Friday, March 18, 2011

Evets: Enod

Our heroes on Level 99 of the Evets dungeon.
Evets: The Ultimate Adventure
United States
Independently developed and released as shareware
Released in 1988 for DOS
Date Started:16 March 2011
Date Finished: 18 March 2011
Total Hours: 10
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 27
Raking at Time of Posting: 13/49 (27%)
Ranking at game 453: 242/453 (53%)
When I first started playing Evets, I figured there must be a way to win. I also figured that there were only 25 dungeon levels, since there were 25 "level" files in the folder. Now I can confirm that the second assumption is untrue and I'm having a lot of doubts about the first.

Long before I decided to give up, I was already violating the hell out of my rules--or, at least, the spirit behind them. The game has a few features that I figured how to exploit to avoid death and keep pressing downward through the levels. First, you can flee combat about 95% of the time. When you do, your foe remains right next to you and is liable to attack again immediately, but here's where feature #2 comes in: if you save the game and restart it, it resets all of the monsters in the dungeon. Deadly foes are now gone.

The third feature was what I talked about last week: as you descend levels, the game adjusts the maximum difficulty of the monsters, not the average difficulty. Even on Level 100, I was running into parties of 3 gnomes. I was also running into parties of 16 demon lords, but I could just flee, save, and reload, and my next encounter might be with a skeleton. I didn't like cheating this way, but I would have quit otherwise--I really didn't enjoy the game that much--and I wanted to see if there was an "end."

The maximum difficulty of monsters, as I said, started getting harder as I descended levels. I accidentally deleted my save game at one point, so I had to restart with a new party. This time, I chose three fighters and one thief, as I never found the priest or mage to be of much use. Particularly difficult monsters were dragons, who could wipe me out with breath, medusas and gorgons, and of course level-draining bastards like wraiths and vampires. Much like Wizardry, the game would sometimes indicate that I hadn't identified my foes when I first faced them. "Red men" would turn out to be demons, but until I identified them, I wouldn't know what level.

As I mentioned, I had to save and reload frequently when I faced particularly tough enemies, but I got enough moderate and low-level enemies that I leveled up fairly rapidly--until I reached Level 7. The needed experience to reach each level seems to more than double between levels, but I hit Level 7 at 100,000 and still hadn't reached Level 8 at 210,000. This took away a lot of the game's incentive.

Evets uses more symbols to represent monsters than Rogue or NetHack, going through not only the letters but also the numbers and special characters. The symbol below, for instance, represents a demon or party of demons. But the game uses the same symbol for groups of creatures (all humanoids are "h," for instance), so I don't know if this thing is a single Level 1 demon or a group of nine Level 8 demons.

That's a "yen" symbol, by the way.

About Level 10, the shops--there was at least one every two levels--started selling more useful and interesting items, including magic items:

I also started finding a lot of magic items on slain enemies, including enchant scrolls that increased the armor class of my items, and rings of good, neutrality, and evil--the only effect of alignment that I could see--that were unwearable by my fighters but sold for piles of money. This was good, because starting on the same level, I kept getting messages that "it's getting very hot down here!" and my characters would slowly lose hit points. Only when I bought rings of fire resistance for all of them did this stop.

"So take off all your clothes..."

A couple of times, the game seemed to suggest there was a puzzle or special encounter coming, as with this message:

But nothing ever really materialized. It was rather disappointing. But not so much as these messages, which I started receiving around Level 20. I was sure this meant that the end of the game was near:

If Evets himself was to be found anywhere, I never found him, or anything, despite exploring (I think) every crevice of Levels 20-30. Is it possible that he was a random encounter starting on this level, and I just never ran into him?

The shops also started selling magic maps, which automatically mapped the levels, and rings of teleportation. I didn't realize it until about Level 20, but the teleportation rings would take you to any level you wanted, between 1 and 99. This was a bit disheartening given my previous assumption that Level 25 was the last. But not only did the ring take me to Level 99, there were stairs down to Level 100! And stairs from there down to Level 101. Maybe it never ends.

There are several possibilities here:

1) There is no way to "win" the game, only to keep improving your characters and impress your friends with the maximum level you have achieved (the game keeps telling you this when you start up).

2) There is a way to win but it depends on finding a special encounter somewhere that I overlooked.

3) The King of the Underworld appears as a random encounter starting on some level, and I just never encountered him.

