ADOM - Ancient Domains Of Mystery (Third Review)

Title           ADOM
Game Type       RPG
Publisher       Thomas Biskup
Players         1
Compatibility   OCS, ECS, AGA
HD Installable  Yes (HD only)
Submission      Nathan Wain Profiled Reviewer



One of the great Rogue-like / Roleplaying games - enter a world under seige
from the forces of chaos.  You play the part of one of the many would-be
champions who has ventured to a remote mountain complex to determine the
future of your world.  Exploring settlements and braving dungeons with
nothing but armour, steel and magic to protect you.  As fortold by an
ancient prophecy this place is destined to be the final battle ground in
the fight between Order and Chaos.

The basic game is often compared to NetHack, Angband and other such free
Role Playing games, but I haven't experience enough with them to say this.
For me it has great similarity to the Ultima series - specifically
Ultima's 1-5.  Essentially the map-view is no different.  Ultima had more
sophisticated (prettier) visuals, but ADOM, in fact, manages to create a
functionally more compex environment.

The world is shown in the form of a map-view, your surroundings revealed
as your character explores them.  Entering towns, dungeons, or battles on
the surface expands the view into a new screen-sized map.  (All maps fit
within the screen - there is no scrolling.)  The graphics and colours are
simple 16 colour ASCII - indicative of ADOM's DOS origins.  Sound is a
similar affair, just a system beep when rare important events happen. And
yet a complex living breathing world is created from this.


  Programming, Concept and Design:   Thomas Biskup
                       Amiga Port:   Jochen Terstiege



    An Amiga - (Actually ADOM is available for DOS/Win/WinNT/OS2/Linux
             too, but that's a bit out of the scope of this review.)

            Graphic chipset and CPU aren't important, but a reasonable
            amount of RAM is.  I wasn't able to find any documentation
            on the minimum RAM requirements, but the executable itself
            is 2 Meg in size and 2.5 Meg of RAM is used when I run it
            in a window on a 1024x768 16 bit Workbench.  (71k of
            ChipRAM and 2.2 Meg of FastRAM are used when I run it on a
            custom screen.)  So possibly any Amiga with 2.5Meg of RAM
            will be able to handle it.  3Meg should certainly be okay.

            Of course, a hard-drive is also required for a game of this
            size.  (With a good cruncher util. it might possibly fit on
            a high-density disk if you're suitably sick-minded to attempt
            such a thing.) :)  Um, yeah.  Just tried it.  It works. :)

            68000 users might find the game a little slow.  It runs
            nicely on a 68020 @ 14MHz, and there is no perceptable slow-
            down on a 68030 or better.  (Though it can slow a _little_
            if I try to play a high bitrate MPeg at the same time on my
            40MHz 68040.) :)


  Nothing required outside of what is provided with AmigaOS.


Free.  (Almost)
This game is postcardware (making it incredible value for money.)
There will be a shareware version which will have features additional
to that the author has a personal interest in implementing.  ...No ETA
on the completion of this yet.


None.  (Of course.)


ADOM homepage:
  Aminet - eg:
       etc... in one of the archives:
game/role/Adom.lha        1.0M  Ancient Domains Of Mystery V0.9.9 G15
game/role/Adom_68020.lha  1.0M  Ancient Domains Of Mystery V0.9.9 G15 (68020)
game/role/Adom_68040.lha  1.0M  Ancient Domains Of Mystery V0.9.9 G15 (68040)
game/role/Adom_PPC.lha    1.3M  Ancient Domains Of Mystery V0.9.9 G15 (PPC)


A4000, 2Meg Chip, 112Meg Fast, Kickstart 3.1, 1.2 Gig Quantum HDD,
Apollo 4040 daughter board (68040 at 40MHz, with SCSI and 96Meg of
local RAM), PicassoIV Graphics Card, VLab video-digitiser, Toshiba
16x CD-Rom, 2 internal floppy-drives, Supra 14.4k Modem, Viewsonic
E70 17" SVGA monitor.

