Game-related ramblings.

Tag: Roguelike Highlights Page 1 of 2

Roguelike Highlights: Dungeonmans

Readers unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre, and possibly browse some of the other highlights. Also, as always, you can click on images to view larger versions.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a quick post calling attention to the Kickstarter campaign for Dungeonmans, a graphical roguelike with a decidedly humorous tone. Well, the campaign was a success and the game has now been out for a few months. I took a look, got sucked into playing a bunch of characters, and finally managed to win a game (although there’s plenty of room for more replays). Now I’m telling you about it.

Roguelike Highlights: Approaching Infinity

Readers who are unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre, and perhaps peruse a few of my previous highlights. Also, as always, you can click on images to view bigger versions.

Longtime readers may remember that I posted about Approaching Infinity over a year ago, when it was just finishing up its Kickstarter campaign. The campaign was a success and the finished product is now available from Shrapnel Games (the Kickstarter campaign funded the majority of development, with the publishing deal with Shrapnel signed later). I intended to write about the game sooner because I was enjoying the various pre-release builds that were available during development, but once I started playing the official release I couldn’t stop. I had to see what the next few sectors would bring, always afraid I was missing something cool that I would want to write about. Now, having reached one of many possible endings, I can take a break to tell you about it.

First things first: Approaching Infinity ditches the traditional fantasy settings of most roguelikes and instead casts the player as a starship captain, exploring new sectors of space, landing on planets, finding equipment and trade goods, and doing business with various alien races, all in a universe that keeps going forever, without limits. And it’s great.

Roguelike Highlights: Sword Of The Stars: The Pit

Readers unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction first. Previous Roguelike Highlights can be found here. Also, as always, you can click on screenshots for bigger versions.

I have never played Sword of the Stars. Apparently it is a space-faring strategy game of the 4X variety. The four “X”s in question stand for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. So really it should be 4E. Anyway, the 4X game is a time-honored subset of the strategy game genre, one where building up armies and conquering the world/solar system/universe/general area is the only viable strategy. There are, naturally, many ways to go about this, so these games are no less tactically rich despite their focus on military supremacy. In fact, now that I think about it, Master of Magic (which I’ve previously covered in History Lesson form) qualifies as this type of game, so you can read my post about it if you want more details about the sub-genre.

Anyway, I gather that Sword of the Stars (aka SotS) is a lighthearted take on the classic design, provided the roguelike spin-off game Sword of the Stars: The Pit is any indication. In the tutorial for The Pit, an obvious parody of a grizzled military officer taught me how to make a sotswich, which is of course “a fine, multicultural sandwich”, made from cooked meat and Tarka Warbread. When your universe has aliens who make Warbread, I suppose it’s not that weird to make a science fiction dungeon-crawling roguelike spinoff of your huge empire-building strategy war simulation game. But the tongue-in-cheek humor and science fiction setting are only two of many reasons why The Pit feels different from its roguelike kin.

Click below to read my thoughts on the game.

Clicking skill: 73
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Roguelike Highlights: Caves Of Qud

Readers who are unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction first. Also, please remember that you can click on all images for larger versions.

I first tried Caves of Qud many years ago, but I didn’t really get into it at the time. I saw it mentioned somewhere on the internet recently and decided to give it another go, and this time I really got sucked in. My posts have been late because I’ve been playing it instead. I can safely say it’s the most I’ve enjoyed a roguelike in a long time.

It’s tempting to describe Caves of Qud as a “post-apocalyptic sci-fi survival roguelike”, but that description doesn’t really do it justice. In most post-apocalyptic settings, the cataclysm is a fairly recent event, with survivors eking out an existance in the aftermath. In Caves of Qud, however, a thousand years or so have passed since mankind wielded its ancient, wondrous technological marvels and enjoyed dominion over the Earth. Various societies have risen since, but the jungles of Qud remain wild, inhabited by all manner of strange, mutated flora and fauna, and sheltering ancient treasures in the massive chrome caverns beneath the surface. Apparently drawing inspiration from the pen-and-paper role-playing game Gamma World (which I’d never heard of until now), Caves of Qud casts you as an adventurer seeking fame and fortune by exploring Qud and recovering these ancient relics.

Roguelike-like: Red Rogue

Things are about to get violent.

Readers unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre first.

I first heard about Red Rogue a few years ago, when its author, Aaron Steed, began a development log forum thread on Tigsource. Soon there was a playable build which I had some fun messing around with, but I didn’t stick with it for very long. Flash forward to last week, when out of the blue I saw the news that the game is now complete. So I decided to take another look. And my, it’s a lot more interesting now, enough so that I kept playing it instead of writing this post (apologies for the tardiness) and I imagine I’ll keep playing it for some time.

So what is Red Rogue? It’s a roguelike platformer. If you’re like me, that immediately makes you think of Spelunky, which I’ve written about before (it’s excellent, by the way, and you should definitely go play it). But while Spelunky is a platformer that borrows a bunch of roguelike elements in its design, Red Rogue is more of a roguelike re-imagined as a platformer. While exploring its procedurally-generated levels, you will find, identify and equip weapons and armor, you will walk into enemies to attack them, you will search for traps and secret passages, and you will slowly learn more about the dungeon and the rules that govern it.

Oh, and you’ll die a lot.

