Tag Archives: Rougelike

Rogue Legacy review

The title very succinctly sums this game up: it’s a Roguelike with a legacy mechanic, and as such it’s an immensely challenging, nostalgic, and compelling action platformer, one that can grip you for hours and yet have you make little or no actual progress.

In Rogue Legacy you venture through a procedurally generated castle and its grounds, with each environment filled with their own monsters, bosses, secret areas and loot. When you die – and you’ll die frequently – control is transferred to your heir, with any gold you acquired being inherited by them. Your heir can then upgrade their manor, which acts as a skill tree unlocking abilities, enhancing traits and revealing new character classes, before tackling the forever changing castle once again. Rinse and repeat.

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It’s spectacularly compelling. After each character dies you’ve given a choice of multiple heirs, each with their own class, abilities and traits, some of which grant significant advantages or disadvantages. Colour blindness, for example paints the world in mono tone, meanwhile, dwarfism makes your hero small but able to explore otherwise blocked paths in the castle. And the wealth of character traits is terrifically balanced alongside a limited number of available heirs, meaning you often have to sacrifice playing as your preferred class so not to suffer the more debilitating genetic issues. However, traits are mostly cosmetic or hilarious, such as the irritable bowel syndrome trait that has you character comically fart their way through the castle each time you jump.

The procedurally generated castle and its grounds are truly deadly, filled to the brim with traps and foes that can very quickly reduce your health to nothing. Fortunately, upgrading your manor increases your odds each time you go on an adventure, boosting things like your health and armour, or purchasing new classes that may appear as heirs in the future, or even hiring a blacksmith, enchantress and architect to bestow you with additional armour, abilities, or temporarily freezing the layout of the castle.

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Indeed Rogue Legacy is a game rife with choices; from what heir to enter the castle next, what upgrades to your own castle to make, which equipment and enchantments if any to purchase, even how you approach the castle and its dangers. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses and as such play very differently from each other. The Barbarian for example can take a great deal more punishment than the Shinobi, but the Shinobi’s speed and attack power is greater, meanwhile, the mage has a large mana pool for casting spells from a safer distance, and so on. Furthermore, collecting enough gold in a run to do anything is a challenge, and once you enter the castle a new, your left over riches are stripped away. It’s impressively complex.

It’s also very difficult, especially with your first dozen or so generations. Enemies are numerous and fast paced, and the bosses are initially insurmountable. But as you make upgrades, learn new abilities, and become accustomed to the pace and attack patterns of your foes, you’ll make more and more progress before you die, perhaps earning just enough gold to increase your stats for an even better run with your offspring next time.

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Rogue Legacy is a fantastic roguelike with a compelling legacy mechanic and skill tree system that makes the inevitable short lifespans of your characters meaningful, enjoyable, different each time, and amusing. For some the frustration of achieving little on a run is going to drive them away but largely the irresistible charm of Rogue Legacy is going to consume you entirely.

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

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Ziggurat review

Ziggurat brings Roguelike procedurally generated content along with the twitch reactions of a first-person shooter, all inside a fantasy comic aesthetic. It’s Tower of Guns but with magic, and it’s brilliant.

Of course calling Ziggurat a Roguelike stretches the subgenre’s definition a little bit. Much like the analogous Tower of Guns, it’s more Rouge-inspired, with the takeaway features being permadeath and procedurally generated levels and enemy layouts. Additionally, Ziggurat’s setting is high fantasy, you’re an apprentice sorcerer looking to join a powerful brotherhood, in order to do so you must enter and survive the five levels of a ziggurat. Each level steadily grows in size and is filled with deadlier foes culminating in a boss. You must search the labyrinthine ziggurat levels for a key to open a portal to the next level which also reveals that level’s boss.

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The narrative is superficial and brief but does its job in setting up your driving force for entering the Ziggurat initially. Additional, nuggets of story can be found as scrolls within the levels that flesh out the world a little more but mostly talk of the dangers the ziggurat holds. It mostly fades into the background, but ultimately it’s not missed – after your first attempt the compulsion to replay is inescapable.

The primary hook that drags you in is how consistently fair each attempt at the ziggurat is – a remarkable trait for a game with procedurally generated challenges. Enemies are well-balanced to a predictable difficulty curve that’s easy to anticipate and prepare for, and the perks you obtain through exploration or levelling are a choice between different approaches to combat rather than the random empowering or restraining of your character. As such it encourages you to play differently rather than stacking the odds against you or overpowering you.

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When you level up you’re provided a choice between two perk cards. Often it’s a choice between increased health and increased mana, but as you level up further those choices expand to sacrificing health or mana for the other. Mixing and matching these perks essentially allows you to create the classic classes from first-person shooters – sacrificing mana for health builds you a tank, meanwhile, the opposite moves you towards damage per second (DPS), etc. and while your choices won’t always allow you to build towards the play style you necessarily prefer, asking you to adapt to a different style rather than relying on grinding or lucky dice rolls is a far less frustrating process.

You adventure through the ziggurat in first-person, starting out with your trusty wand and gaining more weapons as you search and find them. Each weapon is magically powered – sceptres, guns and more can be found and swapped out to fill your four weapon slots, each using a different pool of mana which acts like ammo to be refilled by picking up crystals dropped by defeated foes. It plays like a first-person shooter, with the nostalgic fast paced strafing action of titles such as Hexen or Doom. It’s terrific, intense fun.

