D E C K E R
|Platform||Windows, Linux through Wine; (source available)|
A young talented hacker desires fortune. He has a plan how to earn it but it needs time and is going to take a lot of work. Unknown and underequipped but slowly making himself someone in this world.
Money is earned by completing contracts. A client demands that a number of objectives is met upon leaving the target system. Then you get paid, sell any additional valuable information you gleaned “by the way” and your reputation gets slightly changed. If the contract was challenging you also receive skill points.
The system consists of randomly linked nodes. These can be of several types. I/O nodes contain mechanisms that may be switched on or off. Data stores are places where you can access files. Junction points are connecting other nodes. CPU and SPU are the core of any system. A node may have special function but more on that later.
Obstacles lying in front of your money are ICE (Intrusion CountermEasures) and administrators. The ICE are divided into two categories: White and Black. White are constantly active programs which protect the system and look out for intruders. Black stay idle (to save processing power) until they are needed. When need arises be prepared for fight or else your will be kicked out of system. In worst case you may die. Decker has only several types of enemies. What you encounter in better secured servers are just stronger versions of previously fought (or tricked) foes. What a pity. Likewise admins also stand no chance but they know how to shutdown systems. It will take more time to power off a big corporate server but still you need to reach a processing node fast enough to cancel the process from there. Otherwise any uncompleted objectives still remain.
What completing a contract looks like? You enter a system and begin to search for specified node(s). During travel you deceive or bypass any White ICE that query you for ID. If an alert is raised you can either continue searching or stop to turn it off. You can pause to download any valuable files from encountered data stores. When you arrive at right node you perform task there and from this moment are free to disconnect but may choose to loot whole system or simply crash some ICE for the fun of it. But this all quickly becomes repetitive and boring. What varies between many raids is only new ICE type every few security rating and more complex system layout.
Sure, you constantly improve. Hacker stats increase continually, better programs become available (as with ICE these are “+1” version of their precedessor), better firmware becomes accesible. Richness of many roguelike games is missing. Once fighting in matrix is mastered there is nothing new to learn. I found Decker to be very fun but for limited time. There is no victory condition. The highest reputation rank is Matrix God but achieving it does not give any meaningful message. Once this is reached you may consider yourself a winner.
What is very interesting in Decker is that you do not need to fight at all! A rare feature among roguelike games. The only mission not possible to be fulfilled is system crash – you need to take down Guardian ICE at CPU node to do that. All other threats can be avoided or fooled. See the screenshot next to this paragraph. Attack and defense are both at 1 but this character is a winner.
The game features sound but it is really awful. Turn it off for your own good. It is interesting that you can assign any sound file to programs you use within game. Graphics are not pretty. Author explains these were made in Microsoft Paint. Fortunately there are few skins available for download.
Decker is insteresting game for *band enthusiasts. Others may prefer to leave it as soon as boredom strikes. Until then how about hacking some servers?
Reviewed for Roguetemple by Michal Bielinski