I miss Castle of the Winds.
April 11, 2006 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me a relatively simple roguelike for Mac.

Years ago, when I was a PC user, I used to love Castle of the Winds. Today I got the urge to play something like that again. I found a ton of other roguelikes browsing the net, but the ones I looked at (ADOM, Nethack) are way over my head in terms of complexity. I'm looking for a something a bit closer to CotW -- easy to learn and without the kitchen sink mentality. Any recommendations?
posted by danb to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Castle of the winds is really really easy compared to most roguelikes -- if I recall correctly, it allowed saved games, which most roguelikes do not. So you may not find exactly what you are looking for (unless you are willing to back up your save files, known as savescumming). My personal favorite is crawl (you probably actually want the travel patch, not the unpatched version. If you don't compile stuff send me an email and I can send you a 10.3 mac binary that will probably work, with caveats.) Crawl does not have the kitchen sink mentality, and has very well balanced gameplay. However, it is extremely difficult -- harder than nethack.

You might also like tome, which I found to be the easiest of the *bands to get into (modulo choosing an easy race/class). I don't really play *bands though so maybe someone will disagree. It has a mac version that you can just download and it will work, rather than having to compile something. The easiest roguelike I have played is Larn (or ULarn) but I don't have any good mac links -- it is possible to compile yourself on a mac, but I recall having to fiddle with the source code to get it to work. You may want to consider trying nethack again, with different goals -- don't try to win (this can take months to years), just try to see how far you can get. Also, look at spoilers. Unspoiled play of any roguelike is not really a practical possibility for most people.

What you may actually be looking for is something more like the avernum games from spiderweb software, which have many RPG elements but aren't really roguelike. Or even diablo, which is commonly considered to be a roguelike.

By the way, did you know that CotW 1+2 were released into the public domain? I think you need win3.1 to play them or something, though.
posted by advil at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2006

Oh, also if you're comfortable compiling, and want to try an angband variant, but don't want quite as much tedium (joking, but there is some truth to it), you might want to try quickband.
posted by advil at 5:05 PM on April 11, 2006

Come on guys, Angband is the one to start with! Often called 'Vanilla', this archtype (descended from the original Moria) is the template for the several dozen other 'bands out there.

Addicting? You bet! ASCII? Nothin' but! To your fancy graphics, I say "Good day, sir!"
posted by Aquaman at 5:51 PM on April 11, 2006

Why not just play Rogue? Roguelike games without the kitchen sink = Rogue. Unlike the other ones, playing without spoilers is quite possible. In fact, winning is even possible. :)
posted by jellicle at 5:58 PM on April 11, 2006

I would suggest larn or ularn as a very small roguelike. I've won ularn in one sitting, which isn't remotely possible with any of the *band/moria/tome.
posted by jefftang at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2006

NetHack has an OSX port. Some bugs though but apparently there are workarounds.

I think that it's worth the time/effort to work up the learning curve. Once you figure it out, it'll be like riding a bike - if you have the urge to play NetHack again years later, it'll be easy to pick back up.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:00 PM on April 11, 2006

I'll second the amazingness of Nethack. There are lots of spoilers that'll make your gameplay a lot easier--but with Nethack the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. Spend a couple hours playing in explore mode (which makes you nearly immortal), then read some spoilers. When you get utterly addicted you'll be able to fit the game on a USB drive.
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:42 PM on April 11, 2006

You should know is that Castle of the Winds is, as near as I can tell, not a true Roguelike. It doesn't have the randomized item description system that makes identification of items an essential part of the game. (Diablo and Diablo are also not real Roguelikes because of this.) I suspect it also does not have the many little nuances of play that Roguelikes tend to have, but which might be why you're reluctant to get into Nethack.

I get the feeling that Angband will be more interesting to a player of a quasi-Roguelike like Castle of the Winds, since ultimately the item ID system takes a backseat there to the acquisition of the right artifacts and tactics of killing specific monsters. From what I've read of Angband, high-level play is more a game of tactical combat than Nethack, where good play involves careful item management and knowledge of the game's many systems but where a prepared character can bulldoze through almost anything.

Suggestion #1: Rogue. The original Roguelike.

But not just any version of Rogue. The most common DOS version ("PC Rogue") is extremely hard, much harder than Nethack, so hard that most players will never finish it. To explain why this is so is difficult, since even normal versions of the game are a stiff challenge, but part of it has to do with the lack of ways to protect armor from Aquators.

Rogue still holds as an interesting game today (it's my second-favorite Roguelike), but you should make sure to get the right version. The best version of Rogue for Windows is currently Rogue Clone IV. For Linux systes, it's the release of Rogue included in the bsdgames package. For BSD systems, it would be official Rogue itself.

Suggestion #2: Nethack

I know you ruled this one out, but I suggest you give it a chance. It's actually not that difficult to pick up once you get used to the controls. Print out a listing of the keypresses and keep it by you the first few games to take care of that.

The key to playing Nethack and not tearing your hair out is simple: use spoilers.

In a game like Oblivion, or Final Fantasy, the instinct is to avoid spoiling the game, but with Nethack spoilers are more like a manual, especially since much of the game is different every time you play anyway. And some of the most important things about the game, like how you're even supposed to win, are only ever revealed to you within the game by paying for major consultations from the Oracle, which are not only expensive to an early character but the ones you get are entirely random. Spoilers get the necessary information to you a lot more easily, and even if you are "completely spoiled," which is almost an impossibility in Nethack, the distance between merely knowing it and synthesizing it into a workable strategy still entails a full and engaging journey.

If you decide to play Nethack, you can make life a lot easier for you by playing as a Valkyrie or a Barbarian until you win your first game, as they tend to have a much easier time of things than the other classes.

Suggestion #3: Rogue variants and homages.

Back when Rogue was created, such was the fervor with which players were drawn to and obsessed over it that many other similar games were made, each of which making changes, more or less, to the original game. Hack, the ancient predecessor of Nethack, was one of those games. Most of them were strange, kludgy beasts, sometimes tied to a specific architecture and using bizarre programing tricks in their implementation. (One such game used a memory dump of the program's variable memory as a save function!)

Because of this, and because some developers refused to release source code, many of these games were lost to the world until recently. Now, there is the Roguelike Restoration Project, which takes many of those old, weird games and makes them playable on modern OSes, including Windows. In complexity, they tend to be somewhere between Rogue (which is really not complex at all) and Nethack (which has been worked on for over twenty years and it shows). On those I can't supply much information, but a bit of research on the Roguelike Restoration site might supply you with a forgotten gem. They're all free, anyway.

One thing I feel I should mention is that most Roguelike games are difficult, even if you know what you're doing. But don't confuse complexity with difficulty: if you know what you're doing then Nethack is easier than you'd think, while Rogue, which is much simpler, is still hard even if you have encyclopedic knowledge of the source code.
posted by JHarris at 10:56 PM on April 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

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