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Occasional areas are subject to procedurally generated effects, such as increased or decreased weapon’s damage, character speed or fire rate. Additionally, there are traps to look out for and challenge rooms that pit you against a large horde of enemies or a difficult platforming and trap dodging challenge with a reward at the end. Indeed the ziggurat is a treacherous place, tempting you to conquer its challenges for those extra perks and weapons that might help you survive the bosses and their minions. However, if you die it’s back to the beginning.

However, by achieving specific objectives, such as killing a certain amount of enemies, other characters are unlocked for you to take into the ziggurat, each with different starting stats or wands offering a different experience and challenge. Unlocking the large roster and trying to conquer the ziggurat is a compelling experience for the completionist, but more than that it’s remarkably fun and satisfying thanks to it’s fast paced casting/shooting mechanic and fair procedurally challenges.

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Additionally, Ziggurat is a very good looking game. A colourful palette makes the dungeons bright rather than dreary and the particle effects for spells more impressive. There’s also a light-hearted philosophy to the enemy design that brings a smile to your face, with their exaggerated features and odd sounds. Furthermore, secret areas have a picture on the wall representing a game from developer Milkstone Studio’s portfolio, with text appearing giving a brief history. Meanwhile, the subtle shaking of the controller as you approach an edge gives you a terrific indicator that makes first-person platforming that much easier and quicker. Indeed, Ziggurat is full of thoughtful design choices and personality.

Ziggurat is a fun and accessible Roguelike with precisely the kind of refinements you’d expect from a modern action shooter, but one that channels the spirit of older, fast paced titles. There are occasions where the action becomes a bit too intense and the framerate chugs, but otherwise this is a spectacular dungeon crawling FPS that’s different every time you play but never falls into the pit of being unfair.

Thanks to Xbox for supplying TiX with a download code

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Hand of Fate review

Hand of Fate is wonderfully unique, taking on the guise of a Rougelike mixed with a Fighting Fantasy novel, Batman Arkham series combat, and card collecting. It’s a wide casting of the net, picking up a collection of genres, and they meld together remarkably well, enhancing the sense of adventure and the enjoyment of the experience through great design that’s fascinating to play through.

In a cabin at the end of the world you find yourself facing off against a mysterious figure in a strange game of cards. The deck is built from equipment cards, loot cards, monster encounters, story events, character interactions and scenarios, and boss encounters. You have a set amount of hit points, a basic set of armour and weapons, some food you consume after every turn, and a gold kitty. The dealer casts a set of cards on the table that act as a randomly generated map made up of multiple events, and each turn you move your counter through the map and face the challenges that arise from each card you step on. It’s reminiscent of a game of D&D but with the cards dictating the flow more so than a dungeon master.

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A card may reveal an Elven stranger who wants to aid you with increased health or wealth. Perhaps a stranger in a tavern wants to aid you with a new weapon for the small price of a conversation. Or any number of other unique scenarios may be revealed, offering you multiple choices as to how to proceed that can result in benefits or drawbacks. It very much feels and reads like a Fighting Fantasy novel.

Then there are scenarios that offer a more hands on encounter, such as a party of goblins that have stolen some of you gold and food. These events transport you into an arena where you must fight however many monsters the cards have dictated. These control very much like combat in the Batman Arkham titles, with a similar rhythm of attack and counter, and occasionally environmental objects can be used to aid you or used against you. Other scenarios transport you to a maze of traps for you to navigate, all the while affecting your persistent health for that particular hand in the game of cards.

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As you complete the dealer’s challenges, more and more cards are unlocked, enhancing your deck with beneficial equipment and events, and filling the dealer’s deck with deadlier encounters, curses, scenarios and threats. You can even modify both yours and the dealer’s deck, choosing precisely what cards from your collection, and that of the dealers, that enter play each game. However, the dealer gets to seed his own deck with a selection of cards as well.

It all comes together so brilliantly. The dealer is essentially a dungeon master, using his cards to create the world and fill it with challenges. Meanwhile, you are tasked to play through these mini adventures, never 100% sure what you’re going to encounter and when. It’s Rougelike but unlike any other of its ilk out there. It’s card collecting and arena combat but again like nothing else out there.

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It’s not entirely without fault, however. As exceptional as the voice acting and writing is, the dealer soon runs out of original material. Additionally there seems to be some audio problems with the dealer’s voice, sounding as if he’s topping out the mic occasionally. Loading times are also a bit on the long side, and you’re also witness to some judders in animation from time to time. Meanwhile, combat, though clearly very much inspired by the Batman titles, lacks the same smooth flow, so can feel inaccurate and delayed.

The aforementioned flaws, however, are really only nit-picks on an otherwise exceptionally good experience, however, some may find the repetition a little off putting: there are only so many cards and choices you can make before you’ve seen all that’s on offer. Largely though the repetition doesn’t matter, Hand of Fate’s innovative use of its mechanics and the terrific melding of its concepts is so different to play that anything else out there that it can easily transcend the flaws, and we can’t recommend this title enough.

Hand of Fate will be available on Xbox Live from 4pm PST / 12am GMT.

Thanks to Defiant Development for supplying TiX with a download code

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First Impressions Video: Hand of Fate

It’s time again for another First Impressions video, this time looking at the unique mixture of Rougelike, CCG, and action that Hand of Fate has to offer.

This extra long episode sees Video Editor, Greg Giddens, take on the first two boss encounters, whilst learning the ropes of what we believe to be a highly innovative, genre mashing success.