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Hacklike games have five primary characteristics that separate them from Band type games:
- Persistent levels: Once a particular level is generated, it stays that way. If you leave and re-enter the level, it will have the same layout, and the same monsters in the same state they were when you left. Some monsters may follow you up/down the stairs though, and pets may become feral when level-separated from you.
- Complex interactions of properties: While the commands for a roguelike are simple, the potential interactions are not. My favourite example is equipping a silver ring as a weapon in order to damage a creature vulnerable to silver, but not one's other weapons.
- Small levels: Each level fits entirely within the text terminal in which it is being played. For Rogue, Hack and its descendants, this means the levels are about 80 squares wide and 20 squares high, though ADOM levels will grow or shrink to fit the size of the terminal the game is played in.
- Inventory size: In Hacklike games you can carry around many more different types of items than in a Band type. Additionally, since levels are persistent, you can leave behind items you might want in the future, and then go back for them later.
- Short Equipment Upgrade Path: In a Hacklike game, it is entirely possible that your starting equipment could be useable right to the end game. Identifying equipment is more important than upgrading it.
- Identification by Use: (Knowledge is Power) Hacklike games tend to have more complex and harder identification methods. Finding out what a magic ring does is a minigame within the game, rather than being a set fee at a store. The necessity for this comes from the limited supply of identification items that results from small, persistent levels.
- Shallower Power Curve: While one still turns into a demi-god by the end of the game, it is a factor of 10-20, not 100-200 (contrasting bands).
Other differences include:
- Hacklike games typically don't have a surface level town (or towns), and those that do don't have stores that sell the adventurer's basic needs, like armor, weapons, and means of identifying items. You're entirely on your own, including figuring out how to identify all of those different objects you find. If they do have stores at all, they're inside the small, persistent maps, and have finite supplies, and don't suffice to make a permanent base of operations for the player.
- Spell casters don't need to carry around spellbooks with them; rather, they memorize the spells that they read from the spellbooks.