Beware of black-and-white solutions to multi-hued problems.

Game of the Day: Nethack

Date/Time Permalink: 06/28/06 02:22:41 pm
Category: Linux Gaming

Forward: Linux and gaming - seldom heard in the same sentence, unless the author is complaining! But there are games native to the FOSS desktop, such as they are, and their creators deserve some recognition for their hard work. New Linux users should also have a resource by which they may be aware that it isn't all Gimp and Firefox. So I've created the "Linux Gaming" category. I'll just be posting a mini-review on a game with a shot or two and links to more info. Gaming on Linux is one category that is showing a lot of catching up in recent years - it is my hope that this blog category happens at the right time to see it take off!

nethack screenshot

Nethack is the mother of all dungeon-crawling games. You might have played Rogue or Angband, but Nethack is deeper. You might have noticed that Blizzard's Diablo is prettier, but Nethack is deeper. I beat Diablo within three months. I beat Diablo 2 within six months. I've played Nethack for nearly a decade, and haven't beaten the damn thing once.

Nethack naked is a text-based ncurses-style hodge-bodge of ASCII art. Nothing wrong with that (hey, it's the most elaborate game you can play in the console!), but over the years it has spawned a host of graphical front-ends, which put a much more modern face on the game. I use GLhack, which presents a stable 2D tiled version of the game. An even more elaborate GUI is Falcon's Eye.

Since Nethack is so deep, I figure the best way to convey the flavor of the game is to play five random games, letting the game pick my character each time, and just report what happens.

Game #1:
A female Gnomish wizard. I'm in luck: wizards are one of my favorite characters; I've gotten quite far with wizards. This one generated with:

scrolls of identify (!), enchant weapon, and light
spellbooks of force bolt (standard) and sleep
potions of healing, extra healing, and water (gee, thanks!)
rings of +1 gain constitution and regeneration!
wand of slow monster
NO magic marker!

With a setup like that, how can I miss? I immediately use the enchant weapon scroll and put on the rings. Now, what can possibly go wrong?

Level 1: Encountered a chest, which I shattered trying to pry it open with my quarterstaff. Scrolls, food ration, and a gem are shattered. An uneventful level with the usual assortment of weak monsters. I can't end it, however, because I can't seem to locate the stairs. My wizard is getting hungry. After a moment, I am fainting. I guess the rings have accelerated my appetite! I try praying, and even though my god is pleased, it doesn't help my hunger. I have searched everywhere, and the only possible way forward is blocked by this boulder which I have pushed to the end of a corridor. Too late, I think to use my force-bolt to crumble the boulder and get past it to see if the exit's there. It says I am too hungry to cast that spell. My cat has already eaten every corpse on the level. I try drinking the potions, but they don't help. As I struggle back up the corridor, I faint at every step that I don't trip over my cat. I starve to death.

Game #2:
I'm a lawful human Valkyrie. I've generated with nothing but sword, shield, dagger, and one food ration.

Level 1: I discover a chest right off, with two scrolls. Deciding to try my luck, I use the scrolls just to see what they do. The first is a destroy armor - scratch one shield! The second is enchant weapon, so my sword is now +2. Easy go, easy come. I discover two more scrolls. The first is a remove curse or blessing ("You feel like someone is helping you.") and the second is a scroll of genocide! I decide to vanquish all water nymphs, so I can drink from fountains with one less risk. I find another scroll - object detection - and now I see a ring just outside a wall of a room with no way to get to it. Search, search, search; nothing turns up. Pick up a guisarme.

Level 2: An entirely un-newsworthy level. Monster, monster, gold, fountain (dries up on the first sip.), another enchant weapon scroll. Find a ring, but I'm not about to try it without IDing it first. Get hungry, eat food ration.

Level 3: Find two pears. I have yet *another* situation where I can't find the way down! Get hungry again, and decide to use my prayer (works this time) instead of my two pears. Find an Elven Mithril coat dropped by a hobbit that my kitten slays, which is fortunately not cursed and drops my armor level from ten to five! With luck like this, what could possibly go wrong? After endless searching I discover a room *filled* with monsters. I displace my kitten to the front where the action is and eat my two pears. It seems all of the monsters have darts, arrows, and missile weapons. My kitten conquers all! I eat a floating eye corpse for the mental acuity. Discover a leather spellbook. Whatever the spell is, my character can't use it. Last thing I find is a whistle and a magic trap square, which is blocking the only door into the room where the stairs are and my kitten won't move past it. Fortunately, the stairs are near the door enough that my kitten gets taken down with me when I leave with him in the doorway.

Level 4: After killing a few more monsters, I gain a few experience levels and try the spellbook again. It's a slow monster spell, which ought to come in handy. I find two sets of stairs, but I don't feel up to the mines with this character just yet. So the first one I try is the mines, and I want to head back up, but my kitten immediately runs off into the darkness and never returns. I wait and wait. Try blowing the whistle I found, but the kitten doesn't answer it. Finally wander around and discover it - it's ripped through a pack of gnomes and is now a housecat from the experience, sitting on a pile of stuff. I get the kitten back to the stairs and go back up. Go down the other stairs.

Level 5: Find a wand. Try zapping it, but nothing happens. A mummy enters and I zap him, but it does nothing. Discover the Oracle's chamber. Since I am not a wizard and lack any kind of statue-pulverizing method, I forgo searching for spellbooks and head straight for sanctum innum, where I try the fountains (remember, no water nymphs!). I get refreshed from the first, water moccasins from the second ("An endless stream of snakes pours forth!"), and that's one dead Valkyrie. The wand was a wand of cancellation and the ring was protection from shape-changers. The guisarme was a blessed +1, not that chucking it at a water moccasin did any good. Neither did the slow monsters spell help, as it was still at 100% failure rate. I go down fighting, but go all the way down.

Games 3 to 5 coming tomorrow!

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