A4000, 2Meg Chip, 16Meg Fast, Kickstart 3.1, 1.2 Gig Quantum HDD,
Toshiba 16x CD-Rom, additional floppy-drive, Supra 14.4k Modem, 1942
Multisync monitor.  (Standard 25MHz 68030 CPU without FPU)

A1200, 2Meg Chip, 32Meg Fast, Kickstart 3.0, 340 Meg Seagate 2.5" HDD,
GVP Cobra accellerator-board (68030 and 68882 at 50MHz, without SCSI),
additional floppy-drive, Supra 14.4k Modem, 1942 MultiSync monitor.

A1200, 2Meg Chip, 4Meg Fast, Kickstart 3.0, 120 Meg Quantum 2.5" HDD,
GVP Ram expansion board (2 SIMM slots and 68882 FPU slot only),
additional floppy-drive, Supra 14.4k Modem, Thompson PAL monitor.


Either use the standard installer provided, or copy the files contained
in the ADOM subdirectory to the desired place on the hard-drive.  Simple
as that.  (Actually, the executable is all that is strictly needed, but
with a game as complex as this the documentation is certainly necessary.)


Have never found an compatibility issue with this game on any of the
above amiga configurations.  No issues with the PicassoIV in either
windowed or custom-screen mode.  Even my unusually-picky Apollo 040 CPU
is fine with ADOM.  (Which is more than can be said for Angband BTW.) :)


All contained in text files in the game archive - one Amiga-specific
readme file (details Amiga issues very well), one FAQ (FAQ being short
for "Frequently Asked Questions"), one 'Fluff' FAQ (an attempt to answer
core FAQ questions), and one Manual which, in itself is a beautifully
detailed read.

The Manual and Keylist are also available in online form so they can be
referenced from within the game.  (Essential for users in a
non-multitasking environment - a 'nice touch' on the Miggy.)


Yes, it's true.  The graphics are really just ASCII characters.  If
you're a sufficiently shallow person to be put off by this one point you
could quite possibly miss-out on one of the most sophisticated (and
functionally ergonomic) games of its type.  Get over the GFX and take a
quick tour to discover the hugely-complex world contained within.

To give a hint at its complexity: For me this game has some striking
similarities to Ultima V - the last of the Ultima series that I played
to completion.  The major contrasts ADOM has is that you play a single
character rather than a party of six, the dungeons are dynamically
created, and there are several routes to game completion, (and, indeed,
several endings possible.)  With a few minor tweaks in storyline, tiled
graphics and a Kenneth Arnold soundtrack this game could have easily
replaced Ultima V and fans of the series would have been as happy.
(Except in having a much tougher time completing it.) :)

Although ADOM uses a map view, you don't really get to see anything
that is outside your visual range.  Essentially the only 'live' part
of the map is what you can see - or what magic might allow you to see.
The rest is a static map of what you 'remember', and is only updated
when it comes within your line of sight again.  Inanimate objects are
assumed to remain in place until you get to see they are gone, and
creatures disappear until you gain sight of them again.  Quite logical.

The only initial point of frustration for me with ADOM was trying to get
the hang of the many keys.  Unavoidable with a game of this complexity
though.  I'd recommend printing out the keylist or keeping the manual
open in another window.  The keys soon become familiar anyway.


First of all you need to create a character.  ...This can actually be
incredibly easy, since ADOM can create one for you (you just chose their
sex, and name them), or you can opt to chose their race and profession
too.  Which might sound like a rather simple range of options, but some
races are distinctly disadvantaged in certain professions, so even these
choices can have quite a bearing on how easily you will survive.  And
there are several semi-random factors, such as birthdate, skills, and
inventory which are important too.)  You might need to reference the
documentation to fully understand the implications of your decisions
here, and to make choices that better suit your playing style.

