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The Roguelike Thread of ??? (Use to Identify)

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
NB: I have some minor sight issues so no bullet hell elements, crazily busy screens in fast action combat, etc, thanks. Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, that sort of thing is not likely to be manageable for me.
In this case I would recommend against Hades, specifically, if you were interested. That game can get pretty busy and chaotic on top of being an action game.

My recommendation is probably Chocobo's Dungeon. It's a little bit on the less mean side than Shiren from what I remember, but it's still got teeth and it's also pretty cute.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
Revival spell sent. Rescue requests are weird in this game... It just had me send you a Revival Herb rather than come get you like in past games. Let me know if I screwed it up...
I revived a rando to pay it forward, and I learned in the process that there are still traditional rescues somewhere in this game. It sounds like the dice towers only get herb rescues for whatever reason.

I finished the Tower of Fortune, and I get the feeling I've just completed the tutorial. Currently, my least favorite part of the game is babysitting Anime Protagonist: if he's dead when you move to the next level, you instead get whisked back to town. He's not bad as allies go, but the ally AI has never been fantastic.

On the other hand, I've just noticed the list of bonus dungeons in the house with the Sokoban puzzles. (I'm pretty sure it wasn't there at the start. Probably unlocks when you reach the Hermitage.) There's a couple dozen of them. Crazy!
 

Alixsar

The Shogun of Harlem
(He/him)
Any beginner-friendly recommendations? Been playing RPGs and strategy games for donkey’s years but never done much with the roguelike/lite genres.

There’s a few potentially suitable titles which I’m aware of and would welcome feedback on, along with any further recommendations which people have. Game pass has Children of Morta and Undermine, both of which look pleasant and seem potentially approachable. Morta has been there for a year so it might be leaving in January. Maybe I should try it before it goes? Chocobo’s Dungeon on Switch gets big plus points for the FF theming. Everyone’s talking about Hades. Tangledeep has a female protagonist and nice spritework. Dead Cells gets love but I’m not good at platformers so potential for frustration seems high. Shiren has intrigued me ever since I saw the write-up for the Vita version on USGamer; talk about leaping in at the deep end with bonus sharks. Touhou Genso Wanderer is supposed to be good but the presentation is unappealing and I’m not sure if it gets pervy. Moonlighter has the shop element which could be fun. I love Super Metroid so A Robot Named Fight could work out, though I enjoy exploring the lovingly handcrafted worlds of Metroid and proc-gen with one chance before deletion doesn’t offer that.

NB: I have some minor sight issues so no bullet hell elements, crazily busy screens in fast action combat, etc, thanks. Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, that sort of thing is not likely to be manageable for me.

Thanks.

Solitairica is a roguelike that combines Solitaire and RPG elements and it rules. I...think it's free on phones? It was free on Epic during the Xmas giveaway, but it's super low key and really fun. The essential "podcast", "hangover", "waiting for coffee to kick in", and/or "while pooping" game.

FTL is good too; you can pause the action at any time, and while the final boss is SUM BULLSHIT, it's really fun.

Dungeon of the Endless also rules and you can also pause any time. All about managing resources and positioning units while doing a semi-tower defense kinda thing. Has multiplayer too! Bring friends!

Dead Cells is great but if you can't or don't want fast combat, that is NOT the game for you. Hades is also bad in this regard, but there is a "God Mode" that might make it bearable for you? The characters/art/world is good enough to still recommend but it is at it's core a fast paced action game, so probably not the best choice.
 
Any beginner-friendly recommendations? Been playing RPGs and strategy games for donkey’s years but never done much with the roguelike/lite genres.

If you like RPGs and strategy games, you might consider Invisible, Inc, which is like a cyberpunk tactical RPG where you do stealth infiltration missions. It's not easy, but I think if you play turned based strategy games or tactical RPGs at all, it's building on skills you may have already developed.

Here is a 2015 Game of the Year list by Austin Walker with a long writeup about it.

Otherwise, I would say go with your instinct to try a Shiren game if you want a more dungeon crawly experience. They're good and definitely beginner friendly.
 
