If your tastes are anything like mine, then you are probably wary of games that are 2D and tagged as indie games. I generally am not a fan of games that look like something somebody slapped together and uploaded onto Newgrounds. However, Kerberos Production’s newest release, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, managed to be a very enjoyable experience with its surprisingly addictive gameplay and difficulty.
Sword of the Stars: The Pit deviates from Kerberos’s prior releases. Their old releases were more in the vein of space fleet strategy games, whereas Sword of the Stars: The Pit is a roguelike set within the Sword of the Stars universe. For those of you who are unfamiliar with roguelikes, they are dungeon crawlers that revolve around randomly generated dungeons, turn based combat, enemies moving simultaneously with the player, and permadeath.
Sword of the Stars: The Pit incorporates many aspects of roguelikes into its gameplay. The player is given one life to navigate through the game’s 30 randomly generated dungeons. As a player progresses through these levels, the monsters he faces will get increasingly more difficult, such as by dealing more damage, taking more hits before dying, or being able to inflict status effects. Players are given a wide variety of weapons, ranging from knives to laser rifles and gadgets, such as motion detectors, to deal with these monsters. Weapon mods can be found that will randomly increase a weapon’s power or lower it. After defeating these monsters, the player gains experience and level up, and you will be able to spend skill points on bolstering your ability to pick locks, hack computers, repair equipment, or just your combat prowess. In the generated rooms, players may come across chests and lockers to loot, data consoles to hack to either learn lab recipes or to find out more about the story, lab stations to combine loot or monster drops into much more useful weapons or utility items such as lockpicks, or even traps that are a danger to the player. These abilities, such as prying open a locker, are determined by their skill level, which leads to a percent chance to succeed in the action. Successful actions will increase the skill level of whatever governs the action you took.
Despite my apprehensions about the game upon booting it up for the first time, I found the gameplay very enjoyable. Three classes are available to begin your journey, and each of them provides a different experience. The marine makes combat a breeze, the engineer makes hacking and mechanics easy, and the scout is a combination of the two. While fairly simple during the first five levels, the difficulty ramps up after that, which made for very intense moments when I had run out of ammo and was facing three or four ranged attackers at once. The permadeath system also forces you to think about each engagement rather than Rambo-ing every fight. For example, should I stand still and attack the monster in front of me and hope that my bullets kill it, or should I attempt to kite it and hope nothing sneaks up behind me? There is also no better feeling in the world than succeeding in restoring a data console or opening a box containing weapons when you only had a one percent chance in succeeding.
The visual style of this game is pleasing to the eye. The animations are smooth, and the textures maintain a very sci-fi feel while at the same time being cartoony. The game’s minimalistic and somewhat eerie music further enhances the feeling of exploring an alien infested laboratory.
Although I think this game is very well done, there are a few issues that I have concerning the story and discovering lab recipes. To discover more parts of the story, other than what is shown to you in the introduction, the player needs to hack and decrypt information found in data consoles. However, due to the random nature of the game, players might come across data consoles infrequently. Even if they do, they might not have the skill or luck to hack them.
Discovering lab recipes is also very difficult, as it uses the same system as discovering aspects of the story. If your skill in decrypting information found in data consoles isn’t high enough, you’ll only be able to find out snippets of a recipe rather than the whole thing. Luckily, somebody posted a list of recipes found in the game in the community hub, so you aren’t totally crippled by being unable to find out item combinations. However, even if you have the right combination of items, you might not have the skill to craft the item, so items wind up being destroyed, which is incredibly frustrating if you combined rare items.
Overall, I’m very satisfied with this game. I didn’t think I would be sucked into the gameplay initially, but time flew by as I learned from mistakes and began to get into higher levels before dying. If you’re planning on trying out a roguelike or would just like a game to kill time, Sword of the Stars: The Pit would be an excellent choice, although I would probably wait for a sale, as there are other quality roguelikes on the market right now that are priced more competitively.
Available on: PC; Publisher: Kerberos; Developer: Kerberos Productions; Players: 1; Released: March 8, 2013; ESRB: NA; MSRP: $9.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.