Having said that, most of the races and classes are quite standard in
AD&D, so a little familiarity with this type of game will enable you to
choose a character-type easily.  ...The really great thing about
the large range of character class combinations is that experienced
players can try ones that offer a greater challenge.  Or ones that test
your ability to adapt.

If the whole range of potential characters is more than you can cope
with, the documentation does offer some suggestions of 'good' ones -
also there are online references.

Once your character is chosen you start the game, in the Drakalor Chain,
near to a friendly village, Terinyo.  Entering this village and assessing
your inventory and skills is the first priority.  Then chatting to a few
of the characters will soon find you a quest.  At this early stage a
quest might just mean a quick death...  Stocking up on food and finding
a dungeon to explore is another option.

A good arsenal of weaponry can quickly be amassed if you're lucky.  My
current character (an Elven Priest) has done quite well and now has three
good attacking spells, a longbow with an assortment of arrows, and a
mithril longsword.  Unless your character is of a fighting class you will
certainly want to have some options for killing at a distance.

Being able to detect traps and cursed items can also help you to survive
a lot longer.  ...Trapped doors were my main annoyance early on, but I now
have a spell to disarm them so hopefully survival will be a bit easier.
There are certainly other hazards to be concerned with too.  Such as
finding yourself stuck in the lower level of a dungeon, surrounded by
spiders, trying to get to the exit.  (ADOM puts you in at the deep end
sometimes.)  Their webs don't make life easy.  And running out of spell-
casting energy was almost the death of me there.

Ah well.  She survived to kill another day...  Basically you should never
consider yourself above switching to "coward" tactics and running.
(Assuming you have somewhere to run to.) :)


Let's cut to it.  There's a _hell_ of a lot you can do in this game.
Even from the beginning there is a range of quests you can embark on,
depending on the route you wish to take to game-completion.  Myself,
I'm incredibly familiar with the beginnings of the game due to my
knack of getting killed in my first dungeons.  So the variety of
opportunities from the outset has always been important to me. :)

The simple fact is that any one gamer is unlikely to discover all that
this game has to offer due to its sheer depth, dynamic maps, and multiple
ways one can go towards completing the game.  (Um, that's on top of the
multiple game endings one can strive towards.)


Brilliant, brilliant RPG.  Better than all of the other free titles of
this type out there.  Better than many commercial offerings out there
too.  The only other games I've found similarly engaging in my gaming
history are Ultima's 3-5 (all played to completion) and Microprose's
excellent "UFO - Enemy Unknown".  ADOM appeals to me more because it
involves less of the fiddling around with tedious inventories and
statistics, letting you get on with the questing and killing. >:)


The ASCII graphics.  Clear, unexpectedly unambiguous, with anything
you're unsure of quickly identifiable with the "look" or "throw"
commands.  ("throw" because it auto-targets the closest creature.)  And,
like the text adventures of old (see, a more
atmospheric environment is possible because of the abstract nature
of the display, leaving its interpretation to your imagination rather
than bound by the limitations of the graphics of a more literal display.
(Then again, if your imagination isn't that good, maybe that's a
downside.) :)

The keyboard interface.  ...It might not seem particualrly sophisiticated
(or disappointingly non-point-n-click for newbies) but a bit of trial of
similar games of this type will quickly tell you that a lot of thought
has gone into the key layout and menus of this title.  It's certainly one
of the most comfortable user interfaces I've used on a roleplaying game.
Many of the inventory-management options (the most fiddly tasks) have two
or three ways to do things too.  (Nice)

The incredible depth.  And I don't just mean the infinite dungeon here.
:)  The random dungeon layouts make for a never-twice-the-same experience.
(The dungeon-generator itself is great - I've never found a layout to be
disjointed or annoying in its design.)  I could wax poetic about the
dungeons, but I won't.  Just try 'em for yourself.

The depth of this game is also apparent from the number of ways you can
complete the game (and the variations of game-ending that are possible.)
I've never actually completed the game myself, but I do a lot of lurking
on the ADOM newsgroup ( and read all of the
spoilers - so I've got a good idea of the possiblities - I realise that
in my few years of experience with ADOM I've barely scratched the
surface of what the game has to offer.


