There’s a certain mysticism to the rolling dice. It’s a strange, almost ritual feeling, as you shuffle them in your hand. Then, as the bones hit the hard wooden surface – the sound is like nothing else. It’s akin to crackling flames, or a storm behind a window. It connects you, in some way, to those who lived here before. It brings you back across time, to the days of crowded taverns and bustling bazaars. You can almost imagine sitting across a table from some merchant from faraway lands, or a soldier, returned after long campaigns.
As I was writing my review of The Wratch’s Den I compared it – multiple times – to KeeperRL. Naturally, I wanted to link to the KeeperRL’s page on TBL. How great was my shock when I didn’t find anything about that evil dungeon management classic! There was but one thing to do. So, the next day I set forth to correct that grievous oversight and to present to our readers an overview of the sinister realms of that famous project.
The Sargosian Abyss is well-named. It seems to pull you into some dark depths, right from the introduction. It has stricken me with its incredible, almost tangible atmosphere. I’ve always preferred ASCII in roguelikes, thinking that no graphics can evoke that arcane ambience of glowing letters on a black screen. This game has proven me wrong. Its strange colors, its melancholy music, its vivid and haunting writing; these things conjure that eerie other-wordly mood of shadowy dungeons and forgotten altars, as only a few works of art can. A true roguelike aesthetics.
Deep underground, the last embers of a once-great empire still smolder with wrath. Orcs dig into the ancient walls of the caves, ensuring a steady supply of subterranean gold. Wolves patrol the carved corridors looking for intruders into the sunless dominion. Strange lights and sounds haunt the stone passages leading to the alchemist’s laboratory. The kingdom might have fallen. Yet The Wratch is still alive.
Well, the title basically says all you need to know (if not, wait until the end of the Introduction). So, what are you waiting for? The armies are gathered. The grim champions of ruin await your orders. The banners of Chaos fly upon the dark walls of the citadels, and the trumpets call your warriors to battle. There’s no time to waste. Strike before your opponents have gathered their strength. This shall be your moment of triumph.
The body stirs upon the altar. The candles flicker as if in a wind. Shadows dance on the cavern’s walls. The wolves howl somewhere in the forest, and the bats flutter blindly against the ceiling, as if in fear. They sense something, coming across the veil. The mortals at the village shake in their beds. A strange silhouette enters their dark dreams.
The wheels of the siege engines creak and rumble, as the heavy machines slowly advance towards French fortifications. The grim warriors march forward, over the pools of blood and through a hail of enemy bombardment. The horsemen ride ahead – eager to break through the ruined battlements and smash into the opposition. The dark walls rise over the swamps and bogs of the foreign land – the land that will soon become England.
It looks and feels undoubtedly unique – yet retains that classical tabletop aesthetic of early D&D and GW’s Warhammer Fantasy. At the center of the gameplay is a complex turn-based, party-based, combat system. It almost reminds me of the great SSI games of old, with their ultra-elaborate battle mechanics.
10 Turns Interview with the Developer of Tidewoken – Learn more
The days slowly go by in the newly settled colony, in the faraway northern lands. The guards drowsily watch the road, looking for raiders. The peasants work the fields. The woodcutters bring the lumber from the nearby forest. A group of miners is busy searching for gold in the southern hills.