Review Fix Exclusive: Inside ‘Caves of Qud’

Review Fix chats with Jason Grinblat, Co-Creator of Caves of Qud and Sproggiwood, Co-Founder, Freehold Games, who lets us know why this decade-plus development cycle is special and this game was worth every second.

About the Game:

Caves of Qud is a science fantasy roguelike epic steeped in retrofuturism, deep simulation, and swathes of sentient plants. Come inhabit an exotic world and chisel through a layer cake of thousand-year-old civilizations. Decide: is this a dying earth … or are we on the verge of rebirth?

Review Fix: How was Caves of Qud born?

Jason Grinblat: Caves of Qud came about in 2006 when we asked: “Why aren’t there more sci-fi roguelikes?” Brian Bucklew [co-founder of Freehold Games] had been working on a roguelike engine for years – and we’d just started developing a far-future, science fantasy setting for a tabletop RPG, so we decided to merge all these projects into Caves of Qud.

Review Fix: What was development like?

Grinblat: Long—nearly generational—and still ongoing. We’ve been developing Qud off and on for more than a decade now, and we’ve been full-time on the game for almost two years.

Review Fix: What makes the game special?

Grinblat: A few things. One, it has a really novel, lovingly-handcrafted, far-future science fantasy setting. Qud has been praised for having some of the best, most imaginative writing in video games. Two, you have unparalleled character possibilities. There are over 70 mutations, 24 castes and kits, dozens of cybernetic implants; the possibility space is enormous, and you can create whatever type of character your heart desires. Three, if you can think of an absurd scenario, it’s likely to have happened to someone in Qud. We really leaned into having our systems produce emergent narratives and special moments.

Review Fix: What games influenced Caves of Qud the most?

Grinblat: Ancient Domains of Mystery (ADoM), Dwarf Fortress, Morrowind, and Star Control II.

Review Fix: Why is the art style significant to you?

Grinblat: Originally, the game used pure ASCII art with a style heavily influenced by Dwarf Fortress. Then in 2015, we were lucky enough to find a fantastic tile artist who was able to capture the strange, evocative tone of the game in 16 x 24 pixel tiles.

Review Fix: How important is the music?

Grinblat: The music really pushed the game into the stratosphere. Craig Hamilton (our composer) has created one of the most atmospheric, otherworldly, unnerving soundtracks I’ve ever heard.

Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?

Grinblat: One of our favorite stories revolves around a mental mutation, Temporal Fugue, that lets you summon clones of yourself to fight for you. When the mutation was originally added, the clones were really temperamental; one clone would accidentally shoot another, and it’d set off an entire clone brawl. This was especially funny when you had the Evil Twin defect, which prompts an evil version of your character to hunt you through space and time. The twin has all your abilities, so they’d spawn their own fugue clones, and it wasn’t uncommon for a 20-clone brawl to break out where you didn’t know who was on whose side.

Review Fix: What makes this game challenge the roguelite genre?

Grinblat: What surprises roguelike players most about Caves of Qud is its worldbuilding and writing, two axes that are often neglected in the genre.

Review Fix: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?

Grinblat: One of my favorite memories is the first time I was polymorphed into a basilisk in Ragnarok, a DOS roguelike from the ‘90s. I remember thinking, ‘What? I can turn people into stone now?! What else can I be polymorphed into??’ The possibilities seemed endless.

Review Fix: Who will enjoy Caves of Qud the most?

Grinblat: Traditional roguelike players, fans of science fiction and far-future settings, and people who love good world-building.

Review Fix: Bottom Line, why must someone play this game?

Grinblat: There’s really nothing quite like it out there. I like to think that it’s one of the more imaginative games available.

Review Fix: How do you want Caves of Qud to be remembered?

Grinblat: As maybe the only game where you can imbue a door with sentience, beguile it into joining your party, and ultimately have it betray and kill you when you accidentally hit it with a shotgun pellet.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Grinblat: We’ll be continuing to work on Caves of Qud until it launches out of Early Access in 2019 – and then afterwards, too. We have another project idea brewing as well, but we can’t reveal it just yet.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 7722 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the upcoming book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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