Roguelike Highlights: Iter Vehemens Ad Necem

New readers may wish to read my introduction to roguelikes first. Also, know that you can click on the screenshots for larger versions.

“Iter vehemens ad necem” is a Latin phrase meaning “a violent road to death”. The game Iter Vehemens ad Necem, known as IVAN for short, is a roguelike that is aptly named. Most roguelikes are hard, and end with the player’s death the vast majority of the time, but IVAN takes a special, cruel pleasure in killing the player in the most violent ways possible. A typical session might see you get caught in a spider’s web, poisoned by said spider, and left to die slowly, vomiting the whole time. Or you might get stuck in a bear trap and assaulted by a zombie that gives you leprosy, so you must watch helplessly as your limbs fall off, until the leg with the trap on it falls off, which frees you… but then you have to try and roll around without limbs and eventually starve to death. Or a kamikaze dwarf might detonate next to you, causing the wands you’re carrying to explode, blowing your arms and head off and leaving your corpse to dissolve slowly in a cloud of acid rain.

Sound like fun?

Roguelike-like: FTL

Readers who are unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction on the subject first.

It seems that everyone in the world is playing FTL. It’s one of the first Kickstarter games to be finished (although it was already under development before its Kickstarter campaign), and it’s captured everyone’s imagination. It’s easy to see why: a spaceship management game, which has the player shunting power to different systems and frantically ordering crew-members to put out fires, all while making Faster Than Light (FTL, get it?) jumps to escape the rebel fleet, is something we don’t usually see. The roguelike elements — the randomized encounters and brutal difficulty that force the player to try and try again — seal the deal. Best of all, it can easily be played with one hand, being almost entirely mouse-controlled. The only key needed is the spacebar, for pausing the action to issue orders, and if you’re like me you even go to the trouble of mapping that to a spare button on the mouse [EDIT: I had to use my programmable mouse to do this; the game does not actually allow for remapping controls] for a true one-handed experience (if you’re not like me, it’s OK; reaching over to the spacebar with one hand is still very easy).

Most who have written about FTL focus on the great player-generated stories it facilitates. Here’s one example; here’s another. Since I’ve already done that extensively for my favorite roguelike, I won’t take that approach here. Instead I’m going to talk about FTL’s design, and why I think it works so well.

Roguelike Highlights: Mercury

If you haven’t already, you may wish to read my Introduction to Roguelikes. Previous Roguelike Highlights can be found here.

I’ve been pretty busy recently so I haven’t had much time to post, but I wanted to at least write something quick about Mercury. While most Roguelike Highlights are fairly long and detailed, this one doesn’t have to be, because of the central premise of Mercury. It’s a winner-generated roguelike. Rather than being continuously updated by the developer, as most roguelikes are, Mercury instead tracks players’ high scores, and at the end of each cycle (I think cycles are two weeks long but I’m not sure) the two players with the highest scores can add a new character class, monster, or item to the game. Then everyone plays with the new stuff for the next cycle, and the new high scorers will get to add more stuff when that cycle ends.

That means that Mercury started off as a very simple game, with only one character class, one type of monster, and one item. Since then, it’s grown quite a bit.

Roguelike Highlights: POWDER

If you haven’t already, you may wish to read my Introduction to Roguelikes. Previous Roguelike Highlights can be found here.

I’ve been meaning to check out POWDER for some time, having heard good things from many sources, including comments on this blog. Originally released by Jeff Lait for the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS, POWDER has since been ported to Windows, Linux, Max OSX, Wii, Playstation Portable (although that’s an old version), iPhone and even GP2X. With the most recent version (release 117) arriving in December 2011, it seems that POWDER is still very much alive. Which is good, because in my time with it I’ve been quite impressed. Given its origins on handheld devices, I was expecting something fairly basic, but POWDER is actually a very deep and nuanced game that draws on some of the best elements of other roguelikes to create its own unique feel.

It certainly made me feel silly for being prejudiced against handheld games.

Roguelike-like: The Binding of Isaac

I’d heard quite a lot about The Binding of Isaac, but hadn’t had a chance to try it until recently. It’s a sort of mash-up of the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda with the independent moving and shooting controls of Robotron or Smash TV, spiced up with a lot of roguelike elements including procedurally generated levels and permadeath. And it’s made by Edmund McMillen, one half of Team Meat, the developers responsible for the rather excellent (and super-hard) platformer Super Meat Boy. So far, it sounds great to me.

The Binding of Isaac is also inspired by the biblical story of the same name, in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. And this isn’t a vague inspiration; the opening animation of the game explicitly shows Issac’s mother (referred to as “Mom”) receiving commands from God to first imprison and then kill her son Isaac. Terrified, Isaac finds a trapdoor to the basement and flees through it, landing in a bizarre dungeon populated by monstrously deformed enemies that one presumes to be Isaac’s former siblings. It’s all quite gruesome, in fact. Isaac begins by attacking enemies with his tears, but they can be upgraded to… other bodily fluids, and the enemies present a sort of grotesque menagerie of biological horrors.

Many players will be turned off by the, shall we say, “unorthodox” religious references, or the disgusting imagery, or both. I admit that the latter diminished my interest somewhat. But it turns out that The Binding of Isaac is a surprisingly deep and polished game, and while its themes may be offensive to some, they’re not just there for shock value.

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