4) There is a way to win, but it is on an even lower level than 101.

No matter what the case, finding the answer will take longer than I want to spend on the game. The fast pace definitely makes it addicting and it's mildly entertaining, but unless you squat for hours on low levels to build up your characters, you essentially have to constantly cheat like I did, which removes much of the fun.

One thing I can say for sure: I've written more about Evets in the last three days than you'll find anywhere online. I think this is a first for my blog. And there's always a possibility that Steve Ackerman will respond to my message (there's money riding on it, SAck!) and solve the mystery.

Let's do a quick GIMLET: The game world is nothing special; just a generic dungeon like any roguelike with only the flimsiest excuse for your presence (1); character creation and development is the most advanced of any roguelike I've played, lacking only the extensive selection of classes of NetHack. You have multiple ability scores, alignments, spells, and all the other trappings of a real CRPG. The ability to change your class to "prestige" classes like samurai and ninja is interesting (I didn't avail myself of it; it was very expensive and required minimum ability scores). But experience rewards seemed low, and as I said, it took a puzzlingly long time to level (4).

So, that would be a "no"...

There are no NPCs (0). There were many monsters, mostly standard D&D classes, mostly indistinguishable except in degrees of power. There are no scripted encounters, and enemies respawn even more rapidly than in NetHack. I didn't like that I couldn't see them coming more than a space or two away, either (2). Combat with these creatures was odd for a roguelike (which doesn't mean I'm coming down on the side of Evets being a roguelike), featuring Wizardry-style rounds with various fighting, item use, and spell options. But the magic system was a bit annoying, requiring the user to type in the full names of the spells, some of which were misspelled ("santuary," "magic missle"), and except for the teleportation spells (which were obtainable through objects anyway), I found the magic to be fairly useless (4).

There is quite a lot of equipment in the game, easily distinguishable in value, though not well described (does a "ring of magic" enhance the user's magic or protect against magic?). Characters had weapons, shields, armor, helms, gauntlets, rings, brooches, and cloaks to wear, and finding the next level of magic item was fun as always (5). The economy is also quite good for a roguelike. There are many things to spend money on, including equipment, identification of found equipment, healing, resurrection, and changing classes, and you never feel like you have too much money (6).

As far as I can tell, there was no main quest, and thus no quests at all (0). The graphics are roguelike graphics, which I don't fault, but there's no sound. The keyboard is very intuitive, although some of the commands (like equipping your characters) are a bit cumbersome (3). Overall gameplay is so-so. The ring of teleportation keeps it from being "linear," exactly, but with no quest and no special encounters, there's no reason not to just park on Level 20, hack and slash, and pop into the shop now and then (2).

Final Rating: 27. Not too bad for a shareware roguelike title. Please chime in if you know more about the game than I do.

For my next game, I was supposed to play Freedom: Rebels in the Darkness, which, judging from the descriptions I'm finding online, is about a slave uprising in the American south. That's an amazing premise for a game, regardless of whether it's "really" a CRPG, but I can't find a DOS copy anywhere. If you have one, or know where to get one, please let me know.

So it's on to Heroes of the Lance, which ties with Pool of Radiance as the first official Dungeons & Dragons game released for the PC. Whether it's really a CRPG remains to be seen. [Later edit: Or maybe it won't. I can't get it to run in DOSBox.]


  1. I just looked up some info on Freedom: Rebels in the Darkness (I think you had it as dark so might have been why you had some trouble finding info on it) It appears to have been for Amiga/Atari ST as well as DOS. May not have been a great game but amazing premise as you said. They don't take chances with titles like they used to. It's become so expensive to make games now.

  2. Just did a quick test, Heroes of the Lance ran fine for me on the first try. I'm using Mac OSX 10.6.6, and DOSBox 0.74. I ran start.exe and it seemed to be working as it should. Maybe updating DOSBox would help; I think I remember that was how I got Phantasie 1 to work.

  3. An Amiga version of Freedom is readily available. I don't know what it is, but it doesn't look like a CRPG. I don't know what it is. It has conversation, at least two kinds of action minigames, and some strategic decisions. It has stats, but they're fixed at the game's start.

