I wanted to take some time to point out one of my favorite roguelikes, a game called “Elona: Eternal League of Nefia.” In a number of ways, it deviates from the standard ploys used by the genre, and yet that’s exactly why I enjoy it.
This is actually a perfect place to start. A number of roguelikes: Nethack, Angband, Dwarf Fortress- They all skip over graphics completely. Any that happen to be available are generally supplied by a third party. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no snob, but representing your entire game with ASCII characters in different colors can be a turn-off. Elona instead has everything- NPC’s, dungeons, cities, being conveyed with a quaint art style that suits the game as a whole.
There’s also the matter of some roguelikes being very contained experiences. Elona has dungeons, but also a sizable world containing them and other places. As such, I can still play it when I don’t particularly feel like dungeon crawling for loot, as enjoyable as that can be. While adventuring is still the focus, there’s nothing stopping the player from running off and pursuing a career in farming and fishing for a change of pace. Or piano playing. And there’s plenty of reasons for an adventurer to consider these side-tasks as well. Food helps your stats to increase, and playing music for a good crowd is a simple way to obtain money and items. At least if you’re good. Otherwise, they’ll throw rocks at you. Some of the starting classes even encourage this.
Yet, for all this time spent on aspects not directly connected to the combat, there’s still an impressive system of resistances, skills and stats determining the damage and hit rates, and… well, if you enjoy spending time kitting out your hero to destroy everything they look at, you’ll do fine here. I forget where exactly I heard this, but there’s a quote that suits the game well: “Find your own path to being utterly broken.” As I did with my first character- a mutant warrior, who’s enormous health reserves and innate healing make him a brick wall against anything weaker than a dungeon boss. Or my friend’s fairy pianist, who’s high charisma lets him be surrounded by NPC allies who will crush any attackers he can’t dodge with his impressive evasion stat.
There’s one more aspect I wanted to cover, but this is trickier to express than just “the graphics are beautiful” or “the gameplay is enjoyable.” The game’s humor, basically. It has a light-hearted tone, even with talk of wars and diseases that can make you sprout a dozen eyes. Your companions will glare at you for hitting them with a stray spell or potion bottle. You can use a leash to keep them from running off, only for them to call you a pervert for doing so. You can deal psychological damage to enemies by throwing panties at them. Everyone gets drunk from a single alcoholic drink, and spends a few turns meandering around in a stupor as a result. If nothing else, it’s a good pallet cleanser after all the “the world is going to be destroyed and it’s all up to you” seriousness that many games throw at you. Heck, even the death system works that way. Instead of dying and losing a character forever, as in other roguelikes, you carry can simply choose to climb out of your coffin in the middle of your own burial, and continue on with your business. You’ll lose some money, maybe a point of strength, but that is infinitely better than the alternative, if you ask me.
Short version- Check this game out. Especially if you’ve wanted to break into this genre, but were put off by some of their usual conventions. You can find it here: