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

Caves of Qud – Review

Site Score
Good: Old School, Lots of content, Interesting mechanics
Bad: Perhaps a bit scary to those who are new to the genre
User Score
(5 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.4/10 (5 votes cast)

Caves of Qud, a project that is already ten years in the making, has finally reached an early access status on Steam, but is already deemed quite complete. With a mysterious name like that, it was only natural we would check it out, or was is because we noticed that the game was completely made with ASCII style graphics? Grab a torch and prepare to descend in the darkness of an already destroyed world.



The world has changed quite drastically, as most of the human population is extinct or slightly mutated. Nonetheless, society is slowly starting to restore, causing humans as well as mutants to start exploring the world again, hoping to find remnants of the lost days of wonder. You, the descendant of the humans without mutations, or a mutant (depending on your choice) will start out in Joppa, a small village with a farming community. After that, it’s pretty much do as you please but you’re welcome to pick up some lore along the way.

Overall, the game does have a decent amount of story value to be found when talking to NPCs, but it’s your own choice if you talk to that many other characters or not. You’re free to do as you please and this has a certain appeal. A phrase you will quickly come to learn is – ‘Live and drink’.


Caves of Qud truly screams ‘retro’ due to the fact is has been completely rendered with an ASCII style. This means that everything in the game is just a series of letters, numbers and different characters, which happen to create a gigantic world in which you’ll be able to roam around freely. Your character is just a collection of small characters, running around in an expansive ASCII world. Whilst this is quite hard to portray with words, it’s an amazing feat that with something so ‘simple’, an entire world was created. Even though ASCII graphics were quite common ‘back in the day’, something extensive as this is truly remarkable.


The world and its characters do not show that many colors. Everything will be clearly different from each other, but you’ll mainly see bland colors on a black background. Nonetheless, it suits the style quite well.

Overall it’s clear that the developers wanted to create a certain sense of realism in the oasis of ASCII, as when you’re walking around, you will have a limited field of vision. If a wall blocks your way, you will not be able to look through the wall, if a small plant blocks your way it will be just the same, etc. A fairly original approach for a game that is viewed from the top.


Even though an expansive amount of work has been put into shaping the world of Caves of Qud, there is absolutely no sound to be found in the game. Whilst this was typical for many retro games, they at least had a few ‘beeping’ sounds to indicate that something was happening. Caves of Qud is truly a dark cave of nothingness, when it comes to the sound department. Sadly, this takes away a bit of the overall atmosphere the game could have had. Nonetheless, turn on some 8-bit music to get in the mood, and you’ll do just fine.

With all of the above said, during the playthrough it was not that noticeable that there was a ‘lack of sound’, because of the many things you’ll have to occupy yourself with, when trying to survive in the fairly hostile world.



Tossing the unique-for-this-day-and-age visuals and lack of sound aside, Caves of Qud is an expansive roguelike RPG, with loads of options. After creating your character, the world is truly yours, if you survive long enough, that is. Basically, Caves of Qud could be compared with a 2D version of the Fallout games, with a few unique twists of its own.

Right of the bat, the game will throw old school menus at you, when you start creating your first character. You’ll have the option to choose between a human being, that has undergone mutations due to the harsh circumstances the world has been in for quite some time, or a descendant of those who lived safely in protected zones, and thus have no mutations whatsoever. The difference between the two is that mutations supply special abilities, but ‘true bred’ human beings have higher base stats to begin with, often proving stronger in the beginning (and you won’t have to deal with an extra head, arm or leg or two).

When you’re done creating a character, it’s pretty much every man for himself, as you will just be dumped in the expansive world, to find your own occupation. Of course, there is an ample amount of NPCs, who offer you quests, if you’re willing to do them. If not, you’ll be able to explore the rest of your surroundings, scavenging, fighting or in most cases, dying. Make no mistake, as this game might have a lot of RPG elements, thanks to its leveling system and crafting system, it’s still a roguelike game as well. This means, when you die, you will die permanently, forcing you to start over from scratch. Luckily, you’ll have a modest ‘save feature’ if you wish to end your session and continue later.


Controls are just like any old fashioned DOS games and thus you will only be able to use your keyboard to perform every single action. In reality this sounds a lot easier than it actually is, as there are quite a lot of shortcuts to remember. Many of the keys will activate different command screens and during the attack mode, it will be important to use the proper directional key, in order to hit your target. Other than that, it’s both reading up on several option screens, as well as trial and error.

Whilst at first the game may seem quite inaccessible to newcomers to the genre, after a few deaths along your vaguely colored journey, you’ll start getting the hang of it. You’ll get used to equipping the proper items, navigating through the menus and after that the game truly starts opening up, as you’ll be able to start doing more advanced stuff.


Caves of Qud is one of those diamonds in the rough, that you either love or hate. Fans of the roguelike genre, with a passion for retro games will surely love this title, whilst those who have a difficulty of taking a trip down memory lane will probably detest it. Nonetheless, this 2D Fallout-like game has an extensive world to explore, an interesting crafting system and a decent amount of different character possibilities to keep you saturated for quite some hours to come.


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Rating: 9.4/10 (5 votes cast)
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Caves of Qud - Review, 9.4 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

1 Comment

  1. | Caves of Qud – Review
    September 3, 2018, 03:04

    […] 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 […]

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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