FYI: I'm using roguelike as an equivalent of roguelite in this post. I'm not here to debate whether there's a difference or not.
I hate roguelikes because of:
– The possibility of losing 30-60 minutes of progress at once
– Repeating 30+ minutes of the same content to get to the stuff you're trying to get good at
– Messing up in parts you know well because you're so tired of them, not because you find them difficult
– Randomly generated levels end up so generic that replaying the same hand-made levels could often end up more substantially varied
– Rooms can't be interesting because they have to accomodate random placement and choice of enemies; level design can't integrate with combat/encounter design in interesting ways
– Lack of satisfying gradual progress – either failed runs don't amount to much besides (maybe) a half-hearted participation award.
– A run can be doomed or made easy with pure luck.
But Curse of the Dead Gods has combat so good I can look past that.
The reason I love it is that it incentivises absolutely dominating, perfect offensive play. A quick description of the core gameplay:
The game's an isometric hack n slash.
Melee generally have combos ending with finishers plus a charged attack. Guns and bows require timing to shoot effectively – let go of the attack button to get full damage. Two-handed weapons and guns use stamina to attack. Finishers (last hits of a combo and charged melee attacks do too, as well as dodges.)
You have a main weapon, usually with the highest DPS and longest combo. You can cut that combo short with attacks with your secondary weapon – typically a situational tool that allows you to end your combo without using a finisher to make space or apply a status effect if the weapon has one. Secondary weapons generally have shorter combos, which ensures they can't replace your main one. You also have a two-handed weapon – with slow, strong attacks and probably a stun – but its attacks can't be mixed with the other weapons into a continuous combo.
I personally focus on the main weapon, using the secondary for specific purposes and the heavy weapons on very rare occasion, but the whole weapons system is very well thought out and the weapons themselves are satisfying and substantially different from one another.
Lastly you have a torch that lets you light enemies (no combos with other weapons though and light sources on fire. Light and darkness is important, since you take more damage in the dark and it's harder/impossible to see traps. Staying in the light takes effort, as enemies don't stay ignited forever and light sources can get extinguished or destroyed. There are items that make you slightly more powerful in the light and ones that make you substantially more powerful in the dark, too.)
And now we get to the core of what's really great here: the stamina system. Dodges spend stamina, but a perfect dodge (through an attack) refunds it. Combo finishers and charged attacks spend stamina, but chained kills refund it. Almost all attacks in the game can be parried, which refunds more stamina than anything else. If you're stamina rich, you can spend some on stun attacks to reduce the risk involved in timing a parry.
What that boils down to is: the enemies forces you to go on the defensive and wait out enemies as long as you're attacking effectively. You need to parry incoming attacks, but that's actually helpful, since they give you the stamina you need to wreck house. If you don't think you can pull off a parry you can dodge, but it's still better to dodge into the enemies.
In short, this game's combat has the offensive flow of Arkham Asylum games but better, soulslike stamina management but more elegant and offensive and the feeling on absolute domination of a spectacle fighter but more accessible. It's satisfying, it's consistent, it feels great to improve at and I have nothing but good things to say about it.
That's enough for me to find at least some enjoyment even in a roguelike, but the game's roguelike mechanics are designed better than in most games of the genre:
– There are 3 different dungeons instead of 1 super long one and 3 different lenghts of "explorations" (runs/dungeons/series of levels). This prevents the issue of replaying the same thing over and over to a degree.
– The randomness is very toned down compared to other roguelikes – the flow of levels is predetermined. Room shapes aren't very randomised – instead you can learn them along with trap placements – the game just randomises which traps are active and inactive throughout each run.
– Randomness rarely has quantitive effects – the strength of the items you get is predetermined, their specific qualities are not. You can only carry so many upgrades and one weapon per slot.
– You can pick which level you want to go to – one with gold, a weapon upgrade, a challenge, etc. That means even if you get lucky and get lots of levels with gold, there's an opportunity cost to going to them since you could've been getting more powerful instead.
– Curse (a stat that increases as you finish levels and pay with blood in shops; introduces negative effects or gameplay twists with both pros and cons) functions as a good back-up mechanic for the runs where you're unlucky with gold.
In general, the game randomises the options you have instead of presenting you with a lucky or unlucky situation and makes sure even the rare opportunities you get aren't overpowered, because they always come at an opportunity cost.
So yeah, that's a prime example of why I hate when people say "why would you play a game you know you're going to hate based on the genre?" – great games transcend genre preferences. I'm sure you have examples of your own.
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