You Only Live Once: But you share many lives

I didn’t intend for this to be a game weekend, but I had a few lying around, and we hadn’t seen any in a while, so now is as good a time as any.

This is another roguelike that I set aside a long time ago, because it didn’t seem as grandiose as some we saw back in November. Here’s You Only Live Once.


You Only Live Once (I will absolutely not refer to it as “YOLO” 😡 ) is a roguelike that promises a little more emphasis on story development and a little less emphasis on combat mechanics. The home page, for example, mentions that you will always hit, and always do full damage.

That might be nice if you’re tired of the traditional dice-rolling sideshow that accompanies most games these days, and don’t want to calculate out DPS for specific weapons against specific armors, and blah blah blah.

I should mention that it seems to work both ways though: Your enemies also always hit, and always inflict damage.

Granted, your persona — which seems to be randomly selected from an entire village with individual backstories — can take 10 hits before expiring, but what that also means is, casual or oblique brushes with monsters are costly. Just by virtue of topography you might occasionally take damage from a monster and there’s nothing to be done about it.

That might be my biggest complaint about You Only Live Once: Without any semblance of randomness to represent combat, just navigating dungeons becomes problematic. One glancing touch and suddenly the hero is finished. …

The irony of this is, the last title was just a skeleton for a combat system, with no story or flesh on it. Here, without some kind of combat system, You Only Live Once is just pulpy story with no underlying framework other than movement. Perhaps we should introduce the two authors to one another. 🙄

Aside from that rather painful omission, You Only Live Once has only a few peculiarities. It absolutely demands an 80×30 terminal. There is the provision for missile combat, but only in the eight cardinal directions, and with no targeting systems, variation on ranges or need for ammunition. And oddly, while you always hit in melee combat, there are times when I was told I whiffed an attack with a slingshot. I’m not sure why or how.

The oddest part I noticed in You Only Live Once, and the one thing I suspect is a bug, is the strange sensation that each successive character is sharing the life of the previous protagonist. If you die, the game continues with a new primary character. That’s fine. I have no problem with that.

But maps don’t reset, monsters don’t respawn, and every area explored by a previous character is visible to the new one. So little Timmy’s adventures in the caves of doom are somehow shared or telepathically available to Amy the farmer, even though she was just an NPC he bumped into a looong time before he died. Maybe we really do all share several lives as one. … :\

One last issue, which I must mention: The author provides a precompiled executable for Linux systems (and others), and I applaud that. It saves me the 20-30 minutes of time compiling or jerry-rigging a program to get it working. But for some reason that executable was yoinking the CPU demand way, way up on this machine, which absolutely never happens with text-based software for me. So something might be poorly constructed either in that binary or in the way the code is arranged.

Don’t get the impression that I disliked You Only Live Once. As a story-based adventure it’s a decent attempt, even if it has some omissions or streamlining that work against its overall purpose. It’s not the finest thing ever to grace the screen of my lowly Pentium 4, but I wouldn’t mind trying it again, just for fun. 😉


4 thoughts on “You Only Live Once: But you share many lives

  1. mb

    I guess you have to play the whole thing before it makes sense. Anyway, the author’s other 7drl’s are quite interesting, maybe worth your time; I’d particularly recommend Smart Kobold, Sword in Hand and Smith’s Hand, all linked from

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Thanks for pointing those out. I wish I had known about the “storyline” before I went into it, because I just took it to be somewhat incomplete. 😦 Oh well.

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