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What is NetHack?

NetHack is a classic dungeon-crawling adventure where strategy meets unpredictability. Players navigate a labyrinth filled with monsters, treasures, and traps, where every choice can lead to victory or doom. Its ASCII graphics are a nod to gaming's roots, inviting a rich, text-based experience. Ready to command your character's fate? Discover how NetHack's challenges can redefine your gaming prowess.
Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

Video games are widely popular, and NetHack is no exception. One difference is that while many popular computer games are highly profitable, NetHack is free. It’s a free roguelike computer game that is said to be very challenging. NetHack is meant to make people think and boasts of being a difficult game to play. Players don’t generally subscribe to “cheats” or “spoilers” and tend to frown upon such things.

While you can save files which will allow you to continue playing a character after he or she has died, this too is frowned upon. Numerous lives are common in other games, but many NetHack players feel that this defeats the purpose, since ultimate success in the game is based on critical thinking and strategy. If you can simply resume play after death, you are more likely to play impulsively instead of taking the time to think things through before making a move.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

The dungeons in NetHack are different from those found in many other games in that they are not always repeated encounters. They are often composed of more random scenarios, leaving a player to find his or her way through, using trapdoors and looking for hidden doorways and passages. You may not see the same setup twice, even if playing on a different character.

NetHack is also a single player game, as opposed to the many popular multiplayer role-playing games, also known as RPGs. Also, note that despite having “net” in its name, NetHack was not developed as an online RPG. The term is in reference to a number of game developers who worked together on the game over the Internet, having never met in person. It is possible to play NetHack online, via public servers. However, play will still be single player as there is no option for direct competition with other players.

Like many other “Dungeons and Dragons” style games, there are monsters and bosses that must be defeated. These types of games share a number of similarities but at the same time can be very different from one another. World of Warcraft for example, boasts millions of online players. The game itself plus expansion packs and online play time all cost money, where NetHack is free. On the other hand, World of Warcraft allows players to interact directly with other people all over the world.

Ultimately, the goal of NetHack is to “ascend” to immortality. This is done by retrieving the Amulet of Yendor from a boss at the bottom of a dungeon then offering it to a specific “god.” This too requires strategy and isn’t just a simple “turn in quest” ending, but we wouldn’t want to turn this into a spoiler. To learn the details of ascension, you’ll have to play NetHack yourself.

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