Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Another look at NetHack

So, nearly a year ago I offered my thoughts on NetHack, one of the classic roguelikes.  I wasn't a big fan, much preferring Angband, and indeed pretty much all the roguelikes I've tried.  However, after playing a lot of Crawl last year I decided to give NetHack another try.  I found both games to be similar even within roguelikes, and thought I'd see if my experience with the former helped me with the latter.  I had, after all, struggled to make any progress through the Mazes of Menace.

Well, I have changed my opinions slightly.
A lot of what I said before about NetHack still holds true.  Even among roguelikes, it has one of the steepest entry learning curves out there.  The lack of in-game information is frustrating, if not stepping into fake difficulty.  Things your character should know are hidden from you.  Identifying items is of little use if you don't know what the item name means.  Based on the guidebook, the game seems to expect you have access to AD&D manuals to be able to compare weapons.  And the fact that walls for corridors are not shown is really, really pointlessly annoying.  (Yes, I know Rogue did it.  But that was decades ago.)

However, once you get past these problems the game does start to open up.  There is a lot of depth in the different interactions and combinations available.  Information may generally be hidden, but some of it is available if you know where to look.  And with my Crawl experience, some trial and error, and a couple of beginner hints I've started to figure out how the game is played.  I'm still a long, long way from ascending a character; but I've finally started to enjoy NetHack.  It's just a pity the obstacles to getting to this point are so severe.

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