I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I think it’s been a slow start to the year in terms of big must-play games being released. Although this has given me a good chance to catch up on some other games I’ve been meaning to check out, I’ve had an itch to play something new. This led me to do what I usually do in this situation, and comb the dark recesses of Steam to find rouglites that I’ve never heard of, and I wanted to give some quick impressions on a few I decided to play.
Necronator: Dead Wrong
Necronator: Dead wrong is an isometric, roguelite, deck building RTS game, in early access, where you use a refilling mana bar to play, buff and debuff enemy minions, who travel along set paths and auto attack enemy targets, eventually overpowering the enemy base and winning the fight. It borrows heavily from Slay the Spire in its use of a map system where you pick your path through a level that’s full of fights, shops and random events, culminating in a boss at the end of the floor. Stylistically it reminded me a lot of the early Disgaea games, with that mix of low poly 3D environments with 2D characters set against it. Tonally it’s also very similar, with a lot of self-referential humour and breaking of the fourth wall. To augment your run you build out your deck with new cards and passive relics that support your playstyle.
This is probably the game I’d recommend the least on this list, not because it’s bad, but because it feels super early. I did two full runs of the content available at the time (one dungeon floor) and I didn’t feel like I was being offered cards or relics that would dramatically change the gameplay loop. Two out of three character classes are still missing (presumably with their own starter decks and unique approach to gameplay) and there just needs to be more choices the player makes across the board. There’s certainly a lot of potential in this concept as I did enjoy sending a well timed wave of minions out to swarm the enemy, so maybe take a wait and see approach with this one.
Curse of the Dead Gods
This one caught my eye because of comparisons it was getting to Hades, which set my anticipation for this fairly high. I’m happy to say it’s a solid base for a roguelite with some unique mechanics and a punishing combat system. You play as a tomb raider who entered a cursed temple and now must fight for your freedom, killing gods and trying not to be fully corrupted by the evils within. This corruption mechanic adds an interesting wrinkle to gameplay. Every time your corruption bar is filled you gain a curse, which usually both helps and hurts you. For example, one of my curses made the gold piles that drop after killing enemies or smashing pots worth more, but also disappear after a certain amount of time. There is a maximum number of curses you can get, and the final one is much more punishing and will probably get you killed. Runs become a question of how far to push your corruption, because it can be used as a currency in certain rest areas or in order to buy stat buffs or weapons if you haven’t got enough gold. As runs get longer it becomes a real balancing act to push your corruption just far enough to get some good stat or health buffs, while not pushing it so far you get yourself killed.
Add to this a weapon system where you’re swapping gear with modifiers on the fly to construct a build based on the passives you’re accumulating, and a slower combat system where you’re punished for spamming attacks without considering how individual enemies will react, and I think this is a solid foundation of a game, and I’ve had fun with it even in its early state.
SYNTHETIK is by far the most complete game on this list, simply because it’s not in early access (something I wasn’t aware of until writing this, because I don’t pay attention). It’s a tactical, top down shooter with an emphasis on strategy rather than mindless action, which is embodied in a few different ways. First and most obviously, you can’t just run around guns blazing and not expect to die, combat requires careful use of cover, and playing to the strengths of one of the many classes you can choose from. Weirdly this game has a reload mechanic where you have to eject your magazine before reloading (losing any bullets left in it), which makes for some frantic action during firefights. I found this really unnatural and awkward, until I realised you can assign them to the same button which cuts down considerably on confusion.
What really has me interested about this game is the sheer amount of items and upgrades you can get as you play. There’s the classes I mentioned earlier, that range from a sniper to up close berserkers, which define your general play style and starting toolkit. These classes level up, letting you start with more or different equipment and perks. Then you have weapon and item crates with a good variety of options from what I’ve seen so far, equipment ranging from things like drones to different grenade types, also passive perks and a range of stat upgrades. You feel a good sense of progression and variety in each run, even if you specialise in one class. If the methodical approach to combat sounds appealing, this could be something worth checking out.