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Sprite

(He/Him/His)
I think Cadence of Hyrule would be my choice for a beginner roguelike. It’s not too difficult, permadeath is optional, and enemy patterns are easy to read. You can also turn off the rhythm-game mechanic to simplify things further.

It won’t last you nearly as long as harder and more robust offerings, and variety between runs will be comparatively low, but I think it’s a nice appetizer.
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
Hades is the only rogue-like I’ve enjoyed, after playing nearly a half dozen others and bailing on all but one. Having some level of permanent progression and especially a strong narrative made a huge difference. Most of the others were just help a mute guy climb some mountain or get an abused naked child through poop hell.

Are there other games in the sub-genre with a strong narrative hook?
 

frogbeastegg

Mostly, I read
(she, her)
Thanks, everyone. Lots of good suggestions. I've downloaded some demos and the handily free Brogue, and will see how I get on. Added some more to various wishlists in case of tempting sales. There's a few on sale already so I'll scrutinise those first.

I'll make sure to check those Hades videos. I'm ok with some flashy action games and not others. Depends how much stuff is happening, how the colour contrasts are, whether it'll require my peripheral vision to have enough time to react, whether I can use other gameplay tools to compensate.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Yōdanji is good and somewhat atypical. I wrote a little about it on the previous forum; I'll paste it below:

Kemco are an interesting company and development house. With a history stretching as far back as the early '80s, their status among enthusiasts generally does not reflect that vintage in equal measure. Known mostly for ports and licensed games when both are seen as less prestigious compared to original works, they are difficult to conjure up an elevator pitch for or something identifiable to latch onto. After several generation shifts in the industry that always come with their own casualties, Kemco are still around, seemingly weathering the storm the only way they know how: quietly and persistently, widespread acclaim and renown be damned. The last decade and more especially have seen the company pump out a dizzying number of derivative, low-risk RPGs--a niche they've more than managed to fill. Every so often, though, something different manages to materialize from this assembly line-like context.

Yōdanji is a 2017 mobile roguelike later ported to PC and Switch. Kemco themselves market it as a "coffee-break" roguelike, which is a succinct encapsulation of both the wider genre's immediate appeal and the ways Yōdanji plays with that formula to bring it even closer to the fore. What we've got here is a repeating micro-structure that involves delving into a 10-floor dungeon always with a set goal in sight: collect three scrolls along the way, use them for a ritual to summon the yōkai described in the folktale therein, and survive an encounter with Lord Enma to escape with a new ally in tow. Each yōkai enlisted in this way becomes a playable character in their own right; there are over twenty in all and each is a veritable unique character class in their own right, possessing completely unique skills and play strategies required to survive in their adventures. It's an incredibly compelling carrot-and-stick set-up that not only draws on the inherent one-more-go allure of roguelikes but puts it in a hyperfocus, thanks to the compact dungeon that comprises a successful "run" and the promise of a completely new toolset to play with upon that success.

The specifics of play also set the game apart from its peers, especially if we're talking about the Mystery Dungeon lineage and tradition of console roguelikes. Inventory space in games such as them is always a consideration, but something that's not always a pressing issue as pockets tend to be deep on a base level and ways to fold inventory space in on itself with storage items and such also exist. Yōdanji gives you a five-slot inventory--you cannot work around it through stacking items or having storage compartments. As the game's central loop revolves around locating and transporting three items to the end of each dungeon, you are given extremely limited space to work with, making inventory management and mutually exclusive choices not only beneficial but paramount to survival. It's not a static consideration either, where one item will always hold priority over another; different yōkai can be dependent on particular status-altering omamori amulets according to the needs of their playstyle, or require a different sort of restorative to make the most of their arsenal. And everyone gets hungry. Next to lucking out and coming across an actual filling meal somewhere in the labyrinth, the hostile yōkai standing in the way of the one guided by the player can be devoured for modest sustenance after death. Even in that interaction there are wrinkles, as a nekomata might desire to raise the dead as necromantic thralls instead of supping on them. Or maybe they'll simply store away the corpse, to be deployed at a time of their own choosing.

