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Rogue

Amiga game review, ADF downloads, screenshots, ratings and insights

General observations on this gaming classic and presented on the Amiga

Trying to review an ancient classic like Rogue - a game over 35 years old - is almost impossible. It has been played and seen on so many different platforms it has to be viewed holistically and not in an Amiga vacuum.

So before we get into the comparisons let’s talk about just what the heck it is and understand the basics. Rogue, by many accounts, is one of the first computerized dungeon crawlers ever made. So important is its place in history that games to this very day are sometimes described as “Roguelike” oftentimes not even really knowing the history of what Rogue was, just what it means. That term has its own place in Wikipedia-land and is worth checking out. Rogue also helped contribute to the concept of “permadeath” which at a high-level is where your character in the game only has one life. And if you die you can’t re-start the game at a previous save point. Just like an early arcade game, you have to start over from the very beginning. Every. Single. Time. Except in this case you only get one life, not three.

Rogue is based off of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). It uses a dungeon mapping concept and offers 26 levels within the Dungeon of Doom. On the 26th level is an amulet. If you find it, you are to return to the surface with it. If you can do that you win. And you are probably capable of walking on water.

What makes this game so hard and at the same time so addicting? It is procedurally created.

That means each time you start a new game, the rooms will be all different, the levels completely redesigned and the foes and items you discover completely different (in terms of where you encounter them), too. Everything is random. The whole thing! But the randomness is set within a certain set of rules so the game isn’t complete and utter chaos. And those rules, while merciless, are pretty rigid. After playing for a day or two you shouldn’t be surprised about what to expect anymore. But that won’t change how hard it is. Or how fun. And at that level this game seems to offer the same odds you might face when you walk into a casino. The house ALWAYS wins, yet you always come back for more. Maybe just once more…

And to that end, there is no cheating with this game. Popping out your saved game disk before you die won’t save your character from death. It will somehow make the restore file won’t work the next time you try to load it and that saved progress will be lost. This game keeps you honest and forces you not to cheat (I tried).

If you do somehow mange to cheat, you’re really doing a disservice to yourself and the history of the game. Just accept the fact that this game is demonically hard but incredibly addicting and fun. And just let go, man.

This review isn’t here to reveal all of the secrets of the game. That would take a lot of the fun away, to be honest. Each time you discover something new or perceive a new strategy in this little world it’s a total thrill. But there are some things worth pointing out, which we’ll do in due course.

Creating a game based on a classic is always fraught with peril. And the Amiga port isn’t perfect. But it’s good enough to be one of our favorite games of all time simply because the core game itself is so clever and simple.

The original game was created on UNIX mainframes in 1980 and the only visual output gamers got was ASCII characters. Your character was represented on screen as the “@“ symbol. So from that perspective the Amiga version with full graphics must seem one part mind-blowingly awesome and one part sacrilege. But we’ll happily take the graphics!

It doesn’t hurt the game play at all as nothing of major consequence was changed (with one important exception**), and in our opinion it helps immerse us into the genre that much more. Interestingly, back in the day, the Amiga port was dinged by reviewers because it was a straight port except for the graphics upgrade. Some wanted more. Others asked, “Why would I buy the Amiga version when I can get the original for free?” The original was freeware. But I personally am SO glad it was left alone and welcome the visuals.

There is also no sound. No music, no sound effects. Nada.

And frankly, thank goodness. If they’d tried to insert the SSI death cry equivalent every time you got hurt or died, it would probably wear pretty thin.. Thank you, A.I. Designs and Epyx for keeping it old school and true to the original in most cases.

** In the Amiga version, which is believed to be true to the original, food takes up space in your inventory. In some clones, this is not the case. You can hold as much food as you can find without any inventory penalties. Obviously that makes the Amiga version much, much harder and inventory-based food limitation is a serious disadvantage. But that’s how it is. I suppose winning on the Amiga, then, deserves and even larger badge of honor.

DUNGEON LAYOUT

Each level consists of nine quadrants - basically like a Tic Tac Toe 3x3 grid.

