Tag Archives: Roguelike

FTL (Faster Than Light)

ftl-faster-than-light-gameplay-screenshot-1Piloting a spaceship through the cosmos can be a challenging endeavor. Doing so while being chased by an enemy fleet all the more so. Add in random attacks from pirates, systems breaking, and answering distress calls, and would be captains will find their hands quite full. These are the sorts of things that players will have to deal with in FTL. It’s a sci-fi rogue-like where players command a spaceship, dealing with these aforementioned challenge. It becomes a matter of managing all of the SNAFUs while improving one’s ship, fighting enemies, and getting away from that nasty fleet.

The premise of the game is that the Galactic Federation has suffered a civil war and the rebels look poised to win. Players pilot a ship loyal to the Federation. They’re carrying data that could turn the whole war around, but need to get to HQ several sectors away. Complicating matters is that the rebel fleet is hot on their tail.

As such, players use their jump engines to warp from way point to way point in a sector. There’s generally no way to find out what might be lurking at any of these destinations, though. So players just have to wait and see when they get there. It could be a civilian ship in need of assistance, pirates waiting in ambush, or there may be a merchant eager to do business. All sorts of things could happen.

ftl-faster-than-light-gameplay-screenshot-2A lot of the time, though, it’s someone or something that wants to start a fight with players. As such, there is a lot of combat in FTL. Battles are actually quite involved, but thankfully the game can be paused at any time to issue orders. Ships have a handful of crew members that can be moved around to operate systems. When a fight breaks out, players may want people manning the shields and weapons. Any system with a crew member operating it will function slightly better than leaving it on autopilot.

As battles wear on, players may also have to decide if they want someone staying where they are, or risk a drop in performance because crew are needed elsewhere to repair damaged systems. A balancing act becomes necessary between optimizing systems, repairing damaged ones, putting out fires, and healing injured crew. Then you may be attacked by a boarding party and all of that goes right out the window.

All the while, there’s the whole matter of blowing up the enemy ship. Players will start off with two weapon systems, usually one missile launcher and one beam weapon. From there they must decide what systems to target on the enemy ship. If it has powerful weapons, it makes sense to target their weapons in order to disable them. If they’re trying to escape, target their engines. Different situations will call for prioritizing different systems on an enemy ship, and these may change multiple times over the course of a battle. Players can also control where power goes in their systems, so there may be times where it is necessary to divert power from one area of the ship to another in order to win a battle.

As one can see there is a lot to keep track of during a fight. It’s never overwhelming, though. When things get hectic, just remember to pause the game, take a deep breath, then get the crew doing what they need to do.

Victory often leads to salvaging the defeated ship for fuel, scrap (the game’s currency), and possibly new weapons. From there, players just need to send their crew around to repair damaged systems, heal up, then jump to the next way point to see what surprises might lurk there.

ftl-faster-than-light-gameplay-screenshot-3As this continues and players go from one star system to the next, their ship will get into a more and more precarious state. Fuel may run low, missiles might run out, the ships hull may be almost completely destroyed (once its gone, it’s game over). There is a lot to worry about. As such, later in the game resource management will become very important. There might be times where one can spend a few scrap repairing the hull, but that means not using the scrap for system upgrades. Increasingly, it may become better to avoid fights so not to risk the hull. Then again, if a battle breaks out, that may result in salvaging much needed fuel if victorious. Decisions, decisions.

If one successfully makes it all the way to Federation HQ after all this and defeats the rebel fleet, good job, that’s a win. It’s also one of the ways that new ships can be unlocked. The other is meeting specific conditions during a playthrough. In either case, it opens the door to other interesting, sometimes unusual vessels that can completely change the dynamic of the game. They all have their own goodies that help them stand out from one another. Some of them are really quite powerful.

Visually, FTL is very utilitarian. It has a 2D pixelated look to it that gets the job done. It’s enough to figure out what is going on and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is suitably space game sounding. It’s ambient electronic stuff that is common for games in this setting.

A session of FTL can be a harrowing experience. Between all of the combat and staying supplied enough to get to the end of the game, there’s a lot to keep players busy. Given the rogue-like nature of the game, most sessions will probably end in death. However, those times where one reigns victorious are immensely satisfying. They exemplify why Faster Than Light is such a great game worth trying.

FTL is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG, as well as iOS.

Downwell

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-1Boots have always been popular attire in video games. Often times they have special abilities imbued in. They might let players do all sorts of things be it walk on ceilings, or jump super fast, or run faster. One type of boot that never really got explored was one with a gun on it. Sure, it sounds good on paper. However, the practicality of such a wondrous device was always a question.

So, when Downwell came along it turned a lot of heads. It took a simple concept and made it extremely fun. Players would control their little on-screen dude as he jumped down a well, blasting monsters in his way with his trust gun boots. Gun Boots! They just make sense in a game that has nothing but vertical environments.

