Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Roguelike Review: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup is a modern style roguelike that is still currently under development. Stone Soup features: a classic roguelike dungeon descent; race, instead of class, focused gameplay; a user-friendly interface, a unique skill training system; amazingly, a full in-game tutorial; and the updated trimmings of a classic roguelike. Stone Soup is a newbie-friendly roguelike, and the tutorial and hint systems are a unique offering to the genre.

The Orb of Zot lies at the bottom of the dungeon, it's your job to retrieve the artifact and return the orb safely to the surface. As always you create a character: name, race and class; each race and class has their own strengths and weaknesses. Stone Soup is unique in how it crafts races and how racial ability can dramatically effect gameplay. Playing to your racial strengths can make the game much easier, but a mismatch of race and class can spell disaster.

Stone Soup has an in-game tutorial system. GASP! Yes, it does, and it's well made too. The tutorial is a perfect start for learning any roguelike, not just Stone Soup. The game also features a newbie-friendly hint system covering the first few levels of the dungeon. The hint system is perfect for players finding it hard to start their initial dungeon crawl.

Be warned, Stone Soup, like all roguelikes, is not an easy game to master. Dying is all too easy for the hasty adventurer; slow and steady wins the race. Fortunately, Stone Soup is not as harsh as NetHack when it comes to identifying potions and spells. Utilization of  your skills, potions, racial ability and spells is encouraged. Knowledge and proper execution of your abilities enables you to overcome the many tentacled obstacles trying to choke the life out of you.

Stone Soup is not without its problems. Stone Soup seems to favour ranged over melee fighting. My berserker, Max, came to many unfortunate ends due to ranged casters or minigun-like ranged archers. Some players, who play ranged characters, will be glad to see that, for once, melee has taken a backseat. Melee characters are expected, although not required, to learn a ranged weapon or spell skill for fighting adaptability. In fact, there are many warrior-mage class types to choose from during character creation and I think this reflects Stone Soup's ranged favouritism.

The last problem I have with Stone Soup is balance. Some monsters are walkovers and others are solid walls, there is no middle ground. Named special monsters and their entourage, may randomly appear early in the game, they are often overwhelming and can easily kill an early character. The strategy for dealing with these special monsters is giving them a wide berth. Some people find this type of no-win strategic gameplay fun, I find it to be poor game design, as one wrong move means you'll be turned into someone's steak sandwich; time again to remake your character.

Stone Soup is still under development and refinement of game features should be expected. There are a few bugs in the game, but I didn't come across anything game breaking. You can help the dev team by submitting any bugs you find.

If you like varied races, no-win strategising and ranged heavy combat than Stone Soup is for you. Stone Soup has the best tutorial I have ever played in a roguelike and the hint system is also an awesome addition. Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup is free to play and can be downloaded here.



  1. Quite an interesting blog, I'll follow it. You reviewed many roguelikes! I tried Dungeon Crawl Stone, but for some reason I couldn't open it correctly and played something else instead; I should play it anyway. I came here through the Rogue Survivor web, BTW, I must try that game.

    I've been playing a roguelike called Zaga-33, it's simple yet very entertaining, you may like it.

    1. I'm planning on doing another roguelike series later in the year. I'll put Zaga-33 on the list.

  2. "Stone Soup is still under development" you make it sound as if stone soup were an incomplete piece of work. In fact it was released in 2006 as a full game and the fact that is under development means that it is still being updated and new features are constantly being added.

    1. "Under development" has more than one connotation. I meant to say there is still active development and new features or refinements are on-going.

  3. Have you tried the latest (0.12) release? Its awesome. In fact, I die more often as a centaur (ranged) than say as a troll (melee).

  4. I have to disagree with you about the ranged favoritism. My one and only win was with a Hill Orc Fighter.

    Melee play in this game requires an extensive knowledge of enemies. It is crucial to understand what fights you can or cannot win, and you need to understand when you're fighting a losing battle and you need to be good at escaping from danger. If you understand those things, playing a melee fighter is very easy.