☆ Review: Ancient Domains of Mystery "Up and ADOM!" ☆ #GameDev #ADOM #IndieGame @adom_dev

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Ancient Domains of Mystery
Platform reviewed: PC (Steam)
Rating: Ice Cool
For the uninitiated (myself included) Ancient Domains of Mystery (or, ADOM) is a roguelike game that has been in development in some form or other since 1994.
In 2012 a crowdfunded project began that moved the game from its ASCII roots to a fully-fledged GUI and this version (3.05 as of December 2017) is the finalised version.

Without going into too much depth in regards to the previous iterations, ADOM started as a roguelike whereby the in-game graphics were represented by keyboard symbols, which can be as confusing as it sounds (feel free to google a few screenshots to see what I mean). At the time of the roguelike boom in the 80’s I was quite young and found the whole genre too dense, although I have friends who pumped dozens of hours into these games made famous with their use of permadeath, now a fixture in a lot of modern RPGs, but very innovative for the time.
ADOM is a modernised version of those old classics and with the modernisation comes newer features and a certain user-friendliness that has made the game more accessible for people such as myself whilst also retaining the quirks and gameplay that has made this genre so loved by so many for so long.
I’ve played other modern roguelike games over the last couple of years, the most recent one was ‘Tangledeep’ which I reviewed for GF a few months ago and whilst it was enjoyable, it felt like the developers haven’t quite nailed the balance in the game to make it a ‘must play’ title (but I can imagine that as the months pass and updates and patches get released, that game will markedly improve) whereas the fact that the balancing of ADOM has had a much longer development cycle into its current iteration and so the game feels more complete and fair than others I’ve played.
The menu screen gives you an idea of the depth of the game, you can choose from tutorial mode, normal mode or hard mode (roguelike mode) which is the only mode that gives you achievements and is clearly the way that the game is supposed to be played (there is also survival modes and a ‘personalised mode’ where you can alter almost every aspect of the game) and the style of the game is such that quite frankly *ahem* YOU WILL DIE. A LOT.
The issue that can crop up with permadeath games where the design means incremental progress through learning from your past mistakes is that if the game isn’t absolutely fantastic, there’s a strong possibility that the player will just give up and lose interest, Luckily, ADOM nails it.

I played the game for several hours straight and died multiple times but wasted no time in instantly re-starting, tweaking my stats to suit my play style more closely and diving straight back in. The sheer wealth of options, keyboard shortcuts and openness of the game can initially seem overwhelming and if this is your first rodeo with the genre, I STRONGLY advise that you use the tutorial, otherwise you could miss out on vital gameplay mechanics.
The story of ADOM is that an evil force of chaos has risen in the west and is sweeping across the land. Your character starts in the far east of the map and needs to work their way to the evil and thwart it for good (or at least for another 6000 years). The plot is sparse and generic but it isn’t the focal point of the game.  ADOM is is completely about your journey, there are multiple character classes open to the player as well as different races, star signs and talents, all of which have a noticeable impact on the game. I tried out about six different versions and they do each play extremely differently so it could be worth experimenting, which you will get the chance to do as I guarantee at some point in ADOM you will carelessly boot open a door (that’s right, you can just kick doors through, GOOD) and get stomped to death by a room full of frost giants who laugh at the ‘rusty silver wand of cold’ that you are brandishing like a sparkler at them from  around knee-height.
The graphics in the game are very clear and convey all that you need to know, the character models are all nicely detailed and you can click on each one to get a history of the enemy type as well as viewing their stats which is quite a nice touch. Your menu system is quite complex and lists all equip-able items and how many arrows and wands you have left, etc.
One of the things that tickled and infuriated me in the game was how you have no idea what the scrolls and potions do until you use them (if you can even read them to start with! My troll character was thick) so I found myself hoarding all these potions until I was at death’s door in some battle six floors down in a dungeon, upon which I’d quaff everything in my inventory hoping for some semblance of assistance…..this often resulted in my demise.
The game is chock full of traps, enemies, items and weapons etc. all which can be picked up, altered, dipped in potions, eaten or sold and the simplicity of the graphical style and the oddly uncluttered HUD hides an enormity of detail behind the scenes, the game really is as complex as you want it to be.

As you make your way through the world of Ancardia, the music will be keeping you company. The developers claim that there are over sixty separate musical tracks in the game and I must say that the way the music drops in and out, ebbing and flowing with what’s happening on-screen and the genre of music matching your location, it does feel like there is a lot of variety on offer and I found myself whistling along and enjoying it from the jaunty medieval town music to the ominous dark tones that play when delving deeper and deeper into one of the games many dungeons.
After playing ADOM, I can see where games like Neo Scavenger have come from and if you are a fan of those types of challenging games, you should find yourself quite at home with ADOM. Single mistakes can be absolutely deadly in Ancardia, here are a few examples of mine:
Firstly I was a brave warrior, hacking my way through enemies and firing arrows like they were going out of fashion, the local sheriff asked me to kill a black mage that had taken up residence in a nearby dungeon and so off I trotted.
Working my way down through the levels I was rinsing the enemy with a single swipe of my broadsword…until I reached the mage. The first thing he did was blind my character, I desperately prayed to my God for assistance and she cleared my vision, raising my sword to go in for the attack…I was blinded again. As my health was whittled down my magic attacks from this unseen assailant I once again looked to the heavens for assistance…and my God told me to sod off. Boom, I was killed.
The second playthrough, I had no problem killing the mage for I was far better prepared. In fact, I made easy work of the enemy as I fought my way across the map, reaching level ten! I felt invincible…until I booted open the door to a room containing about forty frost giants. They. Kicked. My. Arse.
It’s moments like this that make you want to get straight back in the game and re-assess your strategy, getting some key wands and potions before you hurtle into battle, the sense of discovery deepening as you make your way ever closer to the end game.

I can imagine that some people just won’t find ADOM appealing. Maybe they need modern 3D graphics to help get them get emotionally involved the game, perhaps the clunky and dense control scheme will put some people off but those out there that DO click with ADOM will find themselves lost in the world of Ancardia for dozens, possibly hundreds of hours and I’m happy to say I’m in the latter camp.
Tonight I will begin my journey once more….and hopefully I won’t get a kicking from a load of massive, angry giants this time, fingers crossed!
Right, I’m off to eat a load of goblin corpses before they rot …and hope they don’t give me dodgy guts.
In late 2018, they are releasing Ultimate ADOM which, among other things will provide controller support. I fully intend to play that game just to see how that aspect works, there are so many keyboard functions that I’m intrigued how it will be implemented, ‘Control+N, then d’ to change screen type, map THAT to a gamepad.)
…If gamepad support is enabled, it would be great to see an in-depth game like this on Nintendo Switch...just sayin’


Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: ADOM

Review By Britt

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