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Ancient Domains of Mystery (ADOM) review

Roguelike games have always been challenging. In my opinion, RPGs that have permanent death are the most challenging of these kinds of games. These kinds of games take the whole concept of grinding and turn it on its head, by giving challenges and realistic expectations, and forcing you in a situation to consider your actions and decisions. These types of games seek out those that want to be forced to think, and Ancient Domains of Mystery (ADOM) takes a unique approach to these games.

Made by Thomas Biskup, ADOM focuses more on the thought processes rather than skills, unlike Realm of the Mad God, and Magicite. Originally released in 1994, ADOM was officially re-released on Steam this year, and honestly, it’s nice to see older retro like games coming back into the spotlight.

Image result for ADOM steam screenshots

First impressions

As someone that loves personalization and D&D, ADOM is probably one of the best examples of similar games that I have ever seen. I start with the fact that there are different difficulties, obviously including a normal version, and it’s possible to customize the game as well. For those that don’t particularly like rogue-likes, you can play it as a normal RPG, get used to the mechanics, then later dive into the standard or challenge mode. The graphics proved to be a bit outside of my liking for an adventure RPG. It did give quite a bit of credit to the amazing music and overall idea, however.

Image result for ADOM steam screenshots


As I stated already, personalization is key in roguelikes. Allowing huge variety enables a player to put parts of themselves into a character. It’s why games like D&D work, and ADOM does this very well. There are 12 races and 22 playable classes in ADOM, each with their own abilities and features. I have yet to explore all of the classes so I can’t tell which is my favourite, but I can tell you that each are unique and make a solid customization feature. There is, of course, easier classes to start with like Barbarian who takes no damage. There are also star signs, which give the player different benefits. It’s random for the standard versions, but in the customized gamemode, it is possible to select your star sign.

There is honestly not much else to talk about on the customization front. I applaud the amount of effort done to each selection.

Game mechanics

Adventure, combat, and treasure. These are the things that most people think when it comes to RPGSs (or it could be my inner fanboy). ADOM pretty much got this down pat. It’s turn based using your mouse or keyboard, with strategy playing a huge factor. This gives the player time to think, which is sorely lacking in other RPGs. It adds a sense of realism as well, as you have to plan how much weight you can carry, including food and weapons, and the aspect of corruption. Corruption is by far the most interesting element as it is both scary and interesting. I personally hate corruption as it turned my chosen character into a monster, making gameplay unpredictable. But then again, what’s not to love about packing a couple of extra bonuses? It once again fits into the personalization aspect, as it gives the player an option to go down a dark path.

In fact, the overall system is complex and adds realism to the game. You can have a heavy bag, which when encumbered can increase your strength. The more you use a weapon you gain proficiency to that specific weapon. Nothing in this game is without reason or understanding.

Of course, there are drawbacks to the complexity of the mechanics of the game. It took me ages to understand talents, skills, monsters, and sometimes even the gameplay itself. The tutorial isn’t that helpful; it doesn’t explain the specifics of what skills are. I had to google what Athletics did (it grants extra speed and physical attributes). These different talents reward players who have an understanding of the different elements, but for the casual players that don’t have that time or new players, it will prove tiresome. Versatility in ADOM is good, but I like to play a game and be rewarded for my skill and ingenuity, not because I died to a trap door which I had no idea existed, forcing me to learn through trial and error

Don’t get me started on the energy system and the protection/defensive values.

Image result for ADOM steam screenshots

Visual and audio

I stated before that visuals leave a lot to be desired since it is an old game. It’s simplistic but has a nice feel to it. The simplicity makes it easy to understand what’s going on any time & anywhere, which I think is great. The best part of ADOM, however, has to be the audio. The music and sound effects give me chills. The immersion that it creates is both breathtaking and honestly surprising, as it doesn’t fit the graphics much.


For an old game, it has aged very well. I personally think it’s a great game as I love roguelikes and adventure RPGs. But I think it is too unforgiving to new players. Times have changed, and not every new player is going to learn how the game works. So if you are an experienced player, or a new player with time to kill, I highly recommend this game. If you are just hoping for a casual game, I recommend playing some other roguelike first before attempting this game.

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Variety and versatility
Combat Mechanics

Review Summary

If you are just hoping for a casual game, I recommend playing some other rogue-like first, before attempting this game.

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