Reviews

PC Game Review – Caves of Qud (Freehold Games)

 

Caves of Qud is a DOS-style rogue-like game from Freehold Games. The sci-fi adventure drops players in a world filled with bizarre yet detailed societies and sweet, sweet lore. You have many choices in the paths you can take and a slew of customization options. Caves of Qud is a game of choice and you have far more options then you know what to do with. However, the game can be hard to start and takes a bit of patience before you get to the fun. 

Story

Caves of Qud logo via Steam

Caves of Qud is a rouge-like sci-fi adventure with an evolving story as you play. Thus, there is no real linear plot to follow. The game places your character in an inn and it is up to you what you do next. You can take the nearest job request and hunt down an ancient artifact or you can randomly venture out into marshes. 

Despite this, the world of Qud is incredibly detailed and the narrative runs deep when it comes to world-building. Through talking to NPCs, gathering artifacts, and smacking some monsters, you slowly piece together the history of its many lands, societies, and cultures. The process of finding bits of information in the game becomes addictive quickly. I am a lover of good lore and I feel that tinfoil-hat-wearing, murder-evidence-board types would get a nice kick out of Qud’s mysterious workings.

Gameplay

This is the part that gets complicated; Caves of Qud has a lot to offer, which tends to be a plus for most games. However, in this case, I found several pros and cons to Qud’s contents depending on player experience and gameplay style. Let me explain.

Customization

This game has an impressive amount of options when it comes to your character. Your character can either be a mutant or a pureblood, and can hail from three different lands: the blazing Yawningmoon, the frozen Ibul, or the poisoned holy land Ekuemekiyye. You can choose to have mutant or biotic parts that can either give you an ability or a flaw/limitation. After that, you can choose several job classes (merchant, priest, etc.). This is handled like a tabletop character sheet, in which every choice changes a stat such as strength or charisma.

The How-To of Qud

You will spend a lot of your time exploring the procedurally-generated areas of Qud. This involves talking to residents, joining alliances, taking jobs, finding treasure and killing monsters. This also follows a formula like a tabletop RPG. You will press a button to perform an action such as attacking or talking. There is a text window that records your actions and the results of those actions will involve your stats and an automatic dice-roll. The items you pick and the paths you take further customize your character and experience.

Most importantly, there is permeant death for your character. The game allows you to make a template of your character, so you may play a similar build. However, once you die, that progress is gone.

Difficulty

This is the part that gets complicated; Caves of Qud has a lot to offer, which tends to be a plus for most games. However, in this case, I found several pros and cons to Qud’s contents depending on player experience and gameplay style.

Sample of Caves of Qud gameplay via Steam

On the pro side, if you are a passionate rogue-like or tabletop player, Cave of Qud is gold. There are a lot of components, between the player customization, lore, and open world. If you know what you are doing, it is a great game with a lot of player control and long play-time. 

However, on the negative, Caves of Qud can be overwhelming for a beginner. For better or for worse, this is a true-to-form DOS rouge-like game. This means you have a text window that looks like a screen generated from an action-film hacker. There is a lot of buttons you have to remember in order to do actions and pull up menus. You may change your buttons but, if you are new, finding the right arrangement can prove a difficult task. It also takes a while to really understand what your traits do and the effects of your stats. Though there are a help menu and a server fit for beginners, there is no tutorial or practice session. On top of this, there is permeant death. This means the learning process can involve progressing very little until you are on your third or fourth character. It can be a frustrating experience.

Conclusion

Caves of Qud has the making of an amazing adventure game with an absurd amount of choice. However, the experience of playing Caves of Qud is like playing Settlers of Catan as a beginner; everyone who has played it agrees Settlers of Catan is awesome. However, learning how to play it is a struggle. You guess you are having fun as you’re spoon-fed the rules by your expert friend, but you’re mostly in a fog and confused. You’re not really sure that you enjoyed yourself until the second go. This only gets worse and goes on longer when you don’t have that knowledgeable friend and are dependent on the manual.

That is the problem with World of Qud; it hands you the manual and hopes you have fun figuring it out. As much as the game has to offer, I’m just not sure if everyone would be up for that. On the other hand, not every game has to be for everyone and Cave of Qud serves its niche audience perfectly. Learning and precision is part of the appeal of rogue-likes and for a particular group of us, is part of the adventure.

  • Developer: Freehold Games 
  • Publisher: Freehold Games
  • Available On: PC
  • Release Date: July 15th, 2015 

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About the author

Camille McIntyre

By day, Camille is an animal caretaker at a museum. By night, she is a prolific explorer of the fantastical. Whether it is built with ink, pixels, or hyperbole, she visits new worlds with feverish persistence and a keen eye for detail. If needed, Camille can be found in a place far, far away on a dark and stormy night, asking all the wrong questions as she finishes her journey there and back again.

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