The Pit: Infinity

If you haven’t heard of The Pit: Infinity, I wouldn’t blame you. Perhaps you’ve heard of the series of games that spawned this, which despite using the same series name they aren’t really all that related. Sword of the Stars was a mid-2000s space strategy game that was compared to Homeworld. It spawned a sequel several years later, and then a game called Sword of the Stars: The Pit, which I ended up buying back in the day off of As I had a DRM free copy, it ended up never making it to my new PC and eventually the game made its way to Steam where I picked it up again. It’s a traditional style rogue-like game with turn based movement and a variety of systems that made it a rather fun title, which is also why I wanted a copy on Steam. With that said, the day that I saw it on the marketplace and decided to buy it, there was also a new game of theirs in production and there was a sale for buying both at the same time. I ended up buying the bundle but The Pit: Infinity was still in early access. I tinkered with it a little bit but decided I would come back to it after release.

Well, I’m here to tell you that early access has come and gone. The game officially released on Steam back in November of last year, which I mentally noted at some point but it took quarantine to have the time to start playing some games I’ve neglected for far too long from the backlog. I’m here to give some impressions after playing a few sessions yesterday. The Pit: Infinity is essentially Sword of the Stars: The Pit but in full 3D first person shooter mode. It’s literally the same style of game, though it feels a little more forgiving than the original. I should also notate that it appears they have dropped the Sword of the Stars moniker from the 2013 game, and it’s now just called The Pit. Whatever the case, they are the two ends of the same coin. Both have rogue-like mechanics and account progression systems. Both use melee and ranged weapons along with a slew of skills that affect how you approach each run. Your goal is to get to the bottom of the pit, which is something I’ve never done in either game. Regardless, they’re both a spot of fun, particularly if you enjoy one or both of genres, also if you prefer a slower and more methodical shooter.

There have been some changes from what I can recall from trying this game about a year ago. The textures and atmospheric effects are definitely improved, but it still feels a little janky. The developers, Kerberos Productions, have made it their mission to produce A+ quality games with minimal overhead according to their website, so you can see where there ambition meets the budget and concessions are made. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but the animations aren’t the best and the environments aren’t very inspired. It does produce a sort of charm though, and because I enjoyed the source material, I still managed to find the fun in it despite it’s technological shortcomings. It’s just sort of hard to go from playing Doom Eternal to this and not notice the drop in quality.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. The first screen shot depicted the new character select at the beginning of the game, and that was a nice addition. I also enjoyed the fact that the put in a section at the start where you exit your space ship and actually have to fight some enemies before even entering the dungeon, which was a tribute to the original game. I also feel like the added animations for opening containers were a nice touch, though it doesn’t always seem to line up with how it would in real life. For example, when you’re repairing a broken cooker or other such crafting station, you kneel down and “do repairs” but the camera locks in a position where you are essentially staring at your knees while repairing delicate equipment. I don’t expect you to show exactly how I repair the machine but I should at least be looking at it to do said repairs.

Another low point for me is the UI overall. It’s pretty ugly. I appreciate my health/food/stamina bars being visible, along with ammo counts and my equipped items as well for quick reference, but it didn’t have to be so ugly. Parts of it seem like they’re trying to emulate The Elder Scrolls or Fallout with some of the menus, but it just doesn’t come across the same and I would have liked something a little better but it is what it is. I’ve played worse indie games. The gunplay isn’t fantastic, the movement is stuck between full FPS and the turn-based move-one-square-at-a-time gameplay of the orignal, and that feels weird, but after a floor or two it becomes less noticeable.

Eventually, you’ll go down floors, get new goods crafted and kill a ton of creeps. Some of these are obviously harder than others, and sometimes it’s a better idea to just jump down a floor rather than fight the thing that’s going to kill you, but you might miss out on needed supplies as well. I suppose it has all of the trappings of any rogue-like game you’ve played, but I applaud their dedication to moving their own game into a different space. Fans of the original will feel at home fast enough, but I’m not sure I’d tell you to start here, the original game might actually be a better place to start.

I managed to make it 6 floors deep on my best run, but ran into a little robot that did a fuckton of damage and I couldn’t seem to kill it despite using all of my remaining ammo. The rest of the run would have been difficult because ammo doesn’t come all that often, so it’s probably better I just died there. One comparison I have to make that is unfortunate is to the game Void Bastards which I wrote about last year. It does the same sort of thing, mixing elements from various successful rogue-like formulas from other games and puts its own spin on it, and I actually think it was a much better and more polished experience. I’d recommend it over this one, outside of die hard fans of The Pit.

