For most of us, traditional roguelikes are intrinsically inaccessible. They’re notoriously difficult, their design is complicated and often opaque, they can have more hotkeys than there are keys on the keyboard, and their ASCII-based visuals mean that it’s often unclear what’s happening on the screen. It’s these exact qualities, however, that ironically make roguelikes accessible and even appealing to blind or low-sight players.
Brogue was created by one person. Rogue was created by two. Dwarf Fortress? Two people. Caves of Qud – three people. Desktop Dungeons: five. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has had two hundred and fifty three contributors. Of these, fifty have been core developers. In the sixteen-year history of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, there has never been a lead. No design lead, no engineering lead, no art lead, no producer.
Dwarf Fortress [official site] is probably the best game of all time. In Dwarf Fortress, there are sloth bears. In Dwarf Fortress, there are sloth bear men. In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarf can strangle a sloth bear man with its own intestines. In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarf can carve an image of herself strangling a sloth bear man with its own intestines into a bed. In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarf can declare that her bed is named Gorrotheodos, which means “The Disemboweled Amazement.”
Dwarf Fortress also has the worst user interface of all time. How bad could the UI really be, you ask? Well grab a chair, because you’ve come to the right place, my friend. Let’s take an extremely detailed look at how to change the settings of a stockpile.
In the cracked, yellow high school assembly hall, a fresh corpse hangs upside down above the stage. Below him are dozens of lit red candles, and to either side are banners of government propaganda. You drag a box cutter across his throat and use a bowl to catch the blood. You will offer the blood to thirsty gods, and ask them for protection.
First and foremost, Kona is about its mystery. If you want to feel the frozen air of northern Canada blowing through your screen, go play The Long Dark. But if you want to smoke a cold cigarette every time you see something freaky, Kona’s got your back.
I come to Legends with a different perspective on the genre than the average player. I was the lead designer on a similar digital card game for six months (it never shipped). Legends grapples with many of the same design problems that I’ve thought about for hundreds of hours. Some of their solutions to these problems are novel and successful, while other are not.
The groundbreaking 2007 card game Race for the Galaxy has made its way to Steam. In it, 2-4 players place cards in front of them and discard cards in their hand to settle planets (peacefully or by force), develop new infrastructure, build a trade engine, and pursue one of many paths to victory. Race for the Galaxy is part of the board game canon, and it’s one of the most popular board games in the world.
The Signal from Tölva is an open-world shooter set on a ruined planet. You are a robot brain who jumps between robot chassis to wander through a pretty landscape shooting other, hostile robots, and you’ve come to Tölva to investigate the mysterious messages that a dispatcher called The Broker has intercepted. I enjoy pretty landscapes, mysteries, and robots, so I expected to enjoy The Signal from Tölva, but I was disappointed to find a repetitive, empty, and frustrating six to ten-hour slog.