Two Javascript roguelikes

2011-07-25

Back when I first tried making a roguelike, Javascript wasn't anyone's first choice of language for a game. In all honesty, that was in the dark ages before Firefox. Nowadays, the various browsers sport much more functionality (and compatibility), so it's no surprise that more JS roguelikes are being developed. As I'm trying to make one again, I figured it would be a good idea to see what's out there. Two titles in particular have given me food for thought.

js-like screenshot

JS-Like is an elaborate *band-style roguelike, with a surface city, roaming NPCs who can give quests, and non-persistent dungeons. It does a good job of proving that Javascript is suitable for such a game, but the UI leaves to be desired. In graphics mode especially, the viewport that keeps expanding instead of letting the map scroll within a limited area is very annoying. Add to that the need to occasionally scroll down to the block of buttons (otherwise a welcome addition) and you end up spending more time scrolling the browser window than playing. That said, the game feels rich and complex while not being overwhelming. Fix the UI, and I can see myself playing it more.

cq screenshot

Contrast this with Quest, which despite being a "mere" prototype, already displays a lot more polish, fitting nicely inside the browser window and looking good to boot. It is also an exercise in minimalism, providing three classes, each with exactly one special ability, and around a dozen different items. But each of these has its own icon and specific utility -- there is very little overlap -- and due to the wildly different special abilities (not to mention starting attributes) each class plays unlike any other.

And this is where Cardinal Quest could do better, as the wizard is grossly overpowered, while the rogue is almost useless. One solution, successfully applied by Lost Labyrinth, is to give XP for delving deeper into the dungeon instead of killing enemies. That, and make more powerful items only appear as you go down -- it's way too easy to end up fully stocked before you find the first stairway. The very limited inventory (otherwise a good idea), combined with the auto-pickup behavior, also caused me trouble more than once.

On the other hand, this is a game where tactics really matter, and I found myself playing better and better as I figured out the game. Speaking of that, Cardinal Quest kept my attention for much longer than it rightfully should have, considering its ultimately repetitive gameplay. Bonus points for the mood-setting tiles; you can almost hear your footsteps echoing in those empty halls, in the darkness. And they say graphics isn't supposed to matter in a roguelike. Oh well.

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