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Game #1626
Hall of Belated Fame Inductee  NetHack    View all Top Dogs in this genreCollection: Open Source Games
RPG   Roguelike

Rating: 9.03 (732 votes)

NetHack box cover

NetHack screenshot
One of the best RPGs ever made, bar none. GameSpot's review of this epic freeware Roguelike says it all:

"No discussion of Diablo or its sequel is complete without a passing reference to NetHack. The fact is that comparing Diablo to NetHack is like pitting a wading pool against the Marianas trench; the former is fun and gives you a taste of what the real thing is like, while the latter is immense and deep enough to crush visitors who venture in unprepared.

NetHack is a spectacular dungeon crawl that has been in development for more than 15 years (originally known as Hack). Developers DevTeam continues to improve the game and release new versions. It features random dungeons, enough monsters to fill an AD&D menagerie, and enough commands to create a programming language. The only problem? NetHack has no graphics. Instead, it uses ASCII text characters to depict all the game objects. The character is represented by an "@" character; gold is the "$" symbol; walls are created using dashes and pipes; and various monsters are represented by letters of the alphabet. Purists will argue that the ASCII-based Rogue belongs in this spot, but NetHack (which is based on Rogue) is the ultimate incarnation of that older classic. It has a more active user community and vastly improved gameplay, and it gives you many more things to do.

Take the character classes, for instance. NetHack lets you slip into the familiar roles of monk, barbarian, rogue, knight, priest, and wizard, but that's just the tip of this very cool iceberg. How about playing as an archaeologist, who uses his or her knowledge of dungeon lore to conquer a dungeon? Experienced players can have a lot of fun as the tourist, a wimp who starts the game with loads of cash, a credit card, and a camera. There are many more classes beyond those already mentioned, including the unique caveman and samurai characters.

Then there are the sheer number of commands and options available to you. Nearly anything can be picked up, combined with other items, and used in unusual ways. You can hop on the backs of some of the monsters and ride them around the dungeon. Some versions even let NetHack interface with your e-mail inbox, so if messages arrive while you're playing they are hand-delivered to your character (in the form of a readable scroll) by a mail daemon.

Most gamers avoid NetHack because of the ASCII graphics, but in many ways they enhance the gameplay. After a few hours, as you become more familiar with the meanings of various numbers and letters, NetHack begins to take on a life of its own. That gray "B" (vampire bat) chasing your "@" is much more nightmarish when your imagination is supplying the visuals. In fact, we played a version that adds tiled color graphics to the game and found that it ruined much of the tension of the ASCII original. Still, the graphical version is a great way for beginning players to see what NetHack has to offer, and all Diablo fans should give it a chance to see just how rich Roguelike games can be." Highly recommended, especially to ADOM and Rogue fans who want something more complex and substantive, although an average NetHack game is shorter than those two. As David Gerrold observes, "NetHack is the most elaborate role-playing environment you are ever likely to explore. This is a place to return again and again, each time for a different experience. You're really going to have to play it for a year or two an see for yourself." Modern-day classic RPG, without a doubt.

Note: For anyone who is put off by NetHack?s simplistic ASCII graphics but is interested in trying out this masterpiece, I highly recommend Falcon?s Eye, a fanmade version of the game that offers pretty hi-res graphics and a mouse-based interface.

Reviewed by: Underdogs
Designer: DevTeam
Developer: Freeware
Publisher: Freeware
Year: 1985
Software Copyright: DevTeam
Theme: Fantasy, Epic, Freelance
None that we know of
System Requirements: DOS, Windows XP, Linux, OS/2, Macintosh, Amiga
Where to get it:   Official NetHack Homepage
Related Links: GameSpot review, Erebus: The NetHack Index, Guide to Roguelike Games
If you like this game, try: Falcon's Eye, Ancient Domains of Mystery, Ragnarok

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