Unfortunately, not even our reviews can be timeless on all accounts. NetDanzr, in his review ofpraised the continuous improvement over the years which lead to an amazing depth, but he critisized accessibility issues due to visual presentation and complex controls. It was good timing for a snapshot, because shortly afterwards, development (which had been going on for 8 years before) actually ceased. So his views remained valid for a long time.
In a way, they certainly still are. However, due to the age of “crowdfunding”, last year saw the resurrection ofby its original developer. This time, with the explicit goal in mind to turn it into a commercial product. So it may be time for a second look…
Of course, the immediately striking change is that the game will not fit on a single floppy disk anymore… at least if you get the full-blown graphical version (a purely character based version still exists). It also doesn't occupy several CDs (as NetDanzr postulated); that is because the newly formed development team chose a sensible compromise between providing a modern-day facelift, but still keeping it “classic” in spirit. Something which would probably not have been well received back in the early days of this millenium, which was all too technology focused.
Interestingly enough, this also addresses one of the major previous issues. With the huge amount of creatures and items, it was increasingly hard to tell things apart – how many different monsters and characters can you represent by the same @? The graphics now transport a lot of information implicitly which the player had to explicitly pull out of the game with extra keystrokes before (or couldn't retrieve at all; like for example a weapon's material being visible through its colour shading). So beyond simply looking more inviting, this switch comes with very real playability advantages.
The base game with its plot and all its features (which, in the new version 1.2, have been carefully extended mostly in a “more of the same” vein) is, of course, still the one we've known for so long. So all the deserved previous praise may as well be repeated. Truly, the badge of being a “Roguelike” game may, at this point, hurtmore than it helps, because the expectations derived from this are mostly inaccurate.
As the game stands today, the randomised elements of the game basically only account for increased replayability. You will never know which randomly generated items you will find early on or how your god will reward you for your services. So you can never completely plan ahead. Which, no matter how often you play, is hard to do anyway, because the game's long development cycle has resulted in an incredible balance of factors. Many issues just don't have clear cut answers, but rather will have you constantly doing tradeoff decisions and balancing acts – regardless of how much you read up on extrinsic knowledge or how much you explore yourself.
Remember how today's so-called role-playing games are mostly about grinding, i.e. stupid, repetitive tasks to increase stats, powers or gold? Well, may be a good idea inbefore entering the more dangerous places, wouldn't it? Sure, but on the other hand, the clock is ticking, as the powers of chaos are gradually getting stronger. Do you take the detour through the dreaded, but completely optional Minotaur Maze, knowing that an awesome artifact weapon waits inside, not just in spite of the dangers involved, but also fully aware that just being inside will corrupt your character (which, on the other hand, may also be situationally useful)? And then, there are of course the completely random and possibly game-changing decisions, like whether to drink from a suspiciously murky pool, which may have vastly positive or negative effects.
All that, of course, is “only” the way through the game.is designed in a way that it provides the player with a flexible world in this regard, but it doesn't stop there and even offers different endings. Where new players will very likely choose the “default” one, which is sealing the source of the invading chaos and returning home a hero, there are other options which may be less obvious at first, but which are nevertheless there.
This becomes especially apparent playing the new Chaos Knight class. As a devoted follower of Chaos, what would be the player's interest to fight it? Nevertheless, just going with the (evil) flow is also not really a good idea, because these energies will continue to corrupt him until it's game over. So what about playing a double game and usurping the chaos god himself from his throne? Sounds tempting? Well, it is what I'm trying to achieve at the time of writing. Needless to say that this suddenly requires me to interact with completely different characters than before (some of the ones I worked with in previous runs won't even talk to my new alter ego), fulfilling different quests etc.
Talking of previous runs,is of course still a game which can be daunting. I finished it now for the first time for the sake of this review. Before managing such a feat, you will not only try it once or twice, but fail dozens of times – even in the commercial version which does allow (breaking with another Rogue tradition) arbitrary saving and restoring (and the free version, which still exists, but is unfortunately lagging behind significantly in bug fixes, also doesn't prevent it). Just like me, you will nurture a large number of new characters only to see an untimely death happen to them anyway.
Apart from the generally challenging difficulty level, this is the dark side of the world's depth and complexity. In spite of the existence of a detailed wiki, an active forum and numerous other dedicated websites, even just finding a newcomer-sustainable combination of character race, class, talents and skills and then playing that combination right is hardly trivial (even though the game does do a good job of not forcing you to make impossible decisions for or against learning talents whose use only becomes apparent in hindsight). You think you can't really go wrong with a burly troll wielding a large weapon? Just wait until you meet enemies which will take you apart in melee combat anyway, because of their poisonous, stunning or corrupting attack, or because you happened to step into a special dungeon where the enemies are always at a level multiplied from the player's. So you take a mage? Good luck learning all those immunities and resistences of all the different monsters you will encounter, because obviously, there isn't the one spell to end all battles. The list goes on.
So in spite of all the attempts to polish(the other major point brought up by NetDanzr, the controls relying heavily on memorised, complex key combinations, is being worked on as well), it will never become a thoroughly accessible game. There is always still a lot to explore; for instance, in spite of having finished the game twice, I've yet to really seriously look into spellcasting, consider alchemy, dabble in herbalism, practice smithing and many more things. It will never be suitable for casual playing, but remain a game of careful planning, immersion and intensive time investment, constantly keeping you on your feet. Good thing there are still games like this!