Void Tyrant: A Mobile Rogue-Like

I should first note that the only reason I’m even checking out another new mobile game is because I’m trying to fill a void. SEGA Heroes was one of my steady games for the past year or so, but recent changes to the game left a bad taste in my mouth. As such, I deleted it. I’m also not really playing Pokemon Go anymore, but it is still installed. So, I was in the market for another mobile game to play when I’m not in the mood for Clash Royale. On a whim I went to the Google Play store and this little gem caught my eye. Void Tyrant is a nice mixture of game genres with an aesthetic that I can get behind. It’s equal parts Rogue-Like, RPG and Card Game. It plays from a first person view point, and is reminiscent of games like Dragon Warrior, along with feeling similar to games like Dungeon Master.

You’ll start the game running through a short tutorial, and then you’ll get your random hero. To start, you can only play as a Knight, but there are ways to unlock a Priest and Ranger class through gameplay. You have a starting town where you can do various town things, but the meat and potatoes of the game starts once your space ship leaves town and heads towards the end goal. You’ll be presented with a star map, where two planets are available to explore. Complete a planet and you’ll move on to the next set. Eventually you’ll get to the end of the line and I assume that is where extra bits will open up, or perhaps that is the end of the game — being a Rogue-Like, getting there will take several tries.

Combat is interesting. There are a variety of weird creatures, and of course bosses. As you can see in the pictures above, you have standard RPG elements mixed with cards. Enemy’s life and energy points are on display at the top of the screen, while your stats are at the bottom. You have a deck of cards, and they are used in different ways. Each combat you’ll play a card and it will have a value between 1-6. You opponents will also have cards they play, but they vary dependent on the creature. The little battery gauges in the middle of the screen will fill up based on the cards drawn. You can draw to a total of 12, so in a way this portion plays a lot like Blackjack. If you’re at 8, you might not want to risk drawing a 6 and going over 12, because if you do you will lose that round and take damage from the enemy. Conversely, if the enemy over fills their gauge they will automatically take damage from you. Each enemy also has a “sweet spot” where they will lock in their number and not go any higher. This gives you a slight advantage because you can typically go higher, but RNG isn’t always on your side. If you happen to hit a 12, you’ll automatically win and “overcharge” which nets critical strikes. The other cards in the middle of the screen are activated using your energy points. You restore these by making hits on the enemy. Cards can be direct attacks, equipment usage or modifiers that give you extra points on your gauge. I assume there are plenty that I haven’t seen to this point but the variety is there and does feel very fun. Bosses are a whole other cup of tea, they have huge life bars and take some strategy on your part to beat, but I’ve managed to do so a couple of times.

Of course, you won’t always make it to the boss or will die to him. Each time you die you get some rewards that help you in your next go. If you do happen to beat a boss, you’ll get a chaos key, multiples of these are needed to open up the pyramid at the end of the map. Afterwards you’ll be able to go to the next planet, and the gameplay loop continues from there.

So far I’ve only seen two forms of monetization. There are several times through your gameplay session where you’ll be presented with the option above, where you can buy the individual spirit needed for the task, or for $5 you can buy them all, which in effect makes the game ad free. Of course you can just watch the ads and still get the benefit of the spirit. The fortune spirit above gives you extra gold when you open chests (which are kind of rare but I’ve seen several in one play session). There’s a life spirit that will rez you once if you are to die, and then there’s a secrets spirit that helps you to get mystery packs of cards on occasion. I think it’s worth spending the $5 just to not have to watch ads. The classes I mentioned earlier are the ones included with the game as it released and as I said they are unlockable via gameplay. However, a recent patch introduced an assassin class that at this point is only available for purchase. Overall it’s not too bad of a deal, and honestly the ads aren’t so often that it’s annoying so you really can play and enjoy this one for free. I’d recommend it for fans of any of the games I mentioned above. You’ll get a kick out of it.

Quick Thoughts: Iron Crypticle and Sunless Sea

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while, and since I’m not ready to share some of my opinions on more recent titles (I’ll have posts for Fallout 76 and the Torchlight Frontiers alpha soon) I figured this was a good time to find something in the draft folder and post it. Honestly I don’t remember exactly when I picked up these two titles, but they were on sale at some point on the Playstation Store for a couple bucks each so I thought I would try them out. Sunless Sea was something that came out on PC first and I had thought about buying it a few times, but happened to catch this sale. Iron Crypticle is a low-budget indie game that just happened to appeal to me via its gameplay loop. Let’s dive in.

