Endless character combinations
The new trend among computer games these days is generally to produce incredible graphics. While this makes everything easy on the eye, it often leaves a strange empty taste in the mouth, as the gameplay is usually sacrificed to achieve this. If some of you think that this example is an extreme, then let me introduce you the other side of the balance.
Ancient Domains of Mystery (or ADOM for short) is a Roguelike game. You take complete control over a freshly created Hero or Heroine to complete the ultimate quest: defeating Chaos itself. Having heard of aggravating troubles in the Drakalor Chain, your avatar braces himself as he finally ends his travel and makes his first few steps into the troubled region...
This is when the game begins. Having only the most basic equipment, (class- and race-dependent), you will need to explore previously undiscovered tunnels and dungeons, fight hideous monsters, uncover long-forgotten secrets and find all kinds of treasures to help you on the way. Sound easy? Think again.
So far, as far as the description goes, I could be talking about your average roleplaying and/or hack-and-slash game like Diablo, The Bard's Tale, or the Ultima series... However, there is one extremely important difference between those old gems and this one - graphics. The difference is, in fact, so important that you can't miss it; ADOM sports no graphics at all! But fear not, noble (or evil) adventurers! Even though I can already hear the grumbling of several people reading this, allow me to help you discover the beauty of the Roguelike game.
First, you will need to create a character to roam the realm at your ease. ADOM gives you the choice of ten different races, each with unique stats and abilities. Along with the races, twenty different classes are available to choose from. As if 200 different possible combinations were not enough already, additional roleplay elements like your astrological sign (which grants you different bonuses for each month) and the classic RP questions (which shape your avatar's personality - and thus his stats) all add in to ensure you never start the game with the very same character twice.
After character creation, you are free to explore the land as you wish. No linear story will keep you grounded somewhere if you just don't want to complete a side quest. You go as you wish on the map and you decide to do whatever you wish. However, do not think that doing anything and surviving is an easy task. Monsters abound in the Drakalor Chain, randomly generated dungeons generate harder monsters to fight as you go deeper and deeper and, most importantly, you must also take care of your sustenance along the way or die miserably from starvation.
Several Deities of differing alignments watch you as you fight your way through the obstacles and while befriending a God may grant you great power, becoming the enemy of another is asking for trouble.
ADOM really has a great random generator system. You will rarely run into incredibly powerful items as you begin your journey since it is very level-dependent. A higher level character will usually manage to find great items easily, but the same thing can be said about the monsters' difficulty! Along with all this, the dungeons are always at the same place on the World Map since every single level is randomly built when you first enter the dungeon. This means that there is no "master seed" which builds the realm when you start the game. In practice, every time you enter a dungeon the experience is truly unique. The gameplay is also excellent as several options are available. I rarely ran into a game which allowed me to wipe my (F)ace to gain lost charisma points if my character got dirty, or even clean his (E)ars to be able to hear the movements of invisible enemies better!
The "graphical" interface provided in the game is brilliant in its simplicity. It is very practical and easy to navigate, and I never had any problems with imagining those walking letters crawling slowly but surely to my avatar, planning his early demise.
The only real downside would be for newcomers starting their first few characters. Dying in the game is extremely easy if you are not careful enough, and a lot of early learning and discoveries are made through a character's death... which is final. Although an option to save your character does exist, ADOM sports the same special feature common to most Roguelike games: deletion of your character's savegame when he dies. That's it; you manage to get under the fateful 1HP number and you're history. All that will be left of you is an entry in the legendary hall of fame... If your run was worthwhile enough!
Because of this and the fact that the game can become a frustrating experience over time for inexperienced players I am giving this game a rating of 3. However, do not let the rating fool you. This game is like some old wine; it gets better with time.
ADOM is one of the best games I ever played. Managing to overcome the lack of visual images by using incredible gameplay is a feat in itself. If you never had the opportunity to try any Roguelike games, then by all means start with this one. You won't be disappointed.
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Review by: Eagle of Fire
Safe for all ages
Will run in Win and DOS