After years of effort (no, really, and I play several times per week) I have something to announce:
I have FINALLY beaten Rogue!
Many of you here know I’ve been obsessed with the Amiga version of Rogue by EPYX for a long time. And after having played the game on multiple computer platforms I firmly believe the Amiga version is the best. Does it have the best graphics? No, not necessarily. But the UI presentation is simply the most user-friendly out of all of the versions I've played, and I just love it.
For only the second time since I started playing this addictive game, today I made it to the final level of the Dungeon of Doom: Level 26. Once you get to that level you have to locate the Amulet of Yendor, then run your silly ass all the way back up to Level 1 - then out of the dungeon entirely.
When I got down to level 24, I ran and grabbed my 10 year old son Graham to watch. He’s watched me play this game countless times, so he totally gets it. We sat there in front of the Amiga 1000. He turned off the light in the room so we had the best contrast with the 1080 monitor, but we kept a table light on so I could see the keyboard clearly.
When I got to level 26 I clenched my jaw and heard him suck in his breath. Then, after only going a little bit into the level I found the amulet! That meant I’d made it to the halfway point. This was only my second time to ever get this far before.
Now to get to this point I’ve got a pretty solid system. The key magic item - for me - is to locate and wear a Ring of Stealth. If I ever find this item in the first several levels I know I’ve at least got a chance. Without the ring, the game is nearly impossible. You can still get pretty far and make an excellent score but the Ring of Stealth makes it so no monsters ever chase you when you enter a room. They can still block doors and force you to fight them. This is how I died the last time I found the amulet: a Jabberwock stood in front of the only door I could go through to get to the stairs, and he killed me while cracking a yawn.
But at least with the ring, much like Bilbo it’s far easier to slip around monsters and live to tell the tale if they give you the room to do so.
Today I had found the ring of stealth around the 15th level or so. The good thing about that was it meant I’d fought lots of difficult foes already, so my level and hit points were in pretty good shape. This meant if I had to do battle I’d at least do fairly well with most sub-20th level monsters. Once you go above 20, in my experience you pretty much want to avoid everything if you can. And frankly sometimes this can happen as early as 11th level, too, as that’s when Trolls can start to show up.
Other keys to success:
-) Gain Strength potions, so you’re around 19 STR or so. This makes your ability to kill powerful enemies at least possible in 5 or 6 hits, if you can stand toe-to-toe that long against them.
-) An Enchanted Weapon (via scrolls) so when you do hit a monster, they take hella damage when combined with your Conan-level strength.
-) While not a requirement, a Ring of See Invisible is very handy for avoiding Phantoms. I used this in my win. I was wishing I’d had a ring of slow digestion, but in the end See Invisible probably saved my life at least twice.
Today when I got the Amulet, I was able to locate the stairs back up - something I failed to do the last time. I had to retrain my brain on going up stairs instead of always going down. When you go up a level, you get told a whole new message each time.
And so you know, the 25 levels I’d travelled down before? None of those maps stick around for when you go through them a 2nd time. And none of the levels are even the same! It’s all new all the way back up.
After going back up a couple of levels, I started to realize that I was going to really need to ration my food. I only had 4 or 5 rations, and I was using nearly 1 per level just to find the stairs on each level.
I got to the point where I was waiting until I fainted each time before eating. And if you faint too many times, your strength starts to drop. (If you strength drops too low, you die).
After going back up to level 21 it seemed many of the levels were becoming horrific mazes, chewing up more and more of my food and energy supplies! I tried to maintain my composure and just kept plodding on. No running, only moving one square every second or so just to be sure I never hit any monsters.
It was at this point that I began to realize there were virtually no items in the dungeon on the way back up - just monsters. But just on at least two occasions I found food. I thought I’d found a potion on two occasions but they turned out to be Xerocs! These are shapeshifting things that look like a magic item, but once you go to grab it they transform into a giant beast intent on killing you.
By the time I got back to Level 1 I was on my very last ration of food, probably only a few dozen steps away from going weak, and starving to death.
But then… I emerged from the Dungeon of Doom! And I got to see screens that I’d never seen before. Ever!
This is what they look like.
I was texting my brother (who lives three thousand miles away from me) who introduced me to the game originally. I was giving him the play-by-play as I got the amulet and made my way back up. When I was on Level 26 and found the Amulet, he said, “Looks like Santa knows what you want for Christmas.”
And he was right.
That game was so tense! In the last few levels as I was searching out the stairs and stringing along my fainting self as far along as possible, Graham and I had our hearts in our throats. Every single level I went up, Graham would wiggle and pump his fist, "Yes!" which I totally appreciated but it was making me even more of a nervous wreck. Was I seriously going to get this far, and die of starvation?!
No. Today I would be victorious. Holy smoke!
When it was finally over Graham and I cheered multiple times. It made my wife run downstairs to see what was going on. She was unimpressed, but we knew what just went down. It took a while for the adrenaline to wear off. It's still hard to believe it happened.
That was one of the most thrilling video gaming experiences I've ever had. Huge sense of accomplishment.