XLARN

Purchase on Steam
You can also search the dark depths of the internet for the original “LARN” which is a free download.

I’m following through with my 2017 resolution of “You buy it, you play it, you review it” in an attempt to cut down my excessive game-buying addiction. Spoilers, it’s not really working, but here’s a review from my ridiculous backlog. Check out my list of games here if you have any interest in my reviewing plans for this year.

You should Definitely Maybe buy this game.

If Steam had a neutral option or a “Maybe” then I would tick it, but Steam doesn’t allow for purely informational reviews without a score. Give us an option in between that doesn’t add to the review score but offers insight that potential buyers would like to read! Pretty please with a wizard on top.

I would Recommend this game to players of any original Ascii Rogue games for nostalgia value or those who wish to play a piece of classic gaming history.

I played LARN on and off for a few years, although my personal Rogue of choice was the Angband series (which was a little later on, coming out in 1990) when I was a kid. I had a PC very early as my mum believed it to be the next big educational thing (well she wasn’t wrong!). I wasn’t allowed games consoles, but I had a PC in my room “for schoolwork” and of course, I figured out how to play games on it pretty damn young! Yeah mum, I’m just doing schoolwork, don’t worry about it. Nothing to see here at all. She didn’t realize for yearsthat you could play video games on a PC.

Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia.

I bought and played this game for the nostalgia and it definitely hit the spot for a few hours, but the fact of it is these games do not live up to modern quality of life standards, leading to frustration and confusion if you’re not familiar with the flaws. In the 80s and early 90s this sort of game was ground breaking, but now there’s a reason they’ve been left behind.

I’m not going to go into all the mechanics – you’re in a dungeon, you’re exploring, you kill mobs, equip items, drink potions, and try to survive. If you die, it’s game over. The very definining feature of this genre. It’s all about risk and reward. Do I quaff this unknown potion when I’m low on health? Will it heal me to full or kill me? Do I venture down a level, or stay up here and farm? Do I try to reach that treasure chest and risk that monster? The strategy is in the decisions you make. I must have spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours in this type of game and rarely actually reached the goal.

In 2017 it’s nostalgia that reels me back in and if I’m brutally honest I can see why these games are relegated to the past. We have shiny things like graphics now, and developers who understand that most people like to feel a sense of progression, hence the creation of the “roguelike” genre. Retro gaming might be popular; but it usually comes with a whole host of modern upgrades even if it has a retro look and feel. Mindlessy walking into mobs a dozen times to kill them isn’t very satisfying and the game has some line of sight issues as well as crazy RNG which make it a little unfair. The lack of classes or RPG elements never occured to me in the original, but now I’d prefer a bit of diversity in my game.

It’s a big part of what helped modern gaming develop

There’s no doubt that LARN made a big impact on the history of gaming and paved the way for the video game world we have today. XLARN is a fitting homage with some updates. It’s nice to see a piece of history available on Steam and to get my nostalgia fix; but the original is still available for free (you might struggle getting it to play with newer versions of Windows though) should you wish to experience it in all it’s glory (check out Angband too!)

At $5 the price seems somewhat steep but it is frequently heavily discounted in sales. When it’s 80% off, add it to your library and experience a bit of gaming history. Young ‘uns can marvel at the entertainment we had available to us in ye olde days before closing it and being grateful that gaming has progressed.

Athravan

I'm Athravan! 34 year old lady from Wales who loves writing and sharing her opinion. I'm not big or famous and I'm not sure I'm even good at this, but I'd like to think I'm fair, honest and hopefully a little bit fun too.

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