Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Going Rogue - A Review of Two Roguelikes

It has been a long while.  I have been AWoL for the last little bit.  Minecraft has been eating a lot of my free time.  (I'm sure you all would be bored to death of all the different Minecraft mods I've tried out in the past few months).  Today I'm going to review two roguelike games.  What is Rogue you say?  Read on, dear viewer!

What is Rogue?

Rogue was a game released in about 1980.  It was a dungeon crawler.  Each level of the dungeon would have a 3 by 3 room grid.  The room sizes as well as the passageways between the rooms would be randomly generated.  Each time the player played the game, the layout of the dungeon as well as the location of the monsters would be different.  The graphics for Rogue weren't all that impressive.  The player was represented by the '@' symbol, and all of the monsters and items were represented by the same.  It often led to some hilarious forum posts for first time players. "A 'C' then started to chase me!"  Because of its popularity, many games have replicated Rogue's basic formula.  Some examples are Dungeon Crawl, Nethack, Angband, Moria, ADoM, and so on and so forth.  Today, I'll be looking at two modern spinoffs.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit

Sword of the Stars:The Pit (or SOTS for short) was released in March of this year.  It features many of the same features that Rogue had: randomly generated dungeon levels, random loot, as well as the turn based system that Rogue had (in the original Rogue, monsters wouldn't move until the player had moved).  SOTS provides quite a few interesting spins on the classic Rogue formula.

First off, SOTS is a science fiction genre game whereas Rogue was a fantasy game.  Players can arm themselves with a variety of ranged weapons, as well as things like knives, swords, and nanoblades.  There are also more futuristic weapons like a laser pistol, laser rifles, or even the powerful Meson cannon.

One major change is that the player is unable to see behind the character (there is a small black cone that stretches out from behind the character).  Many times, I have been caught off guard by monsters that managed to sneak up behind me.  Also, unlike Rogue, SOTS has actual graphics for everything in the game, rather than using alphanumeric characters.

Probably my favorite feature of the game are the computer terminals that are placed randomly throughout the dungeon.  Once per terminal, the character has a chance of retrieving an encoded message.  As the messages get deciphered, the player can learn lore from the game, random musings from dungeon inhabitants, or recipes.  For example, Message #1 is 'Remember to Drink Your Ovaltine'.  The best part is that the messages are saved even if the character dies, so that the knowledge they obtained is usable by all future characters.

Overall, I found Sword of the Stars to be a fun and challenging game.  Trying to survive on normal difficulty has proven quite difficult for me!

Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy is a game that is still in beta.  In Rogue Legacy, the player takes the role of a knight that is trying to find a cure for the King in a dangerous castle.  The castle is a randomly generated dungeon full of monsters, traps, and spikes.  Every step is deadly and could be the character's last (especially at the start of the game).  The character starts out with only the most basic of armor and weapons. The deadliness of the castle usually leading to the character's quick demise.  However, once one character dies, one of the character's heirs take their place on the quest, inheriting all their gold (and any upgrades).  So, each time a character goes through, they will gradually get stronger and stronger.  In addition to the upgrades, each character can have a class and a variety of interesting traits.  For instance, the Turrets trait makes the character yell out expletives (all of them are censored as @%!$ and the like) when they get damaged.  The colorblindness trait makes the whole game only show up in black and white.  Most of the time, the traits are just for flavor, although some can influence the size of the character and their ability to knock back enemies or be knocked back themselves.

One major variant from the original Rogue is that the game is entirely realtime.  The player must react quickly to defeat many of the monsters and traps in the castle.

I've tried out the demo, and quite enjoyed it.  I was able to beat the final boss after a few hours of trying.  I'm quite interested to see what other areas of the castle will be like in the final version of the game as well as any new classes or equipment that the final version will offer.  As of May 31st 2013, Rogue Legacy was 'Greenlighted' on Steam, meaning that it will soon be available on Steam.

If you are looking for some fun games to try out, check out these two.  They might just tickle your fancy.

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