At a Glance
- Deep gameplay; actively supported; great tutorial
Roguelike games continue to advance with this addictive and deep single-player RPG.
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is one of a class of games known as
roguelikes, after Rogue, the first such game. The ancient legacy is
apparent. Although this open-source game has a graphics mode, it
can also be played in straight ASCII, where your character is an
“@” and the monsters are various letters or symbols. The “tiled
mode” provides simple 2-D graphics.
The goal of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is simple: Descend into the
immense and randomly created dungeon, battling monsters, avoiding
traps, and becoming more powerful, until you finally find the magic
amulet and escape. (If random dungeons and magic items and unusual
things to find sounds familiar, it may be because Diablo took a lot
of roguelike concepts, then ramped up the graphics quality and
ramped down the complexity.) Familiar it may be, but it’s is hardly
easy. There are countless ways to die (a common acronym in
roguelike discussions is “YASD”: Yet Another Stupid Death), and
many things to discover. Each level can hold surprises and each
game is different. Magic items are also randomized, and you need to
test items to find what they do. The first item I found in my first
game was a cursed ring of teleportation that could not be removed
and would randomly transport me across the dungeon.
Oh, there are no tap-backs in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. Your
progress is saved only when you exit the game. Once a character is
dead, he/she/it is dead, and you have to start over with a new
Character creation is simple. Pick a species (race) and
background (class) and get going. Most of your characters will die
long before getting more than a three or four levels into Dungeon
Crawl Stone Soup. Each class and race plays differently, and traits
such as religion will impact gameplay, as different gods reward or
condemn different actions.
There are hundreds of small details in the game, from food
rotting over time to acid corroding your items; all of the
processing power not dedicated to fancy graphics instead goes into
making the underlying game engine extremely deep. Not “Dwarf Fortress”
deep, mind you, but also a lot more approachable.
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup adds many new twists to dungeon
crawling, removing some of the tedium of other roguelikes without
removing the challenge. Inventory management has a clean and
easy-to-use interface. Skills auto-improve as you use them. “Trap
Doors” provide one-way access up or down levels, whereas stairs can
be used in both directions. There’s an option to have the program
automatically explore the level for you, moving your character in a
pattern of exploration, and stopping if you draw near to a trap,
monster, or other item of interest. Likewise, there’s an automated
process to retrace your steps back to an earlier level–no more
wondering where you saw the stairs. You must still battle any
monsters you encounter, of course.
In addition to the purely random levels, DCSS has “hand crafted”
levels or areas that hold special challenges, opportunities, or
rewards. Finding these unusual zones is one of the great joys of
this type of game.
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is free and well-supported with an
active community and constant development. In fact, the “Stone
Soup” name derives from the many people who have added something to
the mix. There’s an extensive wiki that reveals many secrets of the game,
but it’s a lot more fun to stumble on them on your own. If you’re a
roguelike fan, you will like Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. If you’ve
never played a roguelike, the well-done tutorials and hints make
this the one to try.