As you begin the game you will find yourself in some sort of rectangular room. On each side of the room there is the potential for a door to be found depending on where in the grid your room is located (and there is always at least one). If there is a door in one of the walls, a passageway will be on the other side which leads to another room - or sometimes a dead end. It is up to the player to search walls and dead ends on occasion to reveal the contents of each of the nine quadrants (if he or she desires). The ultimate goal is to find the room that contains a staircase down. Down down down you must go. And along the way you’ll discover potions, scrolls, wands, staves, armor, weapons and, of course, monsters.

So if you can't find the stairs down to the next level you need to check and see if you found 9 rooms (or areas). Sometimes a hallway really is a dead end. But if you've got a gap in one of the 9 areas there is probably, almost definitely, a room you are missing.

Which means you need to start searching walls to find a door.

It’s worth noting that there is only ever one possible door per wall (and never the most outer walls of the most outer rooms of the game). But searching takes up food, too, just like walking. So you have to make careful choices. Usually searching one section of wall 3-5 times is a sufficient search. Then you can skip 2 spaces and search again along the same wall. In rare circumstances, a search (pressing the “s” key) might take 10-12 searches. When that happens you KNOW the game is fucking trolling you big time. And it is totally acceptable to say so out loud to your monitor. This helps break the curse. Until it happens again.

Oddly, the dungeon is in the shape of a 26-story below-ground office building. It conforms perfectly to the shape of your 4:3 monitor. And the layout of each randomly generated level is predictable under the rules we’re given. You can never go back up the stairs, only down, until you find the amulet on level 26. Then you have to get your butt all the way back up to the top again, and each level will be re-drawn and different from what you encountered on the way down! Completely cruel.

GAME MECHANICS

It is not 100% required to use the number pad to play this game, but if you don’t you won’t likely get that far. Or have much fun. The number pad allows you to move north, south, east and west (just like the cursor keys on any Amiga). But the number pad also provides diagonal movements. These are critical for two reasons: diagonal motion will conserver energy in this game in some cases, and you sometimes need to attack diagonally. In a pinch the diagonals can be found using the mouse - but seriously. If you’re an Amiga 600 user you may want to seriously consider emulation. You can still have a lot of fun with this game but you’ll be at a disadvantage. And the game is already hard enough. UPDATE: there are indeed keys on the keyboard to play this game with diagonals on a 600. They are just dispersed in a very unusual pattern. Worth a try to see if it works for you.

In the game you will find and need to consume food. As you move through the dungeon you use energy, and over time your character will become hungry. In the first 10-12 levels, this doesn’t feel like a big deal. Indeed, it’s your mission (more or less) to search the early levels fully to collect as many “goodies” as possible that might help you survive the deeper ones. And once you make it to the deeper levels the last thing you want to worry about is starving to death. So finding food and refraining from unnecessary movements is key for those that want to actually try and beat this game.

In old school D&D, better armor has a lower AC (armor class). But with newer D&D rules it's the opposite. And in Rogue, it's the opposite, too. So if you find a +1 suit of armor, the +1 should be a bonus, not subtracted from the armor score. So again, if you found ring mail that had a score of 5 in Rogue, that’s a good thing. If it was +1, it would be a 6. That’s even better. It took me a little while to get used to, but what Rogue did was “fix” something that was an old school gripe with D&D back in the day.

in the version of Rogue we play online the bow is useless so we just throw arrows. you can wield the bow, but it takes time while the monsters are coming at you. and the amount of damage is the same. so why bother? there is a slight bonus to hit while holding the bow. but we tend to ditch the bow to make more room for the other items you find.

SCORING

Interestingly, Rogue offers the ability to earn a score. But how the score is generated is both old school and bizarre. On each level you not only can find magical items and weapons and so forth, but you can also find little piles of sparkly gold. They are scattered around randomly, and the amounts are random. Yet whenever you collect gold - THAT is your score. You could kill 10 powerful monsters on a level, and find 200 gold pieces. And your score would be 200. Is it fair? No! Does that matter? No!

