I’m not exactly sure where all of the games we got on our old IBM PC came from, as this was the pre-internet era, but I do know that we had many 5 1/4″ floppy discs full of random games. Many were outright horrible, but for the young boy who was hungry for new worlds, a gem or two might emerge if one was patient enough to comb through them all.
One of these gems that became a bit of a staple was the mid-80s dungeon crawler Rogue. Somewhat based on Dungeons and Dragons, you take a neophyte down through increasingly tough dungeon levels. Even the first floor could brutally kill you, if your character wasn’t prepared or you happened to stumble upon a bad encounter.
The goal was to survive at all costs, level up, find useful items, and solve little mysteries and encounters. The control scheme was fiendishly complex, with pretty much every key on the keyboard doing something. I seem to remember a lot of these older, pre-mouse games going way too overboard on the huge variety of keys that did stuff. I mean, keyboard overlays, anyone? Some games weren’t playable without them.
Anyway, back to Rogue — I’m sad to say that this never became a mainstay. I liked the idea of it, but I kept dying so frequently and had no idea how to best play the character. And, again, it wasn’t like you could go to a walkthrough or YouTube video for advice. The most help you got those days was the mercy of whoever wrote the help file. So it became one of those titles I’d trot out every once in a while, make little to no headway, and then put back into the bin. If I had known that I was playing a bonafide classic… well, I probably still would’ve given up. But maybe I would’ve felt worse about it.