WazHack : Initial Review

I had dreamed of a game like this once, while hallucinating and battling a gelatinous blob as I randomly teleported around a level, desperately searching for food, or some way to take off cursed a ring of levitation so I could finally descend further into the dungeon.

Games come in various levels of difficulty. Nowadays, this constantly shifting difficulty level is a feature of many top developers (witness Diablo 3 2.0). Back in the old days it was different. They didn’t have billions of processor cycles and trillions of bits upon which to store their results and speculations. Processing power was costly, storage was scarce and slow, and limits like those create difficulties that a sliding scale can never match.

Nethack is a game that is nearly as old as my sentience, the former having come into existence three years after the latter. [ http://www.nethack.org/ ] It’s one of those games I turn to when nothing else was particularly interesting, or I needed a bit of humbling. The first few trips down the dungeon end badly for you. There’s no way around that. After ten or twenty tries things start to make sense, and you start to develop strategies on how to stay alive. How to decide what potions to drink and what scrolls to read…remembering quite vividly the characters you lost to recklessly imbibing everything you came across.

Sure, that amulet you just found *could* be an amulet of regeneration, or even one of resurrection…but it could also be a cursed amulet of strangulation, both impossible to breath through or take off.

Such were the conundrums of Nethack, which is why I have always described it as “Diamond Hard”. There’s no easy level. There’s no “beginner”. No “I’ve never played an RPG before”, or “I’ve played a couple RPGs” mode. Or even “Nightmare” or “Bring it On” option. No, back in the day it was simpler.

There was only life and death. There’s only one mode…Nethack. You have one character. You play it until it dies. No “real time” or any other nonsense, the game doesn’t move until you do, but the game does move *every time* you do. If you can run faster, you can run away. If you can’t, you die. You get to sit there, and think about it. Think about *every thing you do*, knowing there is *probably* a way to survive, but most likely you will die.

And eventually you do.*

Then you decide if you can face the emotional toll again to start over. All those decisions, and even then you couldn’t save him/her from the perils of the dungeons. If only you had, or you had that, or had gone this way, or read that, or who knows what. If only….

When I *can’t* face that loss again…that’s when I set Nethack aside for a while. Sometimes it is just too hard to play. Sometimes those simple decisions that served you well in the past just got your character killed.

Such is life, such is Nethack.

So now you are saying…wait…RPN…I thought this was supposed to be about “WazHack”, or something…why are you talking about a nearly 30 year old text-based game?

That’s because “WazHack” is a modern retelling of an ancient (by gaming standards) story. Because WazHack gets it right. Because it has better graphics (relative terms), and now I know what a “rothe” is supposed to be. It’s not like I haven’t tried clones before…I have whole “Nethack” directory on my gaming page on my linux-based palm computer (calling it a “phone” is such a misnomer at this point)…but this one NAILS IT.

If you have ever tried or enjoyed Nethack, WazHack is for you. If you like HARD games, like “Diamond” hard, WazHack is for you. If you wonder why any game has anything *other than* a Hardcore mode, WazHack is for you.

It’s not for everyone, but if you like this kind of thing, WazHack is the one you want to spend your time exploring.

* or you Win…which I have yet to do with Nethack.

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