Way Down In The Hole: Sword Of The Stars – The Pit

Roguelikes! Everybody worth their salt is making a roguelike this week but the cheeky chaps at Kerberos jumped the gun somewhat and started work on their Sword of the Stars spin-off ages ago. The Pit is out now and can be purchased from GamersGate for £7.99 or through Steam for £6.29. There is also a demo, which I’ve dabbled with. It’s from the Dredmor School of Accessible Roguery, with chunky cartoonish graphics and what I think is a sense of humour. My roguelibrary has a sci-fi gap in it so I’m willing to give the lasers and spacestations a fair shake, but I’ll most likely end up craving something more complex.

The demo is here. It’s fairly substantial and, like the best of ’em, will probably leave you with a good idea as to whether you want to shell out for the full game or not.


  1. trjp says:

    In before the Kerberos hate?

    I like the look of this but if the demo is the same one they touted last year – it was a bit, erm!?

    • RobinOttens says:

      Sword of the stars has been on my radar for a while now, but I’ve noticed lately there’s some people bummed by Kerberos? Can anyone enlighten me?

      As for this permadeath randomized dungeoncrawler thing… I’m not interested, there’s better examples of the genre I’ve yet to play. But it’s cool to see them branch out I guess.

      • TehTR says:

        Kerberos made a pretty good but very buggy game in SotS 1, fixed it with four expansion packs and then got to work on SotS2. Then they ran out of money, and were forced to release a buggy, unplayable feature incomplete game… problem is, they didn’t tell anyone. Paradox touted it as a completed game that would need “some work”… unfortunately, it took over a year and a half and the game is now feature complete, but still pretty buggy.

        There are many things kerberos could have done in this case, but the one they chose was by far the worst. They should have gone out and said they were in financial troubles (it’s a privately owned and funded studio of some 20 people) and that they would not be able to release the game if they didn’t do anything. And then offer a buy-in beta or somesuch… at least let people that were not following development closely through their forums know what was going on.

        The game is playable now, quite enjoyable, but the original game with all expansions is “better” and I’d recommend that over SotS2 in its current state.

        • BTAxis says:

          That’s kind of a trend with Kerberos. Their games are usually shoddy at first, but then over time (a lot of time) they get polished into something great. I’m still holding on to the SotS franchise, because conceptually I find it much more interesting than, say, Endless Space, which I got bored with almost instantly.

          • AaronLee says:

            If you can say nothing else about SotS (and there’s a lot to say so,) the world has real appeal and great background thanks to the writing of Arin denbo.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          There are many things kerberos could have done in this case, but the one they chose was by far the worst.
          Let’s get some perspective here. “by far the worst” is what happened to Legends of Pegasus. What happened with SotS2 is far from being as bad.

          Another question is whether Kerberos could have “sold” SotS2 if it had advertised it as the beta (or even alpha) it was at release. I’m suspecting that they were this close to bankruptcy. I guess we should just be glad it all worked out in the end. (Not that they don’t deserve to be reminded about how they mislead us about the state of SotS2 at release, though Paradox is probably also to blame in this case.)

        • RobinOttens says:

          Thanks! That was enlightening. Now I know what I’m in for if I ever do buy one of their games.

          • Kaminobob says:

            It’s a bit worse than it used to be, actually.

            The studio had a few departures, and the remaining devs took the backlash against their choice of “release strategy” entirely the wrong way. They’ve basically circled the wagons, and consider any criticism to be trolling and spite, no matter how valid (Like, say, mentioning that the AI doesn’t understand how to Economy, or that space stations tend to spawn in the core of planets.)

            As a result, their forums have devolved to a cult of personality, and there’s little hope that they’ll actually listen to bug reports often enough to repeat their trick of spiffing up SotS 1 post-launch. The Pit is, by all indications, their last gasp to escape bankruptcy, and it’s a bit of a shame that it doesn’t do anything a free game hasn’t already done better.

      • frightlever says:

        I didn’t get burned with Sword of the Stars 2 (which is apparently playable now, though I opted for the Stardrive beta instead of picking SOTS2 up on Gamersgate at the weekend for a few pounds) but I did pay good money for the execrable Fort Zombie.

        (Stardrive – Stars!/Space Empires style ship design, decent map UI, fairly poor AI and boring diplomacy. They need to work on the general UI and AI and it’ll be a contender. The ship combat is reminiscent of Escape Velocity.)

        • caddyB says:

          Sots II is a decent game and it is lots of fun in tactical combat. Strategic layer needs more work though, and they are now working on making the AI play better. If nothing, the guys are relentless.

          It probably needs another expansion to be clearly better than the original though since the gameplay is much different. Or maybe because it’s so different there shouldn’t be comparisons.

          There is no reason apart from a lack of funds for not buying it if you like the genre. It works, it’s reasonably bug free and it’s fun. The game is also on sale almost all the time.

          • frightlever says:

            TBH that’s why I’m holding off on it. I didn’t like the demo for the original SOTS but three expansions later it was a different game. I assume SOTS2 will be the same. I’ve barely scratched Endless Space, Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy or the aforementioned Stardrive so I’m not exactly hurting for 4X games. Oh, and I re-installