Game-related ramblings.

Roguelike Updates: Gargoyles Are Pretty Good

Readers who are unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre, or peruse the various Roguelike Highlights posts. Also remember that you can click on images for larger versions.

Only two of the roguelikes I’ve previously covered have seen updates since my last Roguelike Updates post. Brogue had been sitting at v1.7.2 for some time, but it’s now been updated to v1.7.3. I haven’t had a chance to play it much, but the major changes relate to the stealth system and the progression system for friendly allies. Given that the last major update removed player leveling from the game, making combat a completely optional endeavor, I’m excited to see how the new stealth system plays out. A sneaky adventurer who slips past enemies unnoticed would be fun to play.

The other big news was the release of v0.13.0 of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup last month. I have had a chance to play with this one, and I tried the new playable species that came with it: the gargoyle.

Gargoyles are actually a pretty good option for beginners, because they have a whole slew of useful resistances. They have an intrinsic immunity to poison (not just resistance, but complete immunity) which makes the early parts of the game much easier. They also have a slow metabolism, requiring less food to survive than other species, and a bunch of resistances that are useful later in the game, including electrical resistance (although they will apparently lose this in the next update), life protection, torment resistance, and rotting resistance. They also do not need to breathe, so they need not fear drowning or noxious fumes, and they get a natural bonus to their armor class that increases as they gain levels, as well as a flat reduction to incoming damage. On top of all that, they will attack with their fangs and talons in addition to their weapon, and when they reach level 14 they learn to fly indefinitely. Their main weakness is that they have 20% less health than other species, as well as a weakness to earth magic spells that can shatter a gargoyle’s body, and decidedly average (but not terrible) aptitudes for most skills.

Despite their innate poison resistance, the early game is the toughest for a gargoyle. Their natural armor isn’t that high early on, and their low health means they get hit even harder when an orc priest smites them from afar with the wrath of Beogh, the orc god. I was also trying out some magic-fighter hybrid classes for a change, but I’m not very good at strategy for a magic-using character so I found myself dying often. I did get to try the redesigned Skald class (essentially a melee fighter who augments his or her attacks with magic) that came with v0.130, however, and I like the new spells they start with. One grants increasing damage and accuracy bonuses for each enemy slain during its duration, giving Skalds a big advantage when fighting groups. Another spawns a flying duplicate of the caster’s weapon, which will attack whenever the caster does, and yet another allows the caster to deliver powerful strikes that draw from the caster’s magic pool with each hit. Unfortunately, my clumsy management of spells, skills, and armor (heavier armor makes casting spells harder, so I was sticking to light armor) let to my early demise.

So I decided to follow some advice (given by a commenter on this post) to just play a straight fighter, load up on the heaviest armor around, dedicate myself to Okawaru the god of battle, and become a nearly untouchable melee monster. This worked incredibly well. Okawaru likes to give gifts of armor, which stack with a gargoyle’s rapidly increasing natural armor, and are often enchanted to provide extra resistances which add to a gargoyle’s already impressive set. In fact, Yuri, my first gargoyle fighter to make it past the early dungeon and to the Lair of Beasts, managed to keep going all the way to the bottom of the Dungeon, into the Realm of Zot, and actually retrieved the mystical Orb of Zot, which is the ultimate goal of the game. He’s only the third of my adventurers to ever do so. Sadly, he perished while trying to get the Orb out of the Dungeon, so Urist Redbeard’s record remains intact.

Yuri did have some very close calls. In the Lair, I took a chance by sending him into an ice cave when he didn’t have any cold resistance (the entrance would have melted away soon, see, so this was my only chance to grab the treasure inside). This was a bad idea, and he soon suffered a terrifying amount of damage from a pack of icy simulacra. He made it out, though, somehow. He didn’t even have any good escape avenues. He just ran for the exit, and managed to block all attacks with his shield on his way out. Later, a similar situation arose when Yuri found himself banished to the Abyss. He was running for his life, desperately searching for a portal out of this realm of chaos, but he was soon getting mauled by demons, and he was almost dead. Then, when I was certain there was no hope, he found an exit portal, and once again, he managed to get to it just by running, somehow blocking all incoming attacks and making it out with only a few hit points left.

After those scrapes, though, Yuri hardly had any trouble until the very end. Those who have read the epic saga of my first win at Dungeon Crawl will remember the dangerous descents into the various dungeon branches in order to retrieve the Runes of Zot. Well, Yuri’s immunity to poison made the Snake Pit a cakewalk, and since he doesn’t need to breathe there was no danger of being drowned by the tides in the Shoals (although he would apparently still take damage in deep water). Even better, once he learned to fly, he wasn’t even slowed down by wading through the water, and could just fly around killing everything without worrying about his footing. His intrinsic life protection, plus some more provided by Okawaru, gave him all the defense he needed for the Vaults and the Crypt (the Crypt, incidentally, has a bunch of new enemies in v0.13.0 that are pretty cool). In fact, the only problems he had were with fire and cold resistance, of which he somehow never found much, but he managed without them anyway. His only real errors were during his ascent with the Orb; I haven’t quite learned which of the horrible demons that spawn during the ascent are safe to run from, and which I should stop and fight. Yuri ran from a Hellion, but Hellions are fond of throwing hellfire from a distance, and hellfire is one of the few things that gargoyles are not resistant to. Yuri died, having scored slightly lower than Thlumz the Deep Dwarf Berserker, who was also killed while trying to carry the Orb out of the Dungeon.

Given that mountain dwarves are no longer a playable species in the game, meaning that Urist Redbeard’s epic journey can no longer be recreated, gargoyles now offer a good replacement option. While mountain dwarves were easy to play mainly because of their great aptitudes for skills relating to melee combat and their dwarven starting equipment, the innate resistances of a gargoyle make for an even easier adventure. And unlike mountain dwarves, gargoyles are decent at magic too, so skilled players can make some really powerful hybrids. It’s definitely worth grabbing the new v0.13.0 update and taking a gargoyle for a spin.

That’s it for now. I’ll be sure to post again if any other roguelikes see major updates. Stay tuned!


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  1. Glad you enjoyed gargoyles, I remember suggesting them to you on the Dwarf Fortress post. In fact, you played much better than my first attempt, I died trying to get my gargoyle beyond Hell.

    • Thanks! But Yuri wasn’t actually my first Gargoyle fighter, he was just the first one to make it past the Lair of Beasts. He did very well, though.

      • Hey, this is totally unrelated, but is there any chance you could consider adding an edit option to the comments, or maybe even switch to Disqus comment system – which is pretty easy to setup from what I hear. I wanted to add this as an edit but then have to create a new comment – I would ditch the shield next time if I were you. Everyone on IRC (and there are some truly _epic_ players there with hundreds of wins and even 15-rune ones) say that with Gargoyles skills in maces it is best to just let go of the shield and put all your points in maces. Then get a two-handed most powerful mace you can find.

        • I agree that comment editing is a very useful feature, but it doesn’t look like the default WordPress comment system (which I’m using) allows for editing of comments by the poster… at least there isn’t a setting for it that I can see. I can edit them as moderator, so it’s possible you could edit them too if you have a WordPress account of your own. As for Disqus, I’ll look into it but I’d want to be careful to back up all the comments before trying it. Which means I have to wait until I have some more time to figure out how to set it up properly.

          As for Gargoyles, I never even considered going without a shield, since the two-handed Maces aren’t that much more powerful than the single-handed variety. But then again, I was used to using Mountain Dwarves who are better with shields than Gargoyles. I’ll give it a shot next time; I’ve been on another break from Dungeon Crawl anyway so it’s a good excuse to go back.

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