    Perhaps it's closer to Riders of Rohan or the more challenging Cinemaware games. Thanks for the name-drop, anyway, the concept is amazing. Here are a few reviews:

  4. Yes, Freedom is akin to a Cinemaware title, which hearken back to design decisions in games like Pirates. I'd play them, they're 'role-playing' enough in a way. However I've only emulated Freedom on Amiga and Atari ST. If you want to bend your rules I can give you a simple package with the game and an emulator where you wouldn't have to do so much as double click on an icon to run the game.

    However I didn't find Freedom very playable. But this blog has shown me that perseverance often gives fruit. It's worth a shot.

  5. Taylor, I should have been more specific: the game starts all right, but after giving the character profiles, it comes to a copy protect screen where half the copy protect answer is cut off. Then, even if I happen to guess the answer correctly, it freezes.

    Thanks, Helm, but I think I'll move on despite my curiosity. The issues isn't that I'm afraid I won't know how to run an Amiga emulator; it's that not currently having one is my only excuse for not playing a bunch of other games (and some of the games I HAVE played on the Amiga platform).

  6. Reading your review on Freedom, Anonymous, as well as others I find it curious that the reviewer doesn't mention much about the unusual concept. This is because games then often had unusual concepts unlike today where they are in cookie cutter genres.

  7. Yen symbols are demons? I guess money really IS the root of all evil...

    I vaguely remember playing this back in the day, although I don't remember getting far.

  8. Since I get the impression you might be up to Mars Saga sooner rather than later, I should mention some of the skills don't work (not just theoretically useless, but the code wasn't hooked up so literally useless):

    zrpunavpf, ryrpgebavpf, ynathntr, zvavat, fgengrtl, naq gnpgvpf

  9. You're not really missing much if you can't get Heroes of the Lance to run. It's pretty much a straight action game, and a fairly crappy one at that.

  10. Jason, your ROT13s are always very helpful. Thank you! If the developers messed it up that bad, I don't consider this a spoiler.

    I appreciate the review, Vilse. It confirms other things I've heard about the game.

  11. Freedom does sound like a great premise for a game. Hmm,... come to think of it, I'd really like to see a game based on Eric Flint's "Trail of Glory" books. They're not about a slave uprising, but rather an alternate history where free blacks and native tribes (Cherokee, most notably) move west in the early 1800s to establish a new nation.

    In effect, the Cherokee "Trail of Tears" happens early - and voluntarily, with full supplies - and black freedmen (and some white settlers) go, too. That would make a neat game, I'd think - and not similar to anything else I've seen before.

  12. Oh my god, THAT'S what that game was called! I remember playing "Freedom" on one of the school PCs as a kid. I don't know how it got on there or how we were able to get away for so long; as I recall, it was pretty shockingly grim and violent for its time (and for elementary-age kids). I can't wait to play it again and see if it's as badass as I remember.

  13. Let me know how it goes. I should have made an exception for that one--although I seem to recall I couldn't find a download for any platform.

  14. 3 for graphics? Didn't Demon's winter get a 2?
    This should be a negative number :P

    1. Hey, character can be great graphics, due to the amount of information it can convey very quickly. c.f. Dwarf Fortress, though I think Tarn needs to get more into the full possibilities of how many characters UTF8 can have, or possibly move up to UTF16 and get some reallllly big numbers of character types.

    2. Graphics, SOUND, and INTERFACE, remember. The keyboard inputs in Demon's Winter were painful. So was the sound.

  15. Evets is on...I think level 26 in the upper left corner of the screen behind a wall that takes a pickaxe to get through.

    I don't have the game in front of me right now, but there are also a couple different versions of the game out there over the years.

    Also, there are random shortcuts that are undocumented. You can get away with typing things like mm for magic missile, s for sanctuary, fs for firestorm, and so forth.

  16. But did Steve ever contact you to collect your shareware payment?

  17. This game was the first complex one I ever played. It was on an aging for the time PC my aunt had and my cousin and I found so many exploits.

    You could refer to party members by number not name and so you would add a party member then add 1 which would clone them and all thier items.

    Do that to get a party of 4 then visit a shop to pool gold to number 1, then go and remove the other members and start cloning number 1 again.

    We'd the go through the first few levels with just fighters equiped with the best kit to get them up to level 3 or 4 then return to town and swap out one for a wizard. The wizard would now have a much better survival chance and we'd have a few potions of life to bring them back if needed.

    Once you have a wizard up a few levels and some bigger spells like cone of cold to do mass damage they became a lot more useful.


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