A signature mixture of convenience, thrilling danger and hard choices also come into play in how leveling is treated in Yōdanji. Defeating enemies grants no experience--instead the only way to increase a yōkai's level is to find an errant hitodama located somewhere on a given floor and defeat it, and there is always one and exactly one. They are often stationary, but sometimes enemies absorb them in turn and require to be defeated in order to free the prize. The effect this has is that despite the very objective-driven premise and ostensibly quick leveling, exploration is still a central aspect all the way through, but the rewards for it are doled out in transparent, concrete increments. Each gained level allows the allotment of one skill point towards each yōkai's four personal skills, each having four tiers of power to them in addition. As it is, each "complete" adventure will never see a yōkai investing fully in their potential arsenal as that's impossible by design, and necessitates only picking and focusing on what you truly need as with managing items. The background math, the moment-to-moment play, the statistics involved--none of these are complex in Yōdanji, but the simplicity of the systems belies just how engaging and carefully weighed each decision is to undertake and implement.

Like the game's sense of economy in its mechanical construction, that same sense of making the most of things thematically and aesthetically lives in the rest of the production. Yōkai are always an interesting subject to approach in media considering the wealth of material, tradition and personal interpretation to draw from, but they are often seen from the outside only. Yōdanji contains the flimsiest of framing devices the first time you start the game up--something about mobile devices, virtual worlds and mythology colliding--but in effect and practice this game casts its yōkai residents in the central, player-inhabited roles as well as the entire rest of the opposition along the way. It is about their spooky misadventures holistically to its core, from the evocative oral traditions attached to each figure you can read about, to the way they act in the game world itself, both as player-controlled entities and not. Kodama dwell in little clearings of wood and give rise to vegetation in their wake which in turn sustains them; karakasa masquerade as simple umbrellas before suddenly and wildly swooping on others; kamaitachi move like the wind and slash at the hamstrings of their victims to incapacitate them. This is a game that treats its material both with fondness and respect and the self-awareness to see that you can be both authentic and humorous in a sideways manner as the source tale often can be and are. Even the tutorial and interface text manages to be wry and conversational, like settling in for a session with a personable storyteller.

After dozens of sessions and attempts with the game, I've managed to unlock a grand total of one additional yōkai--the inimitable karasu tengu, nimble swordmasters that act like a "melee class" such as the starting kamaitachi but in completely different ways. There is a core of repetition and stymied voyages here, whether through one's own miscalculations or a bad bit of luck, but also those miraculous escapes and near-disasters in just reading a situation correctly or simply lucking out the other way. With innumerable yōkai dead and lost, what I feel for Yōdanji is not frustration or enervation, but curiosity and excitement at what it can still offer me. Yōdanji is a hard game, but it is not a hard game to like.

Yōdanji! I think it's good. It costs maybe like a fiver, and it might be on sale right now, because it often is. I recommend it for all spook 'em up enthusiasts.

On Genso Wanderer: I think you're right to be wary of it tonewise because it leans in on the kind of lightweight but undeniably present sexualization that doesn't do the series right, nor is the writing in general all that good. It has interesting ideas as far as enemy and encounter design sometimes, but much of that is rooted in casting the Touhou characters as roguelike enemies and skillsets so the appeal is a little oblique unless you're coming into it with that working context.
 
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frogbeastegg

Mostly, I read
(she, her)
That's Yodanji onto the list and Genso Wanderer off. I can eye-roll through some tame stuff if a game is otherwise very good and that doesn't seem likely to apply to Genso. I know nothing about the franchise except that there's a reputedly excellent Metroidvania which is on my game pass list.
 
Huh, I've been trying to find a rougelike on Android recently, looks like Yōdanji! might be exactly what I'm looking for. That five item hard inventory limit may be quite the blessing in disguise for me, all too often I end up with a horde of items that I never use, but if I have to choose carefully every time I see something it makes it that much more important to use every resource I find.

Definitely going to give it a shot, thanks for pointing it out.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
I've cleared the main campaign on Shiren. The final boss gave me a run for my money, but it wasn't so bad otherwise.

Now I'm on to the many, many side dungeons. If someone wants to try their hand at a rescue, I'm 3150-0990-0979, downed in Page of Youth 24F. I've learned that the tank enemies are bad news no matter whose side they're on.
 

