By: Derek Yu

On: January 15th, 2012

Brogue, by Brian Walker

Brogue is a roguelike that’s been in active development since 2009. It’s unique in that it eschews all other attributes – dexterity, intelligence, charisma, wisdom, etc. – in favor of strength, which can only be gained through potions. Likewise, this single stat only determines one thing: whether or not you can wield better weapons and armor without incurring a penalty. Potions of strength are obviously important in Brogue, but so are scrolls of enchantment: enchanting items not only increases their power, but also reduces their strength requirements.

In a game like Nethack, for example, you’ll often encounter monsters and items that are similar to one another, like the four different types of short swords that only deal slight differences in damage. In Brogue, however, everything is much more distinct. Many monsters have unique attacks, like thieving monkeys or goblin conjurers that summon spectral blades to chase you. And it’s easy to tell whether a weapon or armor is better by simply looking at the strength requirement (although some types of equipment have special abilities, too, like hammers and spears which deal damage across multiple spaces).

Brogue is streamlined, and even though it sports ASCII graphics it reminds me of console roguelikes like Shiren the Wanderer, due to its intuitive interface (fully mouse-accessible) and simplified mechanics. It still manages to be challenging, but the challenge lies less in knowing trivia about the game than simply making smart decisions. The graphics are actually very pretty, too – Brogue’s dungeons are quite naturalistic and sport all kinds of colorful areas, from green-and-brown fungus forests to blue-and-purple sun-lit grottos. Even caustic gases and deadly wildfires look great as they spread slowly across the floor… just make sure you don’t get backed into a corner while you’re admiring them!

TIGdb: Entry for Brogue

  • Anonymous

    I love Brogue. It’s like a bite-sized roguelike that you can play for 10 minutes, die horribly and still enjoy. Derek speaks the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Brogue on TIGSource pleases me. It is a very good game.

  • Lolno

    What is it with the deluge of baby’s first roguelike lately?

  • casinclair

    this is hands down the best coffeebreak roguelike. good to see it get some tigs frontpage love.

  • Dialock

    I guess we could just keep playing Nethack and laugh at those who don’t like it or we can increase the base that enjoys this type of game and continue to make advancements in game design.  I guessing you prefer stagnation?

  • Joshua Day

    Brogue gets more and more attention as an accessible roguelike, which is great, but it gets far too little attention as a well crafted high-level roguelike.  It’s modeled after Rogue itself, for one thing: The things it abandons from Crawl and NetHack weren’t present there, either.  There are smart people out there who don’t want to mess with arcane interfaces (they wrongly presume roguelikes will be tedious) and giving them an entry into the genre that isn’t just accessible but is actually angling to be the best roguelike out there — well, that’s just a good package.

  • Joshua Day

    I can see how you’d think so.  Most people think they can’t handle roguelikes (for whatever reason), so to popularize them we have to present these games as accessible.  But I recommend — and strongly — that you give it a real try.  If the first four dungeon levels seem easy to you (as a seasoned rogueliker), it’s because they amount to character creation.  It’s an elaborate, carefully designed game.

  • Guest

    That’s funny, that’s my usual experience with most roguelikes…

  • Nathan

    Hmm, looks interesting… I’m gonna give it a try! I think the promise of mouse navigation sealed the download; I never could be arsed to learn vi :(

  • Anonymous

    <3 brogue

  • Ryan Szrama

    Brogue is hardly baby’s first roguelike, though it does have accessibility to new users as a goal. I find it quite challenging… I’ve been playing it for almost two years and have yet to ascend. : P

    What’s special about Brogue is that the simplicity of the mechanics makes your decisions more meaningful and has a profound affect on your end-game. You only find so many scrolls of enchantment, for example, so do you use them to buff a weapon you really want to use right this second or buff that staff to make you a better magic user later in the game. The enemies you’ll face in the later levels may in fact be immune to one or the other types of damage, but perhaps you’ll end up with a bunch of allied monsters that a few extra charges in your staff of healing may keep alive.

    It’s a very strategic roguelike, and I’m still finding new aspects of gameplay to this day. Accordingly, I was delighted to multiply my ogre allies with a wand of multiplicity and excited to see them learning spells and abilities from fallen foes a few dungeon levels later. Of course, my whole party was decimated a few levels later by a water trap and an onslaught from a few dar battle mages and priestesses. :-/

  • Ryan Szrama

    Disqus hiccuped..

  • Ryan Szrama

    Hear, hear. I love the high attention to detail Pender gives to the visual display of the dungeon levels, mobs, and special effects… but I love the challenge and strategy involved in this game even more. The simplicity of the games “leveling” mechanics (experience based leveling, potions of strength, and scrolls of enchantment) should not be confused with simplistic gameplay. Each game can be played any number of ways, and you have to decide what you’re going to do with the tools you’re given to reach the bottom and climb back up. I’ve yet to do it, but I’ve been close… and it’s kept me coming back for more for the last two years.

