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Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Tale of Two Roguelikes

The 2013 winter sale is at it's end, and what a sale it's been. I've got several brand new games half off, hand delivered to my hard drive and I still have a tank full of gas, no less. A damn good deal from where I'm sitting. But when it comes to Steam's achingly addictive blow out sales, I tend to learn something new about my gaming habits every year. Two years ago it was that if it's under ten bucks, there's a 25% I'll open it once and never touch it again. Last year it was that I love Civ V... but I will never rise above normal difficulty. Ever. This year I've come to realize that I will never not love Roguelikes.

It started with The Binding of Isaac and Dredmor, both wonderful games, and both played into living death by yours truly. Both absolutely worth your time, and both well under five bucks. I'll give you two to three weeks to savor and appreciate both their intricacies and difficulty. Ready?!!

And while I'm making demands, buy me this dredmor T. I'd never actually wear it in public, but I just love it so much.

So first things first, these games are not easy. That is the last thing a roguelike wants to be. They are obtuse, they are randomly generated, but most importantly, death is permanent.You lose focus in those games for a second and boom! Go back to start, do not collect $200. All your tangible progress is gone. That's the bitter medicine I've slowly grown to love. Though Isaac and Dredmor no longer slake my thirst, so I've been chasing the proverbial dragon all over "teh internetz" to find the next big thing in perma-death. It's taken longer than I thought.

Rogue Legacy didn't really work for me, though it's premise was brilliant. Every time you die, you choose between three of your children to take your place, all with random classes and traits. But once the appeal of playing as color blind mages and 2-dimensional rogues wore off, my pedestrian knowledge of genetics became my worst enemy. I mean, why can't I choose dominant traits? It was too random for me to sink my teeth into it and I lost interest. Spelunky simply bored me, I don't know why, but I haven't touched it in months.Which brings me to my most recant additions to my roguelike gallery, Eldritch and Delver.

I've heard of horrible geometries, but this is ridiculous!

Eldritch is an homage to the work of H.P. Lovecracft in interactive form. Unlike the other games I've mentioned, this is really more stealth based. Once you work your way into the real meat of the game, you'll spend most of it running for your life. It's fantastic. The sub-playstation era graphics become endearing after a short while and the sound design sets the mood perfectly. From the bored and halfhearted chants of Cthulhu's faithful, to the adorable "glug, glug, glugging" of innsmouth's hopping fish men, Eldritch has a decent sense of humor about itself. But wait until you get to the living statues that slam you into a wall when your back is turned. You'll learn to fear your enemies soon enough. I've already had a blast with his thing and I haven't even seen the new game+ modifiers. Which I'm assured is where the game really begins. Eldritch came to beat your face into your keyboard, I say it succeeds, but you just better hope that flying eyeball didn't see you yet.

So, what about Delver? For starters it's not technically finished yet. It's part of Steam greenlight, their indie outreach program to give up and comers some spotlight. But For the 2 hours I've already put into it, I've got a really good feeling about it. For one, it perfectly re-captured my nearly 15 year old nostalgia for that cross marketing classic: Chex Quest.

... you look confused.
You see, it wasn't simply a bald faced endorsement for low sugar breakfast cereals and the General Mills corporation, it was also just a damn good Doom clone. There's something about CQ that I'll never let go of, and it's something no other game has reminded me of since. Except Delver for some reason. The 2-D characters in a 3-D environment is big part of it, but the way the combat works and the way the camera moves just feels so... so cozy.

But if there's no fond memories for you there, the looting, leveling, and hack'n'slashing, will do you just fine for $8. There feels like hours of content in here and the 6 run throughs I've done have felt completely different from each other. It certainly feels like a finished product to me.

So there you go, two fine roguelikes suited to my tastes. Happy dungeon crawling.

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