If you’ve played any of the twin-stick shooters or rogue-lites of the past decade, or even if you enjoyed games like Gauntlet, you will probably like Iron Crypticle. The game has a story premise but it doesn’t really matter. The main gist of it is a top down arena, set up as a series of rooms, making up a dungeon of sorts. You have the twin stick action, as one would control movement and the other controls your fire. There are some special abilities and limited ammo weapons but that’s really what you have to work with. Each room will contain a set amount of monsters that increase in difficulty as you progress. It doesn’t seem to have a permanent progression that lasts between games so I guess it’s not really a rogue-like, but it still feels similar enough. At the end of a dungeon you will face off against a boss, and then move on to the next level.

There really isn’t much more to it, but i like that they’ve kept things simple and it works despite that simplicity. If you can get this on sale for a couple bucks like I did it’s worth the diversion.

Sunless Sea has been out for a while as I’ve mentioned, and apparently at some point there was some DLC released, which has been since bundled into one package. This is supposed to be a captain’s simulator, but set in a lovecraftian world. It boils down to a bunch of menus to tell the story, give you missions, and present other random events. Most of the time you’ll be clicking through these, and then you’ll set sail to do stuff. It’s very sandboxy in this regard, where you get some breadcrumbs and can follow those or just do whatever the hell you want.

This one is supposed to have progression where certain things carry over to the next session, your captain’s memoirs if you will. It’s not an action packed game but is intriguing nonetheless. I’ll have to put more time into this to give it a proper review, but so far I’ve been interested to learn more.

That’s all I have for today. Have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow if you’re in the States.

Into The Breach

Sometimes a game randomly releases and you catch word of it without hearing about it prior. Into the Breach was one of those titles for me, but as the image above states it’s from ‘the makers of FTL’ (Subset Games) and that alone was enough to pique my interest. I added it to my wishlist and was surprised to find that on the same day my Dad randomly gifted it to me (thanks Dad!). I loved FTL and played the hell out of it a few years back, it really was one of the great “rogue-lite” titles I’ve played and partially responsible for my obsession with the genre. Because the tag has been so overly used as of late, it’s hard to say which sort of randomized content you’ll like but generally I enjoy the genre, its sub-genres and the variety that has spurned from it. That said this isn’t just FTL with mechs, no. Yes there are mechs, but this is turn based strategy. Tactical turn based strategy to be exact.

It could be argued that FTL had those sorts of elements, but it wasn’t really a TBS game. I’d say its strength was in its rogue-like randomization making each run different than the last. Here, you’ll start the game in your headquarters as a Time Traveler. You’ll have a squad of “Rift Walkers” that are your mechs, each having its own stats and abilities.

The starting isle has a training facility where you can learn the ropes. You’ll learn the ins and outs of combat here, and that is the meat and potatoes of the game. Progression seems to come in the form of unlocking other time travelers, color schemes and new teams of mechs to use during your runs.

The Battlefield looks like this:

The story revolves around these time travelers who are heading back to the beginning of an alien invasion (presumably on Earth). Your job is to lead your team of Rift Walkers into battle against the enemy forces. The set up is as such:

You’ll deploy your mechs on one side of the battlefield, and Vek will emerge from the other. Your goal is to avoid letting the Vek attack the buildings on the map, and they will set up to do so. You can use force to eliminate the targets, or use your abilities to push them away from their intended target, saving your buildings. Each map is set up differently, and perhaps this is randomized (that would make sense). You’ll capture back your territory, chunk by chunk, and some missions will have optional side goals that can be beneficial.

Eventually you will lose, but some bits of progression move you towards unlocking better forces and enabling longer runs at the game. I assume at least one of the squads will be locked until you complete a full run.

Overall, it’s a great little time waster. I’d recommend it, particularly if you enjoy tactical strategy, especially in bite-sized form. It’s $15 on Steam.

Has-Been Heroes

I caught wind of a flash sale on PSN this weekend, where a couple dozen random titles were pretty heavily discounted and saw one little gem that piqued my interest. Has-Been Heroes is credited to the same company that created the Trine series, of which I played the first two. They were fairly enjoyable-yet-linear adventure titles that focused on a trio of characters with distinctive abilities, and all of them depended on each other to complete the series of levels. This game has a touch of that same all for one and one for all sensibility, but repackages it in a completely different sort of game.

