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Retro Game Kick: Dungeon Hack

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Possibly one of the most overlooked games of the mid 90's, Dungeon Hack was basically a simplified roguelike with AD&D rules and first person graphics. What exactly does that mean? It let you roll up a Dungeons & Dragons style character and then sent that character into a randomly generated dungeon in search of an ancient orb. As an added bonus, it allowed the player to customize different aspects of the dungeon, emphasizing or playing them down as preferred.

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Where to find: Can be found on the internet as abandonware, but be aware that the HotU version (the one that claims to be patched, I believe) is broken. If preferred, original secondhand copies can reportedly be found cheaply. Think ebay and amazon.

Backwards Compatability
: DosBox will run it but seems to have trouble with the sound. VDMS runs it just fine, sound and all. I have no idea what other emulators do with it -- YMMV.

The Good
: Dungeon Hack is still pretty great for game play if you're in the mood for some solo dungeon delving. The graphics are quite dated, but they serve their purpose. Because of the random elements and character options, every game is bound to be slightly different from the last. You never quite know what's around that next corner... especially if you're hardcore enough to have the "Character Death Real" option turned on.

The Bad
: AD&D rules means that armor lowers Armor Class instead of making it higher. An AC of zero or lower is what you'd ultimately like to see. On the plus side, the computer handles all the wacky THAC0 math, so you needn't bother yourself with it.

Also, the default settings don't always make a lot of sense. It's very easy to wind up in the middle of a dungeon and realize you just aren't going to make it any further because there is too little food or coins and too many monsters to fight through. Striking a proper balance here can be a tricky thing. If you're like me, you'll need to tweak and re-tweak the custom settings to get the kind of dungeon that feels right. This sort of trial and error takes time. Fortunately, you're not alone there. Here's the lowdown on some of the custom options:

Dungeon Depth: Whatever you like. These days I generally go for 25. If it's your first game, go for 10.

Monster Amount: I set mine to 3 or less, depending on the character. I personally don't think a dungeon with limited food availability is going to support much more than that. Besides, having to hack through two dozen orcs just to get down the hall isn't my idea of a good time.

Treasure Amount: I keep it around 1, maybe 2. This game likes to toss ridiculous amounts of treasure at you otherwise. Monty Haul dungeons aren't my thing.

Food Availability: To challenge a cleric, 1 is probably good. For other character types, 2 or 3 is a challenge. 4 or 5 if you don't want to worry about food too much. All of this assumes that consumption is set relatively low and the player is moderately aware of how to ration food in this game. Hint: starvation won't kill you, but it will keep you from resting properly.

Illusory Walls, Keys, Traps, and Pits: I keep all of these on 1. Like most other options, I wouldn't bump any of them past 3. Too much of a good thing gets old when you're stacking 25 levels worth of it.

Magical Zones: These can be annoying, but they add to the challenge. I keep it turned on.

Water Level: Dealer's choice here. I keep it turned on.

Multi-Level Puzzles: Sounds like a cool challenge, but when I'm done with a level I like being done with it. I turn this off.

Encounter Undead: Fighting undead also sounds cool, especially if you're a cleric. Undead is what clerics fight, right? Unfortunately, this game likes getting a little *too* happy with the level draining undead, and this makes for a tedious grind trying to make up for lost levels. Turn it off unless you're bored and want a frustratingly difficult game.

Food Consumption: Doesn't need to be higher than 3.

Monster Difficulty: 3 or 4 work well here.

Magic Power: Dealer's choice here. I keep it set to 5 or higher.

Poison Strength: 3 is good.

Char. Death Real: I recommend keeping this turned off until you've beaten at least a 10 level dungeon. Once you're good at surviving, however, turning this option on presents you with a whole new kind of adventure. I hardly ever turn this off anymore.

Enemy Spells: I keep this turned on. Variety being the spice of life, and all that.

In case anyone's interested, here's what the random dungeon seed looks like for what I'm playing these days: f312111131100 335311

Whatever your game is, have fun with it.

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Updated 06-23-2010 at 07:14 PM by Count_Dreadstone (accuracy)

Tags: ad&d, hack, roguelike Add / Edit Tags
Retro Game Kick


  1. Ao's Avatar
    Excellent review, I'm gonna have to give this game a try.