Caves of Qud – Review
Follow Genre: Roguelike RPG
Developer: Freehold Games
Publisher: Freehold Games
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Caves of Qud – Review

Site Score
Good: Cool setting and so many great descriptions
Bad: Pretty hard to learn the game
User Score
(5 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.2/10 (5 votes cast)

Caves of Qud is a oldschool roguelike RPG with retro style graphics. This game has been in early access for years, and seeing how this looks to be the passion project of the developers, it could be in early access for many years more, just to add more content to this already quite extensive game. This game has been reviewed once before on this site, in a much earlier stage which also seemed pretty complete at that time. Caves of Qud is a hard and unforgiving game, set in a merciless but expansive and intriguing world. The game is being developed and published by Freehold games. 


Caves of Qud takes place somewhere in the future of humanity, years or maybe even centuries after an apocalyptic event. Humans are still out there, alongside mutants with the strangest mutations you can imagine. The coolest part is: you can actually use these mutations in your character build, making a character with two heads, a sturdy shell, horns, and the tendency to burst into flames every now and then. Or an amphibious character, who can emits force fields, teleports randomly, has hooks for feet and easily befriends other creatures. There are just so many possibilities!

The setting of the game is original and impressive, mostly told in descriptions and dialogue. Each object or creature you examine has a flavor text, telling you more about the world and the setting. NPCs like questgivers usually have reputations with several factions, which influences your standing with these factions if you decide to help the questgivers. The description of the characters explains how they got their standing with these faction, and usually it’s pretty hilarious to read and imagine these reasons. Each time you’ll play a new game these standings will be randomly generated for every NPC, so they’ll always change and worth the effort to check out.

As you explore, talk to characters and read descriptions, you’ll learn more and more about the setting. You’ll quickly notice the setting is quite rich, with numerous factions and a lot of unique and interesting locations, cultures and deities. Water is quite important in this setting: fresh water is very rare, but you’ll need it to stay alive, and it’s even used as currency at merchants.


The graphics are very retro-styled, including a scanlines-effect on the screen and a vignette color effect at the edges. The base background color of the game is the old-fashioned dark-green of phosphor CRT monitors, and the overall look reminds you of old DOS games somewhere from the 80’s. The interface is simple, with your stats and a combat log in a bar on either the left or right side of the screen, and the map, dungeon or environment you are in filling up the rest of the screen. The game has a sort-of ascii-art inspired look, but it now has a custom tileset with more detailed figures. Almost all creatures, items and landscape elements are displayed as simple static sprites, about the size of 1 ascii block. The color usually shows whether a creature is hostile or friendly. There are some animations, like smoke from fire, and the blocks representing water change color to create a shimmering effect.


Caves of Qud has pretty cool background music, and several sound effects. It’s not chiptune as what you’d expect for a game like this, but beautiful and atmospheric high-definition music. You’ll also hear a lot of atmospheric sounds, setting the mood of the game: you hear wind blowing through flaps of cloth, you hear steps of villagers, etc. However, every now and then a more chiptune-like sound comes along, which does evoke a bit more of a retro-feel.


Caves of Qud is a oldschool roguelike RPG, with randomly generated content, and most noticeably, perma-death. Make no mistake, Caves of Qud is not an easy game. Not at all. It’s pretty hard to get the hang of it. There are numerous keyboard shortcuts to memorize if you want to play smoothly, and you’ll need to key-bind your important skills. The first times around you’ll probably die a lot. For example: if you decide to loot a chest standing around in an empty house in the starter village, but forget to close the door behind you, you will get pretty brutally and unforgivingly killed by guards.

Character creating is already rather overwhelming as the game has so many possibilities! This is both a great point of the game, and a drawback: there’s just so much to choose from that it’s hard to make an informed decision if you just want to get on with the game. Especially if you are choosing a mutated character, you’ll have to work your way through a long list of possible mutations, mental or physical, beneficial or inconvenient, to make that perfect character you’d like to play. The only way to see how some mutations work out in the game, is just to try them out for a bit.. but this can take quite some time.

There’s also a wide variety of skills and items. Skills are well explained, just as mutations, but it’s a lot to read up on, and you must remember to use them during combat. The items you can equip have easily understandable stats, especially if you have a bit of tabletop-roleplay experience. Weapons, for instance, have a penetration rating, and damage is usually expressed as a dice roll (like 1d3: one roll of a 3-sided dice, so either 1, 2 or 3 damage). All items have several modifiers, like ‘rusty’, ‘painted’, ‘feathered’ or ‘jewel encrusted’, which influences things like the durability of the item, the value, or the impression that wearing the item will give to NPCs from a certain faction.

The game is turn based; each time you move is one turn, and enemies move at the same time as you move. This means you can take your time browsing menus and looking up key-binds, but you’ll need to keep an eye on your environment as you are moving around, and most importantly: keep an eye on your hunger and thirst. You’ll need to have enough fresh water and food on you to be able to sustain yourself when exploring, but you can’t take too much, because water is not weightless. However, fresh water is also used as a currency, so be careful how you use it.

Your character can only see whatever is in direct sight for him/her, despite the fact that you have a top-down views as a player. The map fills in as you walk around, and everything you have seen but is now out of sight, will be grayed out a bit. If your character has amnesia, these details will be lost again from the map after a certain amount of turns. It’s possible creatures will be hiding out of sight, so you have to watch your step.

You’ll get multiple quests in the small farming village where you are starting out, but immediately following them without leveling up a bit would lead you quickly to your death. It’s advisable to explore a bit: first around the town, then further away, to level up a bit and get yourself some nice equipment before you head out to the more dangerous zones. There is a general storyline you can follow through the game, but since you’ll often be spending your time exploring randomly and you’ll die pretty often, you’ll not get that much of the story itself the first time you’ll play. However, if you take your time, level up, and cautiously gather good equipment, you’ll be able to fully experience the strange and unique world of Caves of Qud. The journey is well worth the effort!


Caves of Qud is a challenging game where you’ll die very, very often as you learn to play the game. But if you are okay with trying over and over again, and use your experiences to improve your gameplay, learn the key-binds, and try many different character concepts, the game gets more and more awesome as you go on. The setting is very original and rich. The retro look is fun and well-executed, and the soundscape is really good. This game is recommended for lovers of old-school style games who look for a rich setting and aren’t afraid of a challenge!

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Rating: 9.2/10 (5 votes cast)
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Caves of Qud - Review, 9.2 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

I'm a LARP writer, freelance teacher and everlasting PhD student, and an avid gamer. Nowadays I game mostly on PC, but I love my retro playstation 1 & 2 as well :) I like watching anime, movies and series, and read books & comics whenever I have time!

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