The developer of The Ground Gives Way [official site] describes the game as “a coffeebreak roguelike with a lot of stuff”. Having only started playing this morning, when the latest release came to my attention, I can’t vouch for the amount of stuff but I have been enjoying this clever ASCII dungeon crawler. The setup is as simple as the title suggests – you’re walking around minding your own business when the ground falls away and you land on your backside in a subterranean cavern system. There are monsters, there are loads of items to collect and there’s a hefty tutorial to teach you the rules. It’s free.
Every move matters in The Ground Gives Way. Some roguelikes focus on inventory management, some focus on combat or exploration, and some have a central resource that requires careful attention. This little gem falls into the latter category, providing you with a stack of rations that you’ll dig into whenever you rest to regain hit points. Because you’re recovery periods are limited, fighting every enemy isn’t really an option.
Instead of running around gathering experience (there’s no such thing here, characters improve by finding stuff) by smashing everything in sight, you’ll be skulking around, trying to control the flow of beasties by closing doors as you explore, sealing infested portions of the dungeon.
Even a relatively successful playthrough won’t eat up too much time. The game’s brevity is a boon, encouraging experimentation and allowing it share more of its “stuff” with you as you burn through characters.
I’m hooked. My few attempts have all thrown an interesting room configuration or character build my way, and it’s great to have a very traditional-style dungeon crawling roguelike that doesn’t demand hours of my day whenever I decide to take the plunge. Thanks to the clever tutorial, and simple control system and UI this is also a pretty good introduction to roguelikes for anyone who finds all those squiggly graphics intimidating. Lovely.
The current version only works on Windows but support for Mac and other platforms may be coming. Download here.