Basically, players want to get to the bottom of the well in order to win. So, from the surface they jump down and begin their journey. As they continue to plummet downward, the denizens of the well will begin to attack. Controls simply allow for moving left and right, jumping, and firing the gun boots. As such, players will leap from ledges and rocky outcrops, then either attempt to maneuver through all of the monsters trying to attack, or blasting them to bits with their boots.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2At first, things aren’t too hectic, but after a few stages the pace really picks up. Players begin to strategize on the fly, figuring out the safest path to fall, when to go on the offensive, constantly monitoring how many charges the boots have left. The last bit there is important because if players are trigger happy, the current clip of ammo in the boots will run out. When that happens, players won’t be able to shoot again until after they land on a ledge. At that point, the boots automatically reload.

Downwell has some roguelike qualities to it as well. Each playthrough, the stage layouts are a little bit different. There are themes to different sections of the game, which remain consistent (the first few stages are caverns, followed by catacombs, etc), but where the ledges, bonus rooms, shops, and monsters show up change with each run. At the end of each stage, players will also get to choose from three power-ups to help them on their journey as well. These can range from health boosts, to improved accuracy, bullets blasting out of bricks that are destroyed, and a bunch of others.

With each playthrough, progress points are accumulated and as milestones are reached various goodies are unlocked. Some of these give players new styles they can utilize in the game. For instance, one causes far more weapons to spawn in a run, but reduces the likelihood of shops appearing. Another gives players more hit points, but there will be less power-ups to choose from between levels. It’s also possible to unlock new color palettes over time. These give players all sorts of options for how their game can look if the red, white, and black default isn’t to their liking.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2Aesthetically, Downwell goes for a very simple, retro look. Stages have very catchy chip tunes playing, and the visuals have a fairly minimalist pixel styling. What it lacks in fidelity, the game more than makes up for in personality. The way players’ character waves its arms around trying to stay balanced on the edge of a ledge is adorable. Meanwhile the game’s shopkeeper comes off as quite cordial in a way that makes it clear he’s happy to take your money.

Since the game first released in 2015, it has gradually been ported to a number of different platforms. It is available digitally for the PS4 and soon the Nintendo Switch as well. There are iOS and Android versions, and the game is also available on Steam, of course. Downwell takes a very simple, but also very unique concept that makes for an extremely enjoyable experience. It’s great for both people who just want to kill 10 minutes and those who want to get sucked into a game and lose themselves for an hour or so.

Roguelight

roguelight-gameplay-1There can never be too many rogue-likes out there. Well, there probably can be, but if they’re good ones, then the more the merrier. Roguelight was released by Daniel Linssen a few years ago and it brings its own set of features that help it stand out from the crowd.

The game is a side-view action platformer. In it players control a green-haired girl exploring some caverns. As one might expect, caverns are dark places and it’s tough to see in them. In order to address this issue the girl is carrying a bunch of fire arrows with her. These can be used in a few ways. The most obvious is to fire them at oil lanterns conveniently strewn around the levels. This will ignite the lantern and illuminate quite a bit of the surrounding area.

She can also simply have an arrow drawn and use it to temporarily light the area immediately around her. This only lasts a short while, as the arrow will eventually run out of fuel and go out. At this point, it is only useful for killing enemies and players won’t be able to see around them anymore. Finally, it is also possible to fire a burning arrow into the ground or a wall, with those areas being illuminated for a short time.

With that, players do have a few options for how they can light up their surroundings.  Even with this, they still need to be careful, as they will only have a limited number of arrows. If one gets trigger happy and runs out of ammo, they are going to have to wander around and find more arrows.

roguelight-gameplay-2Once they do, they may not even have the option of lighting more lamps. They may have to focus on taking down enemies instead. The caverns have various denizens lurking about, some more dangerous than others. If our green-haired hero isn’t careful, she may be killed by them. Taking them down first will yield coins and extra arrows, though, so hunting these things down is well worth the effort.

Early on, this will be a big priority for players. Collected coins can be spent in a shop after each death. Here one can improve their character in various ways for subsequent trips into the cavern. Upgrades include items that give more health, extra arrows, enhanced arrows, and various other doodads that will make life easier for our green-haired protagonist. So, it will make a lot of sense to unlock things that increase the speed with which one gets coins. From there, go with whatever upgrades best suit one’s play style.

It feels like Roguelight‘s developer really likes the GameBoy Color. The game’s aesthetics are very reminiscent of titles in that system’s library. The game has a very lo-fi pixelated look to it with minimal detail, while the music and sound effects very much come off like something one would hear on Nintendo’s classic handheld. The simple look and feel certainly have their charm. People who are fans of these retro games will enjoy the aesthetic and it also enhances the sense of mystery in the game. It’s already hard to see much detail far off from the lanterns, and this simple 8-bit graphical style makes it all the more difficult to figure out what might be lurking in the shadows.

roguelight-gameplay-3At its start, the game will be pretty tough. There will be frequent deaths as players get a feel for things. However, once people have gotten the hang of balancing lighting their way and killing baddies, things should progress far smoother. From there it is simply a matter of making the game’s heroine stronger. Then she can delve as deep as possible into the cavern with a much higher chance of survival.

There are a ton of rogue-likes out on the market right now with more and more on the way all the time. Roguelight does a good job of setting itself apart from the crowd with its light mechanic. People who are curious about the game can download it for free at Itch.io (and possibly donate a few bucks to the developer if so inclined).