ADOM - Ancient Domains Of Mystery (Second Review)

Title           ADOM - Ancient Domains Of Mystery (Second Review)
Publisher       Thomas Biskup (postcard-ware)
Game Type       RPG
Players         1
HD Installable  Yes
Compatability   All Amigas
Game data/utils AmigaGuide spoilers - aminet:game/hint/adom_spoilers.lha
Submission      Dennis Smith Profiled Reviewer

Let me get this straight. There are no graphics? There's no sound? And the
executable comes to just under two megabytes? What the heck's going on?

This behemoth, my friends, is ADOM. It doesn't look pretty, no matter what
font you use to display it in its all-text glory. It's as silent as a pretty
undisturbed and very ordinary grave. It doesn't set out to impress you from
the start. But give it time, and it will catch you as surely as a spider's
web catches a fly.

ADOM is 'rogue-like', possibly the ultimate rogue-like game. In a maze of
ascii-rendered forests and mountain ranges, peaceful and less-peaceful
villages and clearings, twisty little caves and other subterranean haunts,
you guide your pre-rolled character, who may be one of many races and
professions, fighting, bartering, chatting, gambling and mostly exploring.
As you chat to friendly natives, you learn of quests, and before very long
you're on the ultimate quest - to save the world of Ancardia from the
rapidly encroaching forces of chaos. (Why are the forces of chaos always
encroaching? Have they nothing better to do?) Alternatively, if you're of
a particularly chaotic bent, you may prefer to aim for a grander prize than
that boring old save-the-earth thing - needless to say, there are several
ways to win the game, depending on your alignment and how high you set your
goals, and some are considerably harder than others.

Actually, it's pretty daunting to begin with. Every action you take in this
game is controlled by a quick keyboard shorthand, and there are over a
hundred of them; three different ways to pick things up, a key to clean
your face, check your inventory, drink a potion, cast a spell, unlock a
door. But you don't need to use them all, and you'll pick up the commonly
used ones surprisingly quickly. The on-line help can also provide a useful
reminder at any time, and as this is a turn-based game, you don't have to
worry about things happening while you're ploughing through the manual.
Besides, most of the time you're just using the keypad to move around the
ascii-rendered environment, picking the odd thing up (and there are some
very odd things), firing the occasional arrow at a goblin and checking
your inventory. The most complicated stuff is all done with alphabetically
coded menus anyway.

In finest RPG tradition, your character is laden with stats. Your strength,
toughness, dexterity, willpower, charisma and so on all affect the way you
affect your environment and other creatures - and how it and they affect
you. As you progress, mostly by killing hostile creatures, you gain
experience points, which lead to you being able to improve your skills and
indirectly, your stats. You may learn spells, or find spell scrolls, or
potions, or wands which change your stats - sometimes not for the better -
as well as all those useful fighting magicks. In order to progress in the
game you'll need to improve your skills and stats - and your inventory.
All kinds of objects can be found to aid you in your quest. Weapons,
armour, magically stat-enhancing clothing and trinkets, tools, magic items
and valuables are all lying around in the dungeons, the most powerful ones,
called artifacts, almost invariably protected by powerful foes. Oh, and
there's food. Don't go out without it, or you'll starve. If you're not
fussy, the odd corpse can be used to stave off the hunger pangs, and there
are reputedly some herbs with remarkable properties growing in the darker
reaches of the Drakalor chain. Then of course there's religion, and how you
stand with your god can make a big difference to your performance, as the
gods reward their faithful very well. Angry gods, on the other hand, are not
to be trifled with.

But don't stop to admire the scenery. While you're standing around in the
shops arguing over the price of that girdle of strength, chaos is
continuously pouring into the world. As you progress, especially as you go
deeper and deeper into the dungeons, you're absorbing the corrupting
chaotic energy, and as time goes on, the influence of chaos gets stronger.
Too much chaos will induce random mutations in your character. Some of the
mutations are actually somewhat beneficial, but these are nothing compared
to the worst mutations. Absorb too much corrupting energy and you'll
finally degenerate into a writhing mass of primal chaos, no longer
in control of your actions: game over. Purifying magicks are few and far
between so use them carefully and get a move on, and treat chaos creatures
with respect because their touch can also corrupt.

And there's so much more to this game. Dozens of sub-quests to complete
that are necessary to completing the game or just incidental means of
self-improvement. Every type of creature - and there are hundreds - has its
own description, and with all the many items, locations, spells and the
complete on-line manual, it's no wonder the executable is so large. There's
about a megabyte of plain text in there. I haven't begun to mention the
sheer variety of skills, abilities, class and race powers, the special
characters in the game, fried bats, the unusual locations, the guilds, the
pyramid, the traps and treasures, pools, the mysteriously reproducing sis,
the secrets, the casino, boomerangs, the arena, the library, wishes,
smithing your own weapons and armour, fluff-balls, ear-wax... Basically, by
playing each time with a different type of character you can alter the
gameplay sufficiently to multiply the lifetime of this one massive
adventure ten-fold. And all for the price of a postcard. If you haven't
already got it, how can you afford not to give it a go?

Download Amiga versions of it now from aminet:game/role/Adom*.lha - there
are versions optimised for different processors, including PPC. We are
really lucky to have Jochen Terstiege, the Amiga porter, on our side - were
it not for him, ADOM would be limited to PC-clones. So when you send a
postcard to Thomas, drop Jochen a line to say how much you appreciate his
efforts. He's a real star.

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