The ASCII graphics.  I'm not saying I dislike them.  After all, I've
already said I like them. :)  But I'd love something like the tiled
graphics of the early Ultima games - still simple and abstract.  I
wouldn't suggest that the author implement a full graphical front-end
himself.  That would involve a huge amount of work that would obviously
impact on development of the game itself.  Some kind of standard to
interface between ADOM and potential third-party front-ends could be
and excellent feature.  ...Possibly something for the shareware version.

Death.  It happens a lot.  Especially to me. :)  Well, I suspect that
some people new to ADOM might get just a little frustrated with the
number of times they end up dying.  But there is a flipside to this.
Most deaths do tend to be some sort of learning experience, like a hint
that a particular type of creature is something you really shouldn't
eat, or that you really shouldn't be in a particular dungeon this early
in your career, or that you really shouldn't hang around for long in a
particular place.


I have been an Ultima fan for a long time.  All you Avatars out there
will feel quite at home with ADOM.  It can even be played with a
distinct Ultima slant if you wish to attempt to be a champion of Good.
(The option to be chaotic is always there if the lifestyle appeals.) >:)
Except hardened Ultima players might be a bit put out by the
occasionally unforgiving nature of ADOM.  Getting killed by a stone
trap on the second level of your first dungeon or something. :)

NetHack and Angband and other free Rogue-likes I haven't really seen
anything much of, so I won't draw any comparisons with them.

As I mentioned above, as a big fan of the "UFO - Enemy Unknown" style
or RPG I found this game exceptionally good in comparison.  I suspect
other fans of this game might get a lot out of ADOM.


The current Amiga version (0.9.9 gamma 15) is known to have some serious
bugs.  The bugs are such that games can potentially become unwinnable.
(Or far more difficult to win than previous versions.)  ...The populous
of the adom newsgroup recommends moving up to 0.9.9 gamma 16 prerelease
2.  With the Amiga port this isn't an option - in our case gamma 12 is
recommended until gamma 16 appears.  ...I have this version if you are
unable to find it - note: the executable I have is for 68020 or better
processors only.

Specifically... g15 was the first gamma to implement monster-inventories
and the bugs in this feature could possibly allow you to irrevocably
lose necessary items to creatures.  Also you tend to fall out of favour
with the Gods rather quickly - not necessarily making the game
impossible, but certainly making it more difficult.


The newsgroup is the best place to get answers
to any queries you might have about ADOM and issues related to it.  It's
populated by people who've been playing the game for years and know more
about it than would be considered healthy for a lesser game. :)

The author provides exceptional support when you consider he's not making
money from this product.  But having said that his time is obviously
finite and the number of e-mails he receives about ADOM is rather huge,
so the best avenues of support are usually sources other than the author.
Just have some consideration for the value (and scarecity) of Thomas's
time basically.

But most importantly, read the documentation!  It goes into beautiful
detail about your options for help with ADOM.  And the docs easily
answer most of the questions new users have.  (That's what FAQ's are all
about, right?) :)


None.  ...But you get a huge amount as it is for the price of one
postcard.  (you have sent that postcard, right?)


It's brilliant.  Get it.  Enjoy it.  And continue to do so for, quite
possibly, the remainder of your life.  If this is your type of game you
will enjoy it.  (Provided you're not a stupid reviewer who can't
handle the number of keys present on a laptop or anything.)
(RGRA in-joke)

The many years of development that have gone into this game, its
continued high ratings online (still #29 on on
01-Sep-2000), and the religious devotion to this humble title by its
fans should go some way to showing what a sophisticated game lies
under the deceptively simple interface.

I shall now leave you with an excellent quote from a (presumably)
satisfied denzien of the ADOM newsgroup:

"...more willpower means more PP and bigger radius of ball spells,
 which equals more BLOOD, PAIN, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH!!!!!"

Amen brother.

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