Hello! In an attempt to write something other than reviews, I thought it’d fun to make a list of free games to try during your free time. These three are roguelikes that marked my teen years when I had a really slow computer. They are incredible projects, rivaling AAA products in depth and overall experience; robbing me of countless sleep hours. I also specifically chose games with three distinct themes and graphic styles – so that, I hope, anyone may find something they like here.
The first title is quite an obscure one – I doubt many of you have played it. Infra Arcana is a roguelike where your objective is to go down innumerous levels of a church and recover an artifact known as The Shining Trapezohedron. There isn’t much story beyond that – but the traditional roguelike mechanics here are almost perfect.
The author – Martin Törnqvist, clearly knows what makes roguelikes tick. This game doesn’t favor any specific playstyle. You can go guns blazing, or you can just sneak by. This is because you don’t gain XP by slaying opponents, but by discovering things: seeing enemies, picking potions, touching monoliths etc. With items, you don’t know what a potion or a scroll does at first. With time, however, your character begins to feel whether they are benign or malign – or, in the case of scrolls, what type of spell they hold. This knowledge XP-based system absolutely fits – and complements – the game’s Lovecraftian vibe. The overall experience may be of a classic fantasy roguelike dungeon – but it is well adapted to that famous writer’s mythos.
Infra Arcana is a perfect game to play on a coffee break. The variety in enemies, builds and items makes it so that the game never goes stale. And – if you want to get it, it’s free! I never finished it, and it is quite hard, but still – it’s a fun game to pick up when you get that roguelike itch.
Cataclysm DDA is a truly special game. First, it’s open-source, having gathered more than a thousand contributors over the years and 1.7 million lines of code. In this game, you are a survivor wandering a post-apocalyptic world – and if there is one game world that you can call open, it’s this one. You can play for a thousand hours and still there’ll be things you haven’t seen. Before you start, however, you must generate this world, with your preferred parameters; then create a character, choosing one out of hundreds of classes; and finally – select a scenario. Then you’re on your own. You can be a lost submissive in a crashed helicopter just as easily as a pizza guy trapped in a mansion. That’s how big and expansive the CDDA world is.
The base game already has a lot of content; for those who want more there are mods, with some available by default. Dinosaurs, fantasy, more guns, boats, you name it. But what’s the objective here? Survive every day. That’s it, and the rest is for you to decide. It’s common to build a base, rid some place of monsters, join some faction, investigate an abandoned lab, make a supercar… The game is basically a sandbox of well-woven mechanics and things to discover.
It’s quite hard to talk more about this title without spoiling anything. However, if you like games set in a modern post-apocalyptic world – this one is for you. In addition, there is a great variety of tile sets and options to modify it to your liking, so try it here!
This game has quite a history. Right now, it holds the Guinness World Record for “longest update support for a game” as well as the title of the “First open-world survival video game”. The game launched in 1992, and in those 30 years that passed, it got better and better. Really impressive for a project with just two devs.
In Unreal World, you are a Finn living in an Iron Age version of Finland. Other than that, you are free to define your own life and objectives. You can be a fisherman, a trapper, an artisan, a bandit – or all of the above. It really is an open world game, in a sense that you are free to try anything, and experiment with the world. Naturally, objectives arise. You need to find food, make a shelter and then a boat for travel. Eventually you’ll undertake long journeys, and prepare for the winter. The project also features a good representation of the Finnish culture: the rituals, the food, the customs.
It’s absolutely unique – the way the game conveys the difficulty and the effort that goes into each action. Felling a big tree can take (in-game) hours, building a house will take weeks – and swimming during cold weather might kill you. It may seem extreme, but it’s so much more satisfying to see the results when they really required hard work. Hunting is an especially good example. It truly feels like the real world, with how difficult it is to run after a scared animal – to in the end succeed, despite all the troubles.
The devs did a lot of research concerning the various subjects the game deals with. As such, the experience feels authentic and refreshing at the same time. The rituals are especially flavorful: You perform them in the game, just like you would in real life. Step into a river backwards for a good fishing trip, or bang a rock on a tree for good luck – things like that. It’s really fun, and you learn quite a lot about the old Finnish way of life – this being an example of how games can be both educative and fun.
You can buy the game for ten bucks on Steam – or around six or seven, during one of the frequent sales. You can also test it first by going on its website and getting the free version. It is the full game on the website – but of a build that is one year old. The project is updated from time to time, but you’ll get a great experience from this version alone – so don’t hesitate whether to get it or not.
These three projects demonstrate that a game doesn’t have to be $60 AAA to be fun. If you have some free time and want to try some good roguelikes – try one of these. Maybe you’ll fall in love with some, or maybe you’ll dislike all – and that’s ok, because they are free. Thanks for reading!