    Pender’s also very responsive in the forums. This game is regularly updated and just keeps getting better and better. Delighted to see it featured here. : )

  • Waltorious

    Brogue is the second roguelike I recommend to people who have never played a roguelike before, after Dungeons of Dredmor.  Dredmor shows them what a roguelike is (and does so without scary ASCII graphics), but Brogue shows them what a roguelike can be.  Without an overly complicated control set, it offers great strategic depth and environmental interaction, and keeps players coming back much longer than Dredmor will.

    Of course, sometimes people go straight from Dredmor to Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, missing Brogue entirely, which is a shame.  I should probably recommend it in stronger terms.  I love Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup but Brogue is an entirely different challenge that is a refreshing change of pace, and there’s definitely room to play both.

  • Joshua Day

    I think that for a new player, a lot more exciting stuff can happen in Brogue than for new players of other roguelikes:
    * you’ll be exposed to dangerous gases that are subject to diffusion
    * you’ll rescue captive monkeys and goblins and have them join you
    * you’ll brave collapsing floors to grab keys and onlock secret doors
    * the scenery creates a sense of awe and wonder, rather than the interminable sameness of room after room
    * you can actually figure out what items and monsters do, since the game tells you up front, so you get a small dose of the pleasure of actually playing

  • ChapelRonchamp

    I remember almost many many years ago, when in the era of DOS, I played a very similar game to Brouge. For me Brouge remind me of the experiences when I was playing as a little boy. But can someone remember the name of that game in DOS. They are really really alike….

  • Guest

    Was it… Rogue?

  • iffi

    Oh my god I hate those monkeys.

    I particularly like the level generator in Brogue and the various elements of the world FourbitFriday mentioned.

  • James

    Alas, once you get good, you’re gonna need coffee breaks an hour or two long.

  • James

    Coincidentally, most of these things are rather exiting even for seasoned roguelike affectionados. I suspect we’ll see a lot of Brogue influence in the genre over the next few years.

  • Lolno

    Maybe I’m just a cynical, elitist asshole who doesn’t like things to change, but every time a genre makes a move towards ‘becoming more accessible’, it turns out crappier in the long term. If there’s one genre I’d like to remain stagnant, it’s roguelikes.

    That said, I do enjoy Dungeons of Dredmor and DoomRL, so I suppose I’ll suspend judgment for now.

  • jay

    spoiler regarding monkes:

    kill fleeing monkey with distance weapon

  • iffi

    Yeah, I only realized after a while that you start out with darts. That was after I tossed an unidentified potion at a monkey and it burst into flames, burning the monkey to death.

  • Ryan Szrama

    Worst ever – monkey steals your darts. : P

  • Fjkahsdfkhasdfjljf290378590285

    Christ on a stick this game is so hard!! This is the first time playing a RL and I think the genre just isnt for me

  • Joshua Day

    That might be, but first consider this: Brogue, like most roguelikes, has a different take on “winning”.  You’re not being coddled by the game — if you have fun while you play it, then you, the human sitting at the computer, have won.  Who cares what happens to the @?  Don’t worry about him.  Die a dozen times to get into the swing of things, pay attention to the layout of the dungeon, and just enjoy the situations that come up.  (My first ascension in Brogue took me four months to achieve.)

  • iffi

    That’s happened to me several times. q_q

  • BrownBeard

    Dude, half the fun of RLs is dying in new and hilarious ways. Like my most recent Stupid Death: I was trapped in a small marshy room by several bog monsters. There was no way out for me, so I used my staff of firebolt to purposefully ignite the explosive swamp gas that surrounded us. I knew I could survive the FIRST explosion (which killed one of my captors), but I had not counted on two things:

    1) The other bog monsters submerging to avoid the blast, and
    2) The possibility of a 2nd explosion resulting from the same fire. That’s the one that got me.

    So yeah: death by cascading swamp gas explosions. Talk about going out in a blaze of glory! I laughed my arse off and started a fresh game.

    And the difficulty of the game only makes your eventual victory that much sweeter. When you finally beat Brogue, it won’t be because you dialed in the right sequence of moves from a GameFAQs walkthrough — it will be because you assembled a thorough understanding of the dungeon ecology and used your hard-won knowledge to make the right tactical decisions that let you navigate the randomly-generated environment. Your victory will be your own, duplicated by no one.

  • iffi

    Well-said. That’s exactly what I like most about Brogue.

  • Mary

    I guess we could just keep playing Nethack and laugh at those who don’t like it or we can increase the base that enjoys this

    Very good statement, +100500

    http://www.plagiarismdetect.comtype of game and continue to make advancements in game design.

  • Aaron Gorton

    nothing beats dwarf fortress and cataclysm for sure

  • Alex Troy Christian Cooper

    If you like dwarf fortress you should check out my game in development