Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is what I think I’m happy calling the ultimate evolution of the PC based Roguelike game. In Roleplaying terms, it is akin to tackling the Tomb of Horrors by yourself; a game with difficulty that is sometimes so extreme the purpose is sometimes not to win but to try and die in the most amusing fashion possible.
Roguelikes are so named because they started with a game called Rogue; for Unix, which displayed dungeons in ASCII art. Roguelikes have a few things in common: Completely random generation of items, dungeons and adventures allowing infinite replayablity and final death that is final. Reallly final. In the case of Stone Soup, when you die, your character is deleted from your hard drive. Saving is only allowed to give you a break from the game.
Due to this combo of random dickishness and permanent death, things can be rough. This is not a game in which you should get attached to your characters. But where one might think this would just be irritating, it actually ends up rather entertaining, because it does it with such panache and style you can’t help but laugh.
Anyway, Stone Soup is now up to 0.8 as of writing. What really sets this apart from others in my opinion is:
- An excellent Tutorial. The entire interface uses a hybrid mouse and keyboard interface, but after the tutorial, I felt very confident in using most of it.
- The wealth of truly random stuff on offer. There are 24 Races and 27 Classes. Not every race and class combo is possible from this but there is still a good 600 options to pick from; and each does actually encourage an at least slightly different way of playing. The fact that there are also 18 gods to worship as well, each of which further adapts the character and changes their abilities. Add completely newly randomly spawned dungeons on each playthrough and… well…
- Really quite decent artwork in the tiles version. There’s not a smidgen of sound to be had; but weirdly this helps in some ways. Of course, if you’re a purist, you can also play the ASCII version without any decent graphics either.
- The developers have made it their mantra to remove no-brainer decisions and discourage excessive grinding. There are certainly advantageous choices that are better than others, but its not like theres only one path to the finish. Of course, if you want to take unadvised options and make a character win that way, all the power to you, as its not only possible, but encouraged.
Anyway, you can get it HERE
And it is, of course, completely FREE!
Dungeon Crawl is of course the main meat of the game. The excellent Tutorial takes you through a bunch of easy levels to brief you on the controls and interface. Hints mode gives you a few of the easier starting character choices and holds your hand a bit. Dungeon Sprint is for the experts who want a Time Trial Mode to see how quickly they can clear the dungeon. The Arena is a pointless and hilarious feature; type in the names of your favourite monsters and pit them against each other in a pit on automatic control. As noted, saves are mainly to allow you to put the game on hold.
HP and stats and all are in the top right, followed by the minimap, spells bar, menu, and then all the crap you have in your rucksack. Much of the interaction with this is point and click and easy to follow, but basically everything also has hotkeys if preferred.
With Items Part of the silly fun is that nothing you pick up is identified to begin with. You have no idea what that potion or scroll does until you actually try it. That new shiny dagger might be a cursed -5/-4 Dagger of Missing. That potion might randomly mutate you in hideous (or helpful) ways. Until you figure out which Scrolls are identify and uncurse ones, theres not even anything you can do about it!
Your potions can be frozen and shattered by cold attacks, your scrolls set on fire, and your clothes dissolved by acid. You have a weight limit based on Strength. Unlike some games, inventory is not stashed in a magical invulnerable pocket!
Worse still for your chances, you were clever enough (sigh) to only come to the dungeon with a single loaf of bread, and hunger is constantly out to get you! (well, unless you’re a race without a hunger clock, but they have their own issues). This is the main weapon the game has against grinding levels; you’ll starve to death before any meaningful gain. Fortunately, you can chop up bits of dead monster and eat them if you’re at Hungry status or worse; but these chunks rot away over time and can’t be hoarded. Some of them can also make you ill and are poisonous (though fortunately, these are one of the few things you don’t need to identify).
This above character is my Vampire Assassin that has a backpack full of wands and was lucky enough to get an awesome randart weapon (randart = a random artefact). As seen here, shops do show up in the dungeon for you to spend any gold you find lying around. If you’re especially lucky you might even find a food store; but since every item is randomly spawned, anything can be helpful.
As for skills:
They work a little bit like a hybrid of D&D and Oblivion. You gain XP by killing. Your skills then draw XP from your pool as you do things related to that task, sometimes at the same time as you make the kill. They grow in % done until they level up; and your race determines how quickly that percentage is filled (with, for example, -1 being slightly slower, but +4 being really fast). You can mould your progression by visiting the skills screen and switching off progression of certain skills, however (seen greyed out above).
When off, they only draw XP very slowly, allowing you build up your unallocated pool.
After that, you can do what is called “Victory Dancing” in the community; basically spamming a skill like a complete nutcase for a few turns to draw away that unallocated XP into the skill of your choice.
In other words, you kill something with your sword, but if the sword skill is off; it’ll only grow that skill a tiny fraction. Instead, that XP goes to the pool, and you then Victory Dance by spamming scrolls or a spell to increase your Spellcasting skills. This might seem a bit cheaty; but it can make a difference if you want to survive and use whats given to you, and its not frowned upon.
Lets look at the Races and their advantages (this’ll be a long list!!). Your race determines your skills progression whereas your class in the game is more like your ‘starting package’ of stuff and intial training. (opposite of some games, eh?)
A) Humans are, as usual, the yardstick to measure others. They don’t favour anything or have anything special. In a way, this makes them the best in several types of skill though, as, although they don’t have BONUS in anything, neither to they have a PENALTY. They also level up the quickest (all other species level as a ‘that % slower than humans’).
B) High Elf is stereotypical fantasy elf. Good with several skills, especially long swords and bows, and charms. But, they level up 50% slower and suck at other weapons and darker types of magery.
