Cool Story, BroguePosted by Tom on 20th January, 2012
The easiest way to explain Brogue‘s appeal is with the toad. When you get hit by a toad you don’t take very much damage, but you do start hallucinating. When you hallucinate, the colours you see start shifting and morphing, and the symbols that represent creatures and items start randomly shifting. All the information that you’d normally have about a creature is out the window. You don’t know what it is, you don’t know how it will react to you, and you don’t even know if it’s already aggressive. This monster could be literally anything. You might be able to tell some basics about it from the way it’s moving, but jellies, trolls and tentacle horrors all look like a scrambled mess of symbols, slowly edging towards you.
In most games, something like this wouldn’t be dangerous. If I can’t tell what type of splicer or soldier or wild animal you’re fighting, it probably won’t change your tactic very much. In Brogue, almost every creature requires a specific tactic. You don’t want to fight a jelly out in the open, because it will split into pieces and surround you, but you don’t want to fight a bloat in a tight space, because the poison gas that explodes out of it will take longer to dissipate. You don’t want to fight an acid blob up close, because it’ll cause damage to your weapon and armour. You don’t want to fight a goblin conjurer at a distance because it will put spectral blades in the gap between you. Every creature requires its own unique tactic, so the toad is an extremely dangerous enemy. There are ways to get away without hallucinating, but they all cost you valuable resources. You have to make tactical decisions at every turn, and how you face the toad is just one of them.
There’s a real sense that this game was designed with a deliberate effort to keep redundant mechanics to a minimum. The only stat you have that’s given a visible number is strength. All strength does is let you hold weapons without penalty, and the only way to raise it is through potions of strength that you find randomly in the dungeon. There are 3 ways you can go about using a weapon that is overpowered for you. You can equip it anyway, and accept the debuff that will probably make it worthless to you. You can wait and hope for enough strength potions to come about. You can use the enchantment scrolls.
Here we come to the cleverest part of this game’s design. With no class system and no improvable stat beyond strength, enchantment scrolls are how you define your build. You’ll receive a bunch of enchantment scrolls throughout your travels, but not enough to improve everything that you’ll use. Obviously it’s fairly clever to have limited things that you can improve, forcing you to make decisions about the type of character you’re playing, but what makes the enchantment scrolls really ingenious is that they not only make weapons more powerful, but they reduce the strength rating necessary to wield them effectively. You can close the gap between your strength rating and the weapon requirement twice as fast if you use enchantments.
The only problem with using all your scrolls on a war hammer is that enchantments are also really useful for other items. The staff of firebolt is pretty powerful, but it would be much more powerful if you could use it more often. The ring of stealth is cool, but it’s not going to be really cool until you level it up a bunch. If you start enchanting a weapon and then you find another one with a better intrinsic effect, all the enchantments you’ve used on that first weapon have been wasted.
Scrolls of enchantments are an incredibly smart solution to the problem of classes in roguelikes, and Brogue is full of similarly ingenious mechanics that solve problems you didn’t know existed. I really can’t recommend this game highly enough, if you’ve got any interest in roguelikes, give it a try.
Download Brogue over here.