Nich

stuck in baby prison
(he/him)
Fired up a new game of Nethack just now, and 5 turns in, the newt in the starting room had killed my pet. The newt. I wasn't capable of making words for about thirty seconds after that, just flabbergasted noises.
 

frogbeastegg

Mostly, I read
(she, her)
Got delayed on starting my genre investigation thanks to Microsoft doing another of those "get achievements and we'll give you free money" events which I always use as a nudge to work through some of my shorter games. 7 games finished; good result.

The Pokemon Dungeon demo is something of an odd duck. The first word which comes to mind is always "boring". The dungeons have boring layouts, the combat is boring, the narrative and writing thus far is faintly boring - and yet somehow it's all sufficiently compelling I couldn't put the demo down until it was over. It's a few days later and I keep on thinking about it, trying to pin down why I found it so appealing despite it being a dud on paper. Probably because it all plays out so swiftly, striking right balance between needing to pay attention and being relaxingly mindless. I imagine it will pick up in complexity past the demo's limits, which would be welcome. It has some real Tiny Text issues in handheld mode. That aside, I do very much like the graphical style and general presentation. Bonus points for the way Psyduck's stubby tail waggles as she stumps along behind my Pikachu.

I'd like to continue with this one if I can find a copy at the right sort of price.

Children of Morta got a tester due to game pass. After a couple of goes where I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue, it's hooked me. The early dungeons aren't complex but they do feel interesting enough to explore at a quick run while exploding enemies into showers of loot. A little bit like Diablo II. The combat wasn't doing anything for me until I unlocked the second character; archery and playing with spacing is more my thing than slow sword attacks and a shield which I can't seem to block reliably with. The third character is a lot of fun too, with dagger attacks which build in speed as I chain hits and dodge. With him I either win handily or die before I realise I'm in danger; attack readability on the melee enemies is not always great for me. Fortunately the flow of the game is pure roguelite rather than roguelike. Every failed run lets me buy an upgrade or two, or unlocks a new character, or opens up a new feature. Levelling each character unlocks global perks for the whole family, so even a lousy run with a character I don't enjoy eventually adds something beneficial. Better yet, CoM constantly adds events and story progression, so dying never feels like a time-wasting failure so much as a way to get home and follow up an in-dungeon teaser. It's a positive way to get used to the inevitability of death in the genre. The tone of the game is refreshingly wholesome for an "ancient evil breaks loose upon the world, go forth and slay" gig. Young, old, male, female, the family all works together without ego conflicts, are mutually caring, and nobody is discounted. When so many games still deploy dead or kidnapped family members for motivation, or leave the non-combatants forgotten past the intro, it's a change.

I'm still not sure about the general idea of needing to death-grind your way to survivability before you're able to win. It works here because of the whole setup surrounding it. In other games it could feel like an obligatory time-waster a la "you must die THIS many times before you can go on the ride".

I've killed the first boss and am making steady progress. I intend to finish this one.

Brogue taught me that I don't enjoy this sort of game without the convenience of a console's suspend mode. The more time it takes me to reach gameplay, the more pressure I feel to a) survive and b) keep playing if I've had enough. Shame.

Hades does look impossibly busy in places. The existence of god mode is both unexpected and hopeful; if I can't manage on default then a big damage reduction boost should be enough to let me play. One for later, perhaps.
 
It looks like Dead Cells is getting a lot of extremely granular customization/accessibility/difficulty options:


Very cool stuff, looks incredibly thorough and thoughtful. I haven't played it yet just because there are Too Many Games and don't think I would use these personally, but watching this video out of curiosity over lunch just because I'm a fan on granular menus did remind me that the game looks great and I'd probably love it if I gave it a shot. But, if you are someone who was interested but wished for some more customization, it looks like your wish has been granted.

Also, Into the Breach is getting a big free update:


The similarly positioned update for FTL was fantastic, so I imagine this will be too.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I actually just so happened to play Dead Cells last week, and I saw the news about this new update, so I opted into the Beta build to check it out. It's definitely pretty impressive how granular they made some options. That update also includes some early-game rebalancing, which sounded nice but since I never really played it before this, I don't know how drastic those changes are.
 
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