Dec 31, 2013
If there was any genre that took off in 2013, it was the roguelike. So many games felt like they took up this moniker, even if it was somewhat inaccurate. Roguelikes are typically defined by having permadeath and procedurally-generated levels. Beyond that, there’s the pure “Berlin Interpretation” of games that adhere strictly to the tenets set forth by the original game Rogue and others in the canon, as determined by a conference of roguelike developers who met in 2008 to form their ultimate definition. However, so many games have become roguelike-likes, employing roguelike elements to different genres, especially Spelunky which exploded on PC this year. Some people prefer to define the genre in a different term: procedural death labyrinths. This genre-free definition conveys the three core elements that these “roguelike-likes” share:
- Procedural level generation (i.e., generated algorithmically, not using fixed levels by and large)
- Permanent character death for the player character, though many games use continuing elements
- Environments with traps and hazards to survive
But no matter what they were called, it seemed like many developers, especially on the independent side, wanted to take their spin at these types of elements.
Why the genre wasn’t bigger on mobile is kind of baffling because it’s absolutely perfect for the platform. It’s built to be highly replayable and often features play sessions that are short but get longer over time as players get better. Why, then, has the roguelike revolution taken place on PC, and not mobile?
I predict that 2014 will be fruitful for the roguelike on Android. There’s already hints that FTL will come to tablets after its successful PC run, Sword of the Stars: The Pit should be on mobile in 2014, and it sees fit that Spelunky‘s got to inspire a mobile clone at some point, eh? There’s been some random Android games that work well in the roguelike mold, but the real breakout hit has yet to come.
Until that moment arrives, here’s a few roguelikes from the past year or two to chomp down on:
Quadropus Rampage: This is a great example of a game that is perhaps more inspired by roguelikes, perhaps being a PDL hack ‘n slash, rather than a true “roguelike.” It has the permadeath, procedural level generation, and general “dungeonness” that exemplifies the genre, but all in the wrappings of an isometric hack ‘n slash game. As well, there are plenty of persistent elements – from the boss Pete to permanent stat upgrades. It won’t fit the Berlin Interpretation, but it’s definitelya great game that adheres to some of the genre’s conventions.
Hoplite: This roguelike is extremely simplified, but it is quite fast-paced for a turn-based game, and is a great way to dive into the genre and its rewards without delving into the overly-complex elements. A great introductory piece.
Cardinal Quest: Another fast-paced roguelike, but one with a bit more depth and length than Hoplite. Still, it’s well worth checking out for those who want a good, mobile-friendly introduction to the genre.
Delver: This first-person roguelike takes some inspiration from Minecraft visually, but tons of challenge. It’s on PC as well as Android now, and is still expanding today.
NetHack: This port of one of the games of the roguelike canon has been updated from its ASCII art graphics to something a bit more visual. But hey, the original challenging gameplay is still here. Good luck with that.
Happy dungeon crawling! See you in the next year and the next life!