Some people play games to have fun! Those people are fools. Video games are clearly an artistic medium, and you’re meant to play them to appreciate the artistic vision of the developer…yeah, okay, even I can’t take that seriously. What I meant to say is that some people play games to have fun and others play them to be punished. That latter group loves roguelikes, so they’re bound to have a good time with Caves of Qud.
Caves of Qud is the story of a young man, woman, or…uh, thing as they/it explores the ancient ruins of Qud. Said ruins are the remnants of a fallen civilization, filled with all manner of treasures and terrors. You’ll delve into Qud, searching for whatever you can haul out without biting the dust…or maybe you’ll do it at the behest of a cult-leading bear. Nothing wrong with that. All kinds of people do the bidding of bears. Own it.
You can choose one of two basic templates with your character in Caves of Qud – you’ve got your mutated humans, who make up the majority of folks and possess a variety of useful and not-so-useful mutations. These range from physical mutations like a poisonous stinger to mental mutations, essentially “magic,” like pyrokinesis and time control. On the other hand, you’ve got True Kin, who have managed to avoid being mutated. True Kin possess higher statistics – meaning a melee-focused True Kin character is very powerful starting out – but miss out on helpful mutations, which may come back and bite them in the non-mutated butt later.
Caves of Qud is a classical roguelike through and through, meaning it’s really, really hard. You’re going to die a lot. In particular, this is one of the more difficult roguelikes to get a decent handle on, since the mutation system and character generation allow for so many options. It’s tough to decide what will be most effective for your playstyle until you’ve thrown a few characters into the meat grinder. Expect to get chewed up by all manner of mutated denizens. Your flesh is delicious, after all. Hell, sometimes you’ll end up dying from dumb things you could have prevented – a favorite story of mine comes from a player who used a fire-based ability over water, creating steam…which then boiled said player alive.
Once you get the hang of things, though, there’s plenty to do. NPCs offer quests, there’s dungeons to explore and monsters to fight, it’s the kind of game any old-school RPG fan is bound to enjoy. The game’s map is, frankly, enormous, and not much of that is friendly. There’s a main storyline to follow as well, though the odds of you getting through it at the moment are nonexistent as there’s no ending, so it might be best to just enjoy exploring.
Graphics and sound are, uh, basically nonexistent. This is a classical roguelike, almost entirely ASCII-drive game as I said. You’re going to also need some time to get acquainted with the control scheme, especially if you’re not familiar with this style of game. Caves of Qud doesn’t offer a lot of hand-holding, so once you’ve got a character into the world you’re basically on your own. The game is also trapped in Early Access (horrors!) at the moment, so you’ll need to accept bugs and frequent small changes to the code.
Still, if you’re willing to dump time into an old-school roguelike, chances are you aren’t going to be stopped by something as minor as Early Access. It’s tough, sure, but there’s plenty of interesting lore to discover and a fascinating world to explore. At around $10 Caves of Qud is a solid value.