Elona is a delicious and free little graphical roguelike RPG for Windows. It’s lightweight, attractive enough and has a delicious sense of humour.
Technically, the game is Japanese, and the art-style reflects that, with cute anime styling, but the game offers English as an option, and by and large the translation is superb – with only occasional grammatical and typographical problems.
Roguelike games are often rather unforgiving or monoquests. Elona breaks from those traditions and gives you an open world to play around in, and allows you to evade death with only relatively minor penalties (some dropped equipment and lost cash, and after level 6, some experience-point loss).
The interface is … unusual, primarily revolving around two compound screens (which you’re taught to use in the tutorial) and a radial menu system, all hanging off about three keys. It’s a bit alien for a roguelike game, but once you’ve had a couple sessions with it, it becomes fairly easy to use.
Movement is accomplished with the arrow keys (not recommended) or the keypad (vastly superior), so you’ll ideally want a keyboard with a numeric keypad to play. Otherwise this would be just about ideal for the laptop set. You can also configure the game to be played with a gamepad/joystick. Well, for a subset of the functions, anyway.
There’s a wide variety of races and classes to play in, many of which will be somewhat familiar. In addition, the former includes snail, for those who really want a challenge, and the latter includes pianist which is quite odd.
Your character starts off with a home area, where you can stash all your stuff, return to and rest in. There are inns and taverns in the various towns around the game-world also. You start here, in the care of a pair of travelers who will run you through the game tutorial if you want it.
When you arrive at the nearest town for the first time, you’ll be reunited with your lost pet, which is… well…
Yes, the last option is ‘a little girl’. Enamored of death and destruction, this creepy child is not to be discounted as a lightweight by any means. Maybe the other animals can outfight her, but she can be equipped with the same sorts of armour, weapons and gear that your own character can, and comes with a basic selection at the start.
Elona has a network option, which will send and receive assorted messages via a server, giving you a bit of an idea about what other people are doing while they are playing, or you can turn it off to cut down a bit on the message spam.
Elona runs full-screen or in a window (both in a variety of resolutions), and is turn-based, so you can play with it a few minutes between other tasks. Unlike many roguelikes, you can have several characters suspended at once, and choose which you want to play when you load it up.
Elona’s full of quests, and witty writing, and while it isn’t an easy game it is, at least, very forgiving. The graphics are clear and easy on the eyes and the music is pleasant (and can be disabled). The graphics engine is fast and slick, with dynamic lighting and line-of-sight. Even with all the options turned right up, it won’t stress modern hardware in the slightest.
The Web-site is in Japanese, but this here is the file you want (at least as of the time I write this – the game is in relatively constant development) and it should be happy under XP or Vista. It might well work under Linux with WINE as well. Let us know! The zip file weighs in at just 27MB. Download it, unzip it to a folder, and run elona.exe.
Overall it presents a complicated world of danger and adventure, both above and below ground – and does so with an interface that won’t take more than a couple sessions to really get to grips with. If there’s a central storyline to the game, I’ve not seen it yet, but there’s plenty to do, and a lot to learn.
It’s fun and it’s free. What more do you need to know?