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Hacklike games have three 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.
- 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 persistant, 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: 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.
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.