It boils down to a philosophical decision by the player to pick up gold or not. Some folks that really want to beat Rogue will actually ignore picking up gold altogether unless it is literally in their way. But if you don’t think you’ve got a chance, collecting gold is a really nice way to track your progress if you always die somewhere between levels 13 and 20. At this writing, I’ve yet to make it past level 17, and I’ve played a ton.

My brother has played Rogue off and on for 15-20 years, and to his recollection he’s never made it past level 21 or 23. So when you’re facing those kinds of odds, maybe going for a high score really is your best bet for gaming satisfaction. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s what’s killing you! Lamer gold! (Psst. I’m a lamer and I go for the gold these days.)

DEATH

When you die, you’re instantly greeted with a tombstone. On that tombstone will be the name you gave the game when you started. You’ll also see the type of creature that killed you (e.g. Troll) and your score. But wait - what’s this? It’s less than what you had collected when you were playing. What happened?

According to my brother, there is a “burial fee” which is taken when you die. The deeper the level you reached, and the higher the level monster that killed you, the MORE gold (score) they take away. Even more unfair! But that’s how it works. Get over it.

AWESOME TIPS FROM MY BROTHER GARTH

“Luck is definitely a major factor -- what armor you find, what weapon, and how far you can boost them up. Plus managing to keep your strength and armor sustained all that time.

Remember this: doorways are your friends. If you get stuck fighting multiple monsters, or monsters that split into 2 monsters like slime, you want to be in a doorway so you only have to fight one-at-a-time -- and also have a way to run when your HPs get low.

When you get past level 15 or 16 you basically want to quit exploring and run for the stairs down. Everything can kill you so just get to the bottom and find the chalice, then start working your way back up.

This game is just about the most random game you will play. I mean, everything just about is random. Maps, treasure, the works. Sometimes you might find a ton of identify scrolls, other times you'll find none. Keep your fingers crossed that you'll find enough food. (sometimes you find way too much.)

Also, you want to read scrolls and quaff potions without knowing what they are -- that's how you learn what they are. and each time you die and start over the scrolls and potions are different -- so don't bother writing down, "the white scroll is for teleporting" because in the next game it'll be different.

I usually read & quaff when i'm on a new level. that way if i open up a magical map or something it actually functions.

When you find an identify scroll my favorite method is to check out any rings i've found first, then it's a toss-up between armor, weapons, and wands/staves.

There are a couple really excellent rings -- like sustain armor, or sustain strength -- since both those modifiers can be destroyed by certain monsters. The regeneration ring is pretty helpful on the mid-range levels and lower.

The downside of rings is that they make you burn through your food much faster.

There is a ring ... can't remember the name ... but it slows digestion. Hell, that may BE the name. if you wear 2 of those you pretty much don't have to eat anymore.

Only get to wear 2 rings though.

Because MAGIC.”

Speaking of magic, there are two things you really need to understand to play this game: how to interpret the reactions you have when you quaff (drink) potions and read scrolls. For the few that may want to give the game a try (do it!) I present those definitions below. The rest are basic D&D rules and whatnot and not really worth the space here.


POTIONS

Potion type

Effect

Blindness

a cloak of darkness falls around you

Confusion

wait, what's going on? Huh? What? Who?

Extra healing

you begin to feel much better

Gain strength

you feel stronger. What bulging muscles!
you feel stronger, now. What bulging muscles!

haste self

you feel yourself moving much faster

healing

you begin to feel better

magic detection

you sense the presence of magic.
you sense the presence of magic on this level.
OR
you have a strange feeling for a moment, then it passes if there are no magic items on this level

monster detection

monster appears on map
OR
you have a strange feeling
you have a strange feeling for a moment if there are no monsters on the current level.

paralysis

you can't move

poison

you feel very sick now.
you feel momentarily sick

raise level

you suddenly feel much more skilful

restore strength

you feel warm all over.
hey, this tastes great. It makes you feel warm all over

see invisible

this potion tastes like mango juice

thirst quenching

this potion tastes extremely dull

other potion (does nothing)

what an odd tasting potion!




