Thursday, 3 May 2012
Roguelike Review: IVAN
IVAN (Iter Vehemens ad Necem), first released in 2001, is a comparatively modern variant of the roguelike genre. IVAN's modern features include: an updated graphical interface, body parts with tailored damage, unique fighting skills, boss monsters, an overhead map, large towns, a large pantheon of distinctive gods and expansive equipment list. IVAN uses new techniques to bring a more personal and visceral feeling out of the roguelike adventure format. As with all true roguelikes, dying in IVAN is permanent, so try to keep a hold on your character's head.
You start the game as a banana plantation worker. A free spirit who has been selected to deliver an encoded message to the local authority. With your trusty pet, you set out to the nearest monster infested dungeon leading to your destination. No sweat. You'll want to scavenge discarded equipment and start slashing, hacking, zapping, punching and kicking your way through the creatures blocking your passage. In short order: limbs will start flying, groins will be bleeding, heads will be severed, vomit will be thrown up; and, hopefully, by the end of it, you will still be alive.
IVAN's visceral feel comes in the form of player and monster damage. Loss of limbs, and loss of anything attached to that limb, can become a common occurrence when faced with lethal enemies. During my playthrough, my character Max was bitten in the groin and then subsequently had his right leg ripped off by a wolf. After a quick escape, utilising a teleportation wand, Max was left hopping around, sans leg and sans boot. A player might find themselves, without arms, trying to bite their enemies to death. A classic Monty Python reference comes to mind.
Unlike NetHack, which has a cold elegance, IVAN is a much more brighter and personal game. Your character isn't shoehorned into a class and IVAN's world, with its large open towns, feels more alive. IVAN's magic and ready to use equipment makes the game more accessible to new players than compared to the more traditional NetHack, which some could say is new player averse. Don't mistake IVAN for an easy game though, the final sections are rumored to be next to impossible.
If you have become tired of dying in NetHack, but still crave an RPG low on graphics and high on fun, than IVAN is for you. IVAN is freely available on Windows, DOS and Linux here.