As an avid role-player and game designer I have an intense love of stories. Books, movies, games, memes, whatever.
It’s rare for me to find an unexpected story. But Caves of Qud surprised me with an endless stream of stories, both interesting and bizarre.
You’re the little white guy in the middle of the screen. The blue stuff is a lake. This is one of the few places without deadly monsters.
Caves of Qud is an old-school rogue-like that embraces it’s 80’s heritage. Glowing terminal screens, scan-lines, and bold colors suggest a Fallout kind of world. In fact the game is a blend of Fallout with traditional fantasy trappings.
You promised stories?
Right, right. Qud is a very difficult game, one where random occurrences can kill you at any time. To counter this difficulty characters can grow powerful. Hundreds of weapons, genetic mutations, psychic powers, powerful artifacts, and more!
YES! Okay. It’s a complex game with lots of stuff. With this many interactions and options every game feels unique. Every game results in a story, and most games can craft interesting stories!
Here’s an example of my very first game:
I slung my rifle over my shoulder and equipped my sword and shield. As I approached the starting town I began looking for a merchant. Fresh water is both your currency and necessary for survival, but I needed bullets more than water
The merchant gave me a terse greeting, and I tried to open the trade menu. I hit the “Attack” key by mistake, and made my first enemy. Noting that he was an old man wearing a robe and sandals, I figured I would keep attacking and see what he drops. The old man then proceeded to beat me to death with his sandals. So ended my very first character.
The Fungal Berserker
I’ve put about 20 hours into the game and have died in many horrible ways. But by far the strangest and weirdest death was while playing my Fungal Berseker. I created a 4-armed mutant axe-master with a scorpion tail and antlers. A typical Qud character.
Right at the start I wandered away from the village and discovered a fungal forest. Most mushrooms are deadly and dangerous. But one of them was secreting hundreds of gallons of fresh water! I couldn’t believe it! Money was literally spilling out onto the ground. I scooped up as much as I could carry and carted it back to town.
While leaving the forest a short message popped up on my screen: “Your skin itches.” I’m sure it’s nothing.
After a quick shopping trip I returned to my adventures armed with two carbide axes and a spiked steel whip. I reaped the whirlwind. Nothing could stop me, and I was blasting through the levels of the game.
I am the little green guy in the bottom corner charging an army of dog men. One of them just fired a rocket launcher.
As I stopped to level up my character I received a new message:
“Your boots were removed.” “Your feet are now infected with Fickle Gill”
Huh. Weird. I can’t wear boots any more and my feet have the description:
“Tiny spore-motes flutter down from the fleshy gills that twitch on the striated skin. Trapped inside are another thousand spores waiting to be jostled free.”
That sounds promising. I shrugged and waded back into battle. As soon as I was attacked by an angry snapjaw, my feet exploded! Deadly spores spilled out and surrounded me, dealing damage to everything. I was thankfully immune and this new power made me even more dangerous! What luck!
Later I returned to town eager to complete my quest and sell my rewards. I walked in to speak to the town warden who eyed me with suspicion in his eyes.
So engrossed in this conversation was I that I failed to notice that an angry tortoise had followed me. Eyes filled with rage the tortoise nipped at my heal. Normally this wouldn’t have posed a problem, but the tortoise snuck past my armor and dealt one point of damage.
My feet immediately exploded, releasing those oh so useful spores into the air around me. The warden’s face turned sour, and his hand darted up to point at me. It was the shriveled, frostbitten hand I had never bothered to ask him about.
A blast of ice enveloped me, setting my internal temperature to -300 and killing me instantly.
Even though I was sad to have such a promising character die, the story it created was satisfying and fun!
A Satisfying Surprise
Qud has been a surprise gem: satisfying my desire for dungeon crawlers, sci-fi weirdness, and interesting stories all at once. I highly recommend it to anyone out there willing to learn a difficult game and experience some strange and fascinating stories.