Free Broguelike: Forays Into Norrendrin

Forays Into Norrendrin [official site] is a streamlined roguelike dungeon crawler, perfect to fit between the gobbets of work on your desktop, or long dress-up sessions out in the Commonwealth. It’s similar to RPS favourite Brogue in that it doesn’t use elaborate tilesets to communicate the particular sights, sounds and stenches of its dungeons, relying instead on ASCII figures and lovely snippets of flavour text. It stands out from the pack thanks to heavy use of status effects and exhaustion – it’s free.

Development began toward the end of 2011 and the most recent update landed a few days ago. That update added a couple of dungeon types as well as the fantastic flavour text, which sits at the bottom of the screen reminding you that a certain floor smells of mildew, or some other unpleasantness. It’s a great touch, managing to provide some character to the randomised spaces as well as embedding them firmly in your memory as you go.

Forays is another example of my favourite recent roguelike variety; dungeon crawlers that relinquish variety and quantity in order to leave the player with a greater sense of control. I used to love games that threw everything at me, including the kitchen sink, but I’m increasingly fond of the more tactical approach to turn-based RPG combat.

That said, there are plenty of creatures in Norrendrin’s depths. Many of them require a specific approach if you’re to come out of the encounter unscathed. The world is fantastically reactive as well:

“The enemies in Norrendrin are not always the greatest threat to your well-being. Traps can be especially nasty if you’re already hurt or fighting some foe, but even a pool of water can be somewhat troublesome if someone uses a freezing attack on you while you’re wading. Many types of terrain exist here, and most interact in intuitive ways with existing effects. Because each time you play, the dungeon and its inhabitants are different, you can expect to find many of the interactions through trial and error.”

Forays runs on Windows and Linux. It’s free.


  1. caff says:

    Nice, this is quite like Brogue but has a nice tutorial system and a clean interface.

    Giving it a go now, may get sucked in.

  2. Haldurson says:

    I was addicted to Brogue for quite a while — thanks for the review. I’m downloading it now as well. Too bad that I’ve already been sucked into Fallout 4 and Dragon Fin Soup.

  3. JFS says:

    I really got into Brogue. This also sounds good. Also, great title.

  4. alms says:

    And downloaded. Now, honest question: I’m sure Brogue is an excellent game* and deserves every plug, but is there really anything wrong with plainly saying a game uses ASCII graphics or ASCII art? Sometimes it feels like it’s a bad thing for a game to have them or to be playing those games. A bit like 2D when 3D was all the rage, we should be past that.

    *(I keep meaning to play it, but I suffer from a psychological condition that makes me uneasy whenever I spend time trying free games when I have a backlog of games I paid for)

    • Haldurson says:

      The ‘problem’ is that it would be redundant. The review includes a screenshot, and it also refers to, in a stylish way, to the ascii graphics. No information was hidden, the way it was revealed was clearly a writing style choice.

      I’m busy playing other games, but both this and Brogue are free. I downloaded it, created a shortcut to the game, and dove right in for all of 10 minutes or so, saved the game, and intend on returning the next time I’m not too busy to do so. The designer made some unique choices (starting off with a small variety of gear, for example, limiting rest to heal to once per level, limiting the use of bandages, etc). I’m curious how that will feel as I get further into the game.

      • alms says:

        Of course it’s a deliberate choice, my point is a game shouldn’t be apologizing (and the people writing about sugarcoat it) for having ASCII graphics.

        If some are skipping games solely on the basis of them having ASCII graphics, pointing out “but there are other good games with ASCII graphics” is hardly going to change their mind: their loss. And there’s plenty good, great and classic games using ASCII art. Brogue may look prettier than some but it doesn’t look like it invented anything new, as far as ASCII graphics are concerned.

        Yours truly,
        The League for the Liberation of ASCII Graphics

        • caff says:

          I absolutely agree. RPS is one place where people gather who are intelligent enough to see a great game for what it is. ASCII is an art form, and it can evoke far more imagination in a player than even fancy soft-shadows and 3D global illumination.

          I learned ADOM in ASCII mode, and boy was that hard. But now I can’t play it with a tileset, because it lacks depth.

          Anyway, getting back on topic, this is a superb title. I must admit I haven’t had enough time for it what with Fallout 4 but I’ll be coming straight back to playing it in a couple of weeks :-)