The title "Iter Vehemens ad Necem" (IVAN for short), Latin for "a violent road to death", describes the game accurately. The player character will die, repeatedly and oftentimes gruesomely.
IVAN is a Roguelike. For those unfamiliar with Roguelikes, they are, roughly speaking, non-real-time and (usually) non-graphical Diablos, most likely with a superior level of gameplay detail and (as a result) a steeper learning curve. As a Roguelike, the game is not always "running". Instead, the environment only changes when the player does some action (the degree of change depends on how much "time" the action takes). Another characteristic of this genre is the sheer amount of actions a player could perform. One could, for instance, dip daggers into poisonous liquid and throw them, drink sulfuric acid (useful when acid-resistant magical items are worn, and there is a parasite in the player's stomach), sever a zombie's left arm and use it to behead a skeleton, and pray to a god for divine intervention, just to name a few.
Unlike other RPGs, Roguelikes don't usually allow players to directly distribute attribute points as they level up. Instead, the character becomes more adept at a certain task by repeatedly performing it (carrying heavy items and walking for extended periods of time, for instance, would improve lower-body strength).
IVAN is one of the best Roguelikes for the uninitiated to familiarize themselves with the genre, since it does make use of graphics, and has fewer controls (and thus a shallower learning curve) than a typical Roguelike.
For the experienced Roguelike players, all the usual features of a good RL could be expected: permadeath, fun and innovative ways to die, boneyard levels, etc. A few gameplay features that set IVAN apart (positively or negatively, depending on one's taste) from most others are:
- No character selection
- No skill sets other than weapon familiarization and affinity
- Lower complexity
- Lower difficulty
- Only two main quests
- Body-part system: one could be de-limbed, beheaded, critically damaged in the groin, etc. One could also "replace" missing limbs, sometimes becoming even more powerful than before. This also applies to all enemies with detachable body parts.
- Fluid system: vomit, blood, sweat, drool, acid, all sorts of fluids are simulated. Some applications of the system: stabbing a giant spider will apply the spider's poisonous blood to a weapon, repeatedly vomiting on an enemy could actually cause acid damage (if it doesn't kill you first somehow), bleeding enemies could be tracked, etc.
- Subversive political humour. I will leave this one for the players to discover.
-Difficulty- 10/10 or 3/10 (see description)
Almost all Roguelikes would rate 10/10 in difficulty in comparison to other RPGs. IVAN, however, is one of the easier ones amongst the genre, and has possibly the least steep learning curve. Hence, it is a 3/10 in RL standards.
Roguelikes generally have high replayability ratings. IVAN offers numerous different endings (if you actually finish the game) and almost an unlimited number of ways to develop one's character. The high degree of randomly generated material (such as map generation, starting stats, first available weapon, etc.) also adds to the replayability. While IVAN contains enough content to keep most casual gamers entertained for long periods of time, players who are used to more elaborate and difficult RLs like Nethack and ADOM may find IVAN a bit too straight-forward.
Considering most Roguelikes make use of only ACSII characters, the graphical interface of IVAN earns it a high score. The body part system is very well illustrated, as is the fluid system. There are also some very beefy and satisfying explosion effects.
No sound. It's actually better this way.
1. Violent death imminent
2. Left struggling with no working limbs, the player desperately bites the hedgehog, accidentally severing his own head in the process
3. The Anarchist Assassin
Though graphically unrealistic, the game depicts some situations that may be disturbing, including but not limited to: dismemberment, cruel exploitation of human beings, cannibalism, and sex.