C) Deep Elf is an albino elf that’s great at spellcasting and all magic, but is awful physically and levels up 40% slower.
D) Sludge Elf is a wild elf thats sneaky, good at unarmed fighting, transmuting, and darker magery. They level only 20% slower.
E) Mountain Dwarf is a stereotypical dwarf; good with armour, melee combat and crossbows. Not bad with wands; but terrible for most other magic. Levels 30% slower.
F) Deep Dwarf is albino dwarf. They have innate damage reduction, but can’t naturally heal at all. They sense their surroundings, are excellent with wands and are very sneaky. Levels 30% slower.
G) Hill Orc is stereotypical orc. Decent with armour and combat; but below average in spellcasting. They can eat rotten meat easier but don’t like their veggies. Levels at human rate.
H) Merfolk are scaly fish people; but they can form their tail into legs at will. They’re awesome with Polearms, Charms and Transmutations; and get a big bonus fighting in water (and can actually swim deep waters unlike everyone else who drowns). Not good with ranged attacks in general though. Levels 20% slower.
I) Halflings get hungry slower, and are great with all the sneaky skills and slings. But they can’t use bigger weapons. Levels at human rate.
J) Kobolds have a similar skillset to halflings (sneaky). They cannot eat veggies, but can eat chunks of monster meat at any time and rarely get sick from this, making their trials with the food clock easier. Levels at human rate.
K) Spriggans are fairyfolk. They can’t eat any meat AT ALL. This makes them reliant on bread and veggies you find, but they are very fast at running away and get hungry much slower. They can also see invisible things. They’re good with non-offensive magic and sneaky skills, but are terrible fighters. Levels 30% slower.
L) Naga are snake people; with lower half being snake. They are quite slow and terrible with armour, but they have natural AC, immunity to poison, the ability to see invisible things, and they are decent with most other skills. Levels 20% slower.
M) Centaurs are horse people. They have strong bodies; but need to eat more often and aren’t good with many skills except the use of bows and ranged weapons. However, they move fast and support hit and run attacks well. Levels 40% slower.
N) Ogres are big brutes that need to eat often. They’re terrible with all except clubs (they’re the only ones that can use giant clubs). They’re considered the challenge species, since they have basically nothing else notable in their favour. Big and easily hit, slow etc. Levels 10% slower too.
O) Trolls need to eat loads, but like Kobolds can eat rotten meat and like it. They also regenerate very quickly, and have amazing claws and tough skin. They are terrible at all skills besides unarmed combat (which they excel at) and level 50% slower though.
P) Minotaurs are excellent at all kinds of weapon combat; but don’t do spells very well. They can also supplement their good melee with subsidary Horn smashes. They can’t wear hats. Not versatile, but good at what they do. Levels 40% slower.
Q) Kenku are basically fantasy Tengu; bird like creatures. They can’t wear hats or shoes, but they learn to glide at level 5 and permanently fly at level 15. They’re also good with offensive magic and decent with most weapons. Levels 30% slower.
R) Draconians are half-dragons, more like a bipedal humanoid dragon than a human with dragon features though. They’re average at most things, but have natural armour, can glide, and gain a random bonus evolution and breath weapon at level 7. Levels 40% slower.
S) Demigods have truly amazing stats, and are average in all skills. However, they cannot ever worship a god (cutting off alot of potential gift and ability oppertunities) and level up the slowest of all (60% slower).
T) Demonspawn are average in all skills, but intrinsically gain mutations as they level; with a much higher than usual chance for these mutations to be beneficial, like scales, breath weapons, resistances and suchlike. They can only worship evil or neutral gods, they are weak to holy weapons, and they also level 60% slower like Demigods.
U) Mummies have no need for food at all. Being undead gives them a host of advantages and disadvantages. They resist cold, entropy, torment, and are immune to poison; and simply lose max HP rather than gaining mutations. They are, however, bad at most skills, vulnerable to fire, unable to use potions, and unable to transform or inspire (or berserk) themselves in any way. Undead cannot worship good gods. Also levels 40% slower.
V) Ghouls don’t have traditional hunger, instead, they continually take stat loss from rotting, and can only restore it by stuffing their face with monster flesh (which also heals them a bit; and they prefer the rotting stuff!). They have natural claws, and are ok with a decent range of skills, but prefer unarmed combat, ice and earth magic, and necromancy. They have the same undead package as mummies otherwise, but level 20% slower.
W) Vampires also have untraditional hunger: they never starve and their abilities depend on how flush with blood they are. At bloodless, they have abilities like other undead but don’t regenerate at all (unlike mummies); whereas at Full they act like humans, except with stupendously strong troll-like regeneration. They drink blood from corpses and during unarmed bite attacks. They have the best Sneak in the game; and also have great skills with blades, unarmed attacks, hexes and necromancy. Levels 50% slower.
X) Felid is basically a sentient talking magical housecat that didn’t want to be some wizards familiar. They can’t use any items and can’t wear any armour, but have a set of handy mutations (supersharp claws, AC from fur, can eat any meat, slow metabolism, runs quickly, and sees invisible things). Moreover, they gain extra lives (!) due to their feline ancestry. This is only race that can die and come back as long as you have lives (gain 1 every 4 levels). They can’t gain weaponskills, and are mediocre at unarmed, but have good sneak skills and decent spellcasting ability, especially with summoning, hexes, and translocations. However, they level 60% slower.
Phew, that was a long list!
Please click the Above to see it full sized!
If you want other information, check out the wiki (good stuff, but some of the wiki is out of date, though) or the knowledge bots (searches a database of up to date info on what you type in, but doesn’t have the in-depth-ness of the wiki).
Anyway, thats all for my rundown. Check it out!