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Abandonware-like: ADoM

Another type of game I enjoy playing is something that is generally called a “Rogue-like” game, where the original “Rogue” was a simple dungeon delve coded in ASCII characters, such that the outlines of the rooms and the monsters were made up of things that could be typed using a standard keyboard.

Rogue-likes have randomized dungeons, semi-self-aware monsters, and a level of detail that varies by designer. My favorite Rogue-like, at the moment, is one called “ADoM” or “Ancient Domains of Mystery.” The low-res version is available for free from the website above, and one guy is in charge of the whole shebang.

You start as an adventurer, choosing variables such as race (orc, elf, dragon), class (barbarian, elementalist, weaponsmith) and gender, and picking a few skills along the way. It’s insanely complicated, and the interface takes some getting used to, but once you know how to navigate, it’s fairly easy to get around and get through at least the first few dungeons.

Again, like many of the retro-inspired games of today, ADoM is hard. There’s one save game, which is more of a “hold my place here until I come back” than a true save state that saves progress, because the game kicks you out to the desktop after saving, and deletes the save file upon loading. This isn’t to say that you can’t just copy and paste the save file into a different directory, but it’s kind of a hassle, and requires constant shuffling of files.

In addition, death is final. The end. Do not pass go, do not collect three hundred drachma. The variety and complexity of the world, however, makes ADoM worth exploring, and the price can’t be beat. Furthermore, the community is fairly robust, with bug reports and other comments so that the programmer can update things and hopefully fix errors.

There is a proprietary version, where you pay money for better graphics and support, and the designer is looking to release ADoM for the iPad, but it’s not clear what advantages would be available for those who want to pay the money.

ADoM is a great way to spend an afternoon (or a few months), and the random dungeon generation means that each character’s exploration, even of the same quests, yields new monsters and new layouts, resulting in high replayability. The graphics take a bit of getting used to, especially if gamers are accustomed to pretty pretty pictures, but it’s far better than most of the sequels and spinoffs currently clogging the video game market.

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Posted in Friday: Game Review.

  • Thomas Biskup

    Actually currently there is no paid version of ADOM – all versions are free. The i* versions might be the first ones that include some paid aspects – details will be decided in 2011.

    Thomas Biskup
    ADOM Maintainer

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