SCROLLS

Scroll type

Effect

aggravate monsters

you hear a high pitched humming noise
Every monster in the level is looking for you!

create monster

you hear a faint cry of anguish
you hear a faint cry of anguish in the distance

enchant armor

your armor glows faintly
your armor glows faintly for a moment

enchant weapon

your weapon glows blue
your weapon glows blue for a moment
OR
you feel a strange sense of loss if you are not wielding a weapon

food detection

your nose tingles as you sense food
OR
you hear a growling noise close by
you hear a growling noise very close to you if there is no food on this level
BONUS:Also detects Amulets!

hold monster

holds all monsters within 1 or 2 spaces of the hero

identify

this scroll is an identify scroll

magic mapping

oh, now this scroll has a map on it

monster confusion

your hands begin to glow red

Scare Monster

you hear maniacal laughter
you hear maniacal laughter in the distance
You just read a Scare Monster scroll! If you drop it instead, no monster will attack you (great for treasure rooms). Once you step off it, you can't use it again.

sleep

you fall asleep

teleportation

 

remove curse

somebody is watching over you
you feel as if somebody is watching over you

vorpalize weapon

your weapon gives off a flash
your weapon gives off a flash of bright light
Vorpalized weapon, gives an additional +1 +1 to all, and a +4 +4 and the ability to zap a particual type of monster. Sometimes (1-20) Vorpalize will curse your weapon unless you save versus magic (see top of page), then it will tell you what monster the weapon is vorpalized for (what monster you can zap and get the +4 +4 against)
OR
you feel a sudden desire to kill ??? .
This is the vorpalize where you save versus magic (see top of page)
OR
your weapon vanishes in a puff of smoke
You vorpalized the same weapon twice (and overcharged it)
Also see vorpalized weapon in the staves/wands section.

blank paper

this scroll seems to be blank



INSTALLATION NOTES AND QUIRKS

I originally tried to play this game on an A2000, which has an accelerator card and a ton of Fast RAM. The game would boot off the floppy and I could get to the intro screen (which is quite cool looking). I could then load the game itself, but only the window chrome and the menus were visible. The rest of the entire screen was just black. If I moved my character around, it was actually working - I could sometimes bump into objects or monsters. But the screen was all black and impossible to play.

Having seen games sometimes balk at accelerators on rare occasions, I moved the disk over to my mostly stock A1000. The only upgrade it has is a Microbotics 2MB RAM via the side expansion port.

Same exact thing.

Originally I simply unhooked my expansion RAM on my A1000 to get it to work. But the more elegant and preferred way to get this game to work you need to run the NoFastMem program found in your Workbench System folder. After you disable fastmem in Workbench, you can see all of the graphics and run the program normally if you launch the game from the CLI. If you boot the game from FDD, you'll have to unhook your RAM - not the best option.

Thanks to Shot97, Paradroyd, and one other fellow (whose name I have accidentally lost and deeply apologize for that) for all of their advice on this matter.


FINAL THOUGHTS

The Amiga version is not perfect. The screen has weird refresh glitches, there is no animation, no sound, and barely scratches the surface of what the Amiga is capable of. But the entire game is procedurally created when you load it, and saves ALL of it to memory (even in a machine with only 512KB). All 52 levels. Pretty amazing, really.

And more than anything, it is FUN. Have I mentioned that it’s fun? It really is.

In fact, now that this review is finished, I know what I’m about to do. Guess.
4.8
4 total votes

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Comments

4.8
4 total votes
Developer:
A.I. Designs
Publisher:
Epyx
Designer:
Michael Toy, G.R. Wichman, Ken Arnold, Jon Lane
Artist:
Michael Kosaka, Courtney Granner, Jenny Martin, Suzie Greene
Genre:
Role-Playing (RPG)
Perspective:
Top down
Theme:
Fantasy, D&D
Player mode:
1 Player, Single Player
Origin:
USA
Release date:
1986

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