Modern CRPGs for pansies, aren't they? I mean, you start out in some safe little nest, hear your back story, and immediately get a quest that involves killing rats. In no time, you're level six and fireballing kobolds. Where's the challenge?
Compare that to Telengard. Here is a full transcript of my first adventure.
Game: Your name, noble sire?
Game: You are now descending into the depths of the Telengard dungeon.
Game: Do you want to go (u)p, (d)own, or (s)tay on the same level?
Game: You see a level 3 dragon. (F)ight, (c)ast, or (e)vade?
Game: You do 4 damage. It does 14 damage.
Game: You died!
Game: Another not-so-mighty fighter bites the dust. Do you wish to play again?
This game is crazy. I had some more success with further characters, but I keep dying while I stop to type this blog post. Why? Because although the game is turn-based, it automatically does something for you whenever you don't press a key after five seconds. And there's no way to pause it! I'm trying to make notes for this entry, and a skeleton just killed me.
Every time you hang out for a turn in a square, there's a chance of finding treasure in that square. Without even leaving the stairs at the bottom of the inn, I found over 1000 gold, a ring of protection +2 and a ring of regeneration +1. Six monsters came along and tried to kill me. Finally, a mummy succeeded.
This game is crazy.
All right. I'd better back up. From all appearances, Telegard is a "Roguelike" game in which you wander around a dungeon, fight monsters, and collect goodies and treasure. [Edit: I didn't know what I was talking about back in 2010. This game is emphatically not a roguelike. It is part of the DND line that started with the PLATO Game of Dungeons. See the links at the bottom for more.] The manual sets up the adventure with the typical dramatic language of the era:
|I am, alas, to be another of the foolish ones. A whole legion of them, really.|
You begin by randomly rolling some character stats and giving yourself a name. That's it; no race or class choices.
As in Rogue, you can save your character, but every time you reload the game, it deletes the save file. Hence, death is permanent. And, as in Rogue, frequent. This is the only game I've ever played in which there's actually a keyboard command to commit suicide. (I'm not making that up.) Trust me, when you encounter a level 3 giant mere seconds after you created your character, there's not much else to do.
Gold is copious but worthless in the sense that you can't buy anything. But it appears that every time you ascend to an inn, the game converts your accumulated gold to experience points, which is swell. Not that experience points stop me from turning the corner and wandering into level 4 dragons.
I found out the hard way that you can't collect multiple swords, rings, shields, etc. When you pick up an item from the floor, it automatically replaces whatever you were carrying. Since you only have a few seconds to decide, you want to be very careful. Not that that sword +2 really does anything against the level 5 minotaur.
There are spells in the game which you collect as you advance experience levels. They're standard D&D fare: level 1 includes magic missile, sleep, and cure light wounds. Casting them is dependent upon "spell units." I haven't lived long enough to figure out how or if these regenerate.
I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but you die so often in Telengard it has to be seen to be believed. Here's a video of about four minutes of gameplay. I think I die five times.
Telengard and I are not going to be friends. I just came from a punishingly difficult game and I'm not much in the mood for another one. Since there doesn't seem to be any way to "win" Telengard, I'll give it my six hours, see how high a character level I can achieve and how low a dungeon level I can explore, and then move on.
Posts on Telengard: One | Two
Further Reading: As I progressed in my chronology, I found that Telengard is a commercial version of a long line of games stretching back to a 1975 PLATO game called The Game of Dungeons or dnd. Other games in the DND line include Dungeon of Death (1979); Caverns of Zoarre (1984); DND (1984); and the Heathkit DND (1985).