By Adam Smith on October 9th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.
I just lobbed a fire bomb at a couple of crossbow-wielding blobs but I got it all wrong and ended up on fire with one of my arms hanging off. Thankfully I’m a cartographer so I can quickly make my way back to a healing shrine using a safe path, essentially teleporting myself to the dungeon level’s spiritual hospital. Once there I found that there were too many enemies nearby, hunting me, so I couldn’t perform the ritual and heal myself. My arm dropped off. Doesn’t matter. It’ll grow back. I’ve been playing Epilogue, a roguelike that snubs orcs, dwarves and the like, and instead creates an ever stranger world, one that changes from level to level. There’s a very sizable demo here, and a video and more thoughts below.
Odd as the enemies often are, Epilogue isn’t a surrealist romp through the same old rules of the genre. The difficulty is striking. Roguelikes are rarely easy but, despite providing lots of hitpoints at the start, this one is harder than completing postgraduate studies in tungsten punching while swimming in lava. Then it gets easier…which is a strange thing to say, but true. It’s about learning the systems, realising that going down a level doesn’t necessarily mean being overwhelmed, because every level, even the first, has valuable things to discover. Play patiently and it’s possible to be an efficient and constantly improving monster slayer, but you’ll have to use all of the skills and items at your disposal.
Skills are based on class, which range from botanical cultivator to spacetime nomad, but every character also chooses a skill proficiency, so it’s possible to be a ranged cultivator, a melee cultivator, a shield bearing cultivator and so forth. There must be some powerful combinations but so far, with the wealth of options, I’ve just been experimenting.
Like IVAN, the roguelike I’d most like to see back in full time development, Epilogue tracks damage to different parts of the body, so limbs can become battered, broken and useless. ‘Gecko’ is a trait that causes severed limbs to grow back and that’s the kind of ability you’re going to need to reach the game’s end, not that I’ve managed that yet.
The other stand-out feature, and this is from just a couple of hours playing, is that enemies actually use equipment. Kill them and they will drop the weapons they were using and the armour they were wearing. They even have classes, which determine the type of equipment they use and therefore how they are best defeated.
There’s also a pantheon of gods to devote yourself to, bosses of varying ferocity, massive variety between levels and all sorts of other clever stuff. The interface is decent too, with mouse control possible for most actions thanks to context-sensitive clicking. There’s even an integrated tutorial!
My biggest gripe is that combat tends to throw up a bit too much textual feedback, splashed all over the bottom of the page and rather cumbersome to decipher.