The game comes packed with a few different features, some of which I don’t quite understand yet. The Prologue is the tutorial that changes into the campaign mode after completion, and in true rogue-like fashion, when you die you have to start the quest over again. Challenges are runs set up with special rules, and I haven’t tried that out yet. The Epic Quest is also something that elludes me to this point, but appears to have something to do with collecting some sort of arch-portal things. You start the game with the three heroes pictured above, but by the look of the Heroes page, there are a ton to unlock:

I honestly don’t know how these other characters will be unlocked, but after seeing what the base characters do, I’m ready to try out some new ones! The game has a cartoon or anime style look which I rather enjoy, and the gameplay is smooth and responsive. This isn’t the sort of rogue-like title where it’s an Action-RPG level of twitchy fighting mechanics, rather think of it being more akin to Darkest Dungeon. Real-time and turn based elements are present, and at times it almost feels like you’re playing a rhythm game based on the button combinations pressed in rapid succession. Thankfully a much-needed pause system allows you to think out your moves at a more relaxed pace but at times you’ll still be feeling the pressure.

The cutscenes and intro were beautifully crafted and I imagine there are more to come as you complete runs or significant events in the story, but I could just be projecting what I would hope for. If it is only the little bit I’ve seen it’s a nice touch but more of it would have been even sweeter.

The tutorial plays out simply enough. The Monk and the Knight characters are the so-called “Has-Been Heroes” in that they had retired and were once again called upon by their king. You start off as a young rogue who wants to meet them, and heard the king’s call. You’ll learn the basic mechanics here and then meet up with the old guys who let you tag along to see the king. The king mistakes the young rogue as a fellow hero and lumps her in with the has-beens, forming your starting party. You’re joined by the king’s daughters who need a lift to school. They perform one simple function each: One collects coins while the other collects souls.

Souls serve the function of filling up a meter when you ascend to heaven. Upon reaching the prescribed number you’ll sometimes get a chest that unlocks items that will then appear in the game, which is part of the persistence or progression system for the game (a sort of typical subsystem of rogue-likes or lites of the modern era).

Combat is strange, but it somehow works. Each hero resides in a “lane.” Enemies will appear at the other side of each lane and slowly move towards the heroes. Think of games like Plants vs. Zombies where the enemies can only reach your side of the lane so many times before someone dies. However, the twist here is that only one of your heroes has to die and it’s game over. Kind of sucks and there’s a missed opportunity for resurrection spells, but it is what it is. Speaking of spells, each character has a starter spell unique to them, and you’ll pick up other spells as you clear the map. These can be activated at will, but have a cooldown between uses. Each level would appear to be randomized with different rooms that will have either a various encounter or nothing at all (we’re back to Darkest Dungeon themes here). Some rooms will have monsters to kill and others will provide a boon, such as stamina camps or merchants peddling wares. A key merchant is nice to run into, as most chest rooms require them. You’ll also come across gear drops that can help to boost stamina or provide other effects. Stamina is essentially the amount of hits a character can take, so it’s probably the most important thing to keep your eyes out for.

Eventually you’ll come to the end of the dungeon and face off against a boss. They’ll come with their own sets of challenges, and it gets rather complex using your characters to their greatest affect. Enemies have stamina as well, and you have to break through this “armor” of sorts to do damage to their health bars. Each hero does his own sort of attack as well, for instance the Knight has one mighty swing and the Monk hits two times but for less damage. However, damage doesn’t make a difference when it comes to knocking out stamina on enemies, so you have to perform combos. Let’s say the enemy in your center lane has 2 stamina plus health, you would want your Monk to make the first swing (let’s just say he’s in the center lane for simplicity’s sake) hitting the enemy for 2 stamina damage, then you can swap lanes with the Knight so that he can charge in and do maximum health damage to the enemy (oftentimes killing it). Unfortunately this isn’t always the situation, as enemies will spawn in all lanes and your heroes can only swap lanes during a combo. The game conveniently pauses after one hero hits, allowing any other hero to swap lanes as long as their attack gauge is full (this fills like an ATB meter – read: Final Fantasy Series). So sometimes your Knight will hit a high stamina enemy for only 1 damage, but then you can quickly swap your rogue into place and hit for 3 more, then swap in the monk for two hits for health damage. Once a combo is performed the enemies are either slain or knocked back to slowly charge at you again. Bosses don’t go down so easily though, and I have yet to clear the first dungeon. Doing so I imagine, will open up a new hero.

Overall I think it’s a rather unique title despite clearly having used concepts used in other games as building blocks for their own. I like what the developers pulled off here and I look forward to future runs! It’s on sale for under $5 right now, but I know the flash sale was ending soon so you may want to hurry!