Gaming done right: Angband

Jen had a great idea Friday night and we reinstalled Angband on our laptops for a weekend tournament since we hadn’t done so yet after reformatting to Windows 7.

Angband is simply awesome. My buddy Calvin got me hooked on it during our summer as interns at Tandem/Compaq/HP in ’98 and we spent many long hours into the morning hacking and slashing away. The typical summary of the game is this:

Angband is a dungeon-crawling roguelike computer game derived from Umoria. It is based on the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, in which Angband is the fortress of Morgoth.

Okay, right there a lot is given away that there’s going to be a lot of fun. Dungeon Crawling! Tolkien! Hack! Slash! All that goodness!

So here’s the catch. Requirements to play the game…

Screaming 256MB graphics card with 15FPS: Nah
Dolby Digital 7.1 surround card: Nope (though I encourage you to turn on the cheesy sound effects for a little while, quite fun)
FragMaster mouse for precision clicking and fast responses: Skip it.
High speed DSL or cable connection: Pointless

Fire up the game, get your character going a bit, and here’s what you’ll see:

Angband Single Window Screen

That’s with the “Old Tiles” mode on, the original form is just pure ASCII text.

If you tweak the settings up, get yourself some nice macros (as all good text based programs do) and get “hard core” you can get your setup to look like this:

Angband Full Screen

That’s it! What makes this game so great (as well as all the other vintage game in my opinion) is playability. We spend HOURS on this game, working our way through the dungeons, getting our characters stronger, making small modifications here and there. There are unique items in the game as well as unique enemies, and you never know where and when you’ll run into them (within reason). I haven’t even gotten into the “standard” items in the game, for which there are tons, and you can do your own modifications at times to beef up some relatively standard items.

The key to this is that for a “fixed” game of 100 levels, each level is generated from dynamically every time you go to it. It’s sort of like those stairs you see in the first Harry Potter movie. You’ll never get the same circumstances every time since every time you go back in it is different. One time the level may be boring, the next time you may run into Lagduf the Snaga (as seen above) and nearly die in battle. The time after that you may stumble across a vault that has a few monsters, but IMMENSE hoards of gold and items to check out.

The other key to the game is that despite its addictiveness, you can quit at any time and come right back to the game. You won’t lose points or have to start a new section over. One of the nice features is that the game is turn based, so even though you’re in the thick of battle against a hoard of Hill Orcs, you do have a moment to figure out if you want to take another swing, zap your rod of frost bolds down the corridor, or just say a prayer of read a scroll of phase door and get the heck out of there.

There is a slight learning curve to all the command keys, but once you get that down, and learn the macros, you’ll be flying in no time!

Give Angband a whirl. I think you’ll like it! For the record, I prefer a Dunadin Paladin myself, but that’s only because I fell in love with the prayer Orb of Draining a while back and love to imagine a bunch of mirkwood spiders get sucked into a black hole of sorts. 8^D

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