and levels etc… people familiar with DCSS know what I mean.

    • Eagle0600 says:

      Sure, I could play an Octopode Monk, but that Spriggan Enchanter is begging for another go.

    • thaquoth says:

      It’s way different. Much more open-ended, with a giant overworld. Less straight Dungeon Crawling.

      Imagine DCSS injected with a healthy dose of Fallout. And an interesting water-based economy. Yeah, I think that checks out.

    • Yserbius says:

      Completely different beast than DCSS. It has much more of an RPG feel than a straight old-school Wizardry inspired dungeon crawl.

      There’s an overworld with towns, NPCs, ruins and tons of varied terrain. Gameplay is usually centered around the various quests you pick up from the NPCs. A quest will often lead you to a new town, or a randomly occurring NPC who will offer you a new quest. You can easily slip and head off into a the wrong area where you’re not at a high enough level to survive for more than a few moves. Then again, you can also ignore certain areas or do quests out of order.

      The dungeons are generally very straight forward. You go down for 4 or 5 levels until you reach the MacGuffin then head back up. There are many random dungeons which basically consists of a short romp followed by a fight with an overpowered version of a mob and a big drop.

      Character creation and skill sets are much less complex than DCSS. There are basically three or four main types of characters and skill focuses.

      I personally love the crafting system. It only reaches its potential on a full “Tinkerer” build. Since this is a post-apocalyptic game, there’s tons of future tech scattered all over the map. On higher levels you can set up a series of robots and rocket launcher turrets to help you in boss fights. Even if you’re a melee or magic build, you will probably need to worry about batteries and electricity to power many of the items in your inventory. Things can be disassembled or examined to get its components or learn more about it.

      All in all, I love bot CoQ and DCSS and they are both different and unique in their own ways.

      • yabonn says:

        Autoexplore, ctrl f, general conveniences? How does it compare?

  2. thaquoth says:


    I’ve played a lot of the ol’ ASCII version over the years. Didn’t think the devs would ever return to it. (I think they went on to make a mobile game. Didn’t blame ’em. Money obviously does not fall from the sky) But here it is! Brillo!

    I don’t quite know how I feel about the tileset though. I think I found the ASCII actually easier to read. The wilderness is way less messy now but I actually find it easier to miss things. Oh well, just takes some getting used to I guess. It would be great if there was an option though.

    Oh, yeah: play Caves of Qud, people! It’s fantastic!

    • thaquoth says:

      Yeah. Sproggiwood it was. Duh. That’s me for commenting without reading all of the article first.

    • necroshock says:

      There is an option to use the original ASCII art in the new steam version.

      • SaD82 says:

        That sold it to me.

        CoQ is one of the games which have to be played in ASCII.
        It’s a pleasure wandering through the swamps filled with watervines and looking at the bland salt dunes. A tileset is too narrow-minded in this regard.

  3. Harlander says:

    I too played the ASCII original in the mists of time. I’ll be getting this shortly, I dare say. There hasn’t been a post-apocalyptic roguelike that got its hooks into me like this since the (hauntingly stupid) Alphaman.

    • Harlander says:

      Also, was that screenshot taken as a photo of a dying CRT, or is the game just flanged to look like that or something?

      • Harlander says:

        What do you mean “it says in the article”?

        It’s turning into one of those mornings. My kingdom for the return of the edit function…

        • Universal Hamster says:

          It does, but even then, that screenshot makes it seem much more blurry than it actually is.

    • SpaceKing says:

      Try Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead then. It’s also pretty good and stupidly bursting with features.

      • Harlander says:

        I’m not unfamiliar with C:DDA, actually, and while it’s certainly very technically impressive, its general plotnessness and early-stage difficulty aren’t really my cup of tea.

        • Harlander says:

          Also, it’s in the “miserable scrounging existence” post-apocalypse as opposed to the “societies have rebuild and they’re super-weird” flavour which, though arguably less realistic, I find much more entertaining. ;)

  4. caff says:

    This looks interesting, I’m surprised I haven’t heard of it before.

    I’ve become somewhat obsessed by Pixel Dungeon on PC recently.

    Also looking forward to cogmind which was mentioned here too.

  5. RogueLiking says:

    This game’s got my seal of approval. A little word to the wise, though: It’s hard as nails, and so, maybe after you’ve acquainted yourself with it a little, you should look for a character creation guide for some tips. (Disclaimer: It’ll still be hard.)

  6. malkav11 says:

    Caves of Qud is actually the reason I’d heard of Sproggiwood and not the other way around. I’ve long been interested but not quite prepared to tackle an unfinished game with attendant bugs and UI weight, etc. Hopefully with Early Access money coming in the pace of development on it will be able to pick up some.

  7. lordfrikk says:

    When it comes to post-apocalyptic universes in games, Caves of Qud is up there with the best of them. If you’re at least somewhat interested in that particular theme, I’d urge you to give this game a try. I believe the original free version is still available so you can even use that for demo purposes.