Cataclysm is a post-apocalyptic roguelike, set in the countryside of New England after a devastating plague of monsters and zombies.
At present time, Cataclysm is still in early alpha, and is being developed very rapidly. As such, there are no formal version numbers, as a new version is released every day, often several a day.
Source is available at the github repository, http://github.com/Whales/Cataclysm There is also a tarball available at http://squidnet.ath.cx/cataclysm.tar.gz Squidnet maintains a public SSH server. If you cannot play Cataclysm locally, or if you prefer to play it in a world shared with others, connect to firstname.lastname@example.org (there is no password).
Compiling Cataclysm under linux is straightforward, and only requires the ncurses development libraries. Under Ubuntu, these libraries can be found in the libncurses5-dev package ("sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev" will install this package).
Cataclysm is very different from most roguelikes in many ways. Rather than being set in a vertical, linear dungeon, it is set in an unbounded, 3D world. This means that exploration plays a much bigger role than in most roguelikes, and the game is much less linear. Because the map is so huge, it is actually completely persistant between games. If you die, and start a new character, your new game will be set in the same game world as your last. Like in many roguelikes, you will be able to loot the dead bodies of previous characters; unlike most roguelikes, you will also be able to retrace their steps completely, and any dramatic changes made to the world will persist into your next game. While this makes for interesting depth of play, and the ability to "save" game progress even after death, some prefer to start each game with a freshly generated world. This can be achieved by erasing the contents of the save directory, found in the same folder as the executable. "rm save/*" will erase these files for you.
Cataclysm's gameplay also includes many unique quirks, and the learning curve is somewhat steep, even for those experienced with roguelikes. Included with the game is a tutorial which runs the player through most of the key features. The game also has extensive documentation via the ? command. Pressing ?1 will listall the key commands, which is a good place to start.
The Windows version has been precompiled by Head, and is available here.
Linux version is available here.
The fan forums are here.
The wiki is a little threadbare, but is available here.
Like many roguelikes, the difficulty curve is somewhat murderous. My personal record is five days of survival.
Survival, as you may have guessed from the topic, is the main focus of the game; you need to eat, drink and sleep, and find/make a place where you are safe from the depredations of the zombies and other enemies.Time in this game is not abstracted to the degree common in other games; you need to eat and drink roughly three times a day, and you will sleep for approx. 8 hours if uninterrupted by drug withdrawals, asthma attacks, monsters or hallucinations.
Speaking of which, drugs! Cataclysm has a plethora of drugs for you to try and/or become addicted to. Drugs will generally affect your statistics positively or negatively, or reduce your levels of pain. After constant use, you can become addicted to drugs, and will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they are not taken. It is also possible to overdose on drugs.
If drugs have so many negative effects, you might ask why you would take them; the answer being morale.
Your morale determines how quickly you gain xp. Using skills will allocate xp into them, as is normal for many games, but if your morale is too low and you haven't got any xp banked you will not improve. Taking drugs, not being thirsty or hungry, sleeping well, reading entertaining books and other such things will improve your morale; being in pain, being hungry or thirsty, not sleeping, drug withdrawals and murdering NPCs will reduce your morale.
Non-monster NPCs are not currently implemented, as they are extremely buggy, but if you really want to play with them you can spawn one using debug commands.
Cataclysm is set in the near future, around 2050 or so. It is possible to begin the game as a cyborg, for example, if you select that trait on the starting screen.
Some survival tips; if you find guns, save them for emergencies. Loud noises attract monsters, and the louder it is the more attractive power it has. Shotguns are the ultimate panic button.
It is generally a waste of points to begin with skills; you can learn all of the relevant ones in-game by reading books.
The closer to the inner city the more zombies there are; the edge of town, near the forest, is the safest bet.
There are set populations of zombies and such for each town; this is generally around 6000, though, so you can't really clear out a whole town without great amounts of time and luck.
Running is almost always an option, and you'll be doing a lot of it; you can't take on hordes of zombies in the early game.
Play the tutorial; it is very helpful.
The developer (Whales) is fairly active in a Bay12 thread here.
One of the more interesting features of the game is the emergent content. For example, one player hid in the sewer tunnels and made a wall of zombie corpses at both ends. He then doused the zombie corpses in gasoline and lit them. Thinking himself safe, he went to sleep, but was asphyxiated by the smoke, which had nowhere to go.
The game is open source and highly moddable, though you'll have to compile it yourself if you want to do so. If your mod adds something the developer likes, it can be (and has been) added into the main game fairly seamlessly.
The original has kinda sorta slowed or stopped updates. A major fork is Cataclysm:Dark Days Ahead which adds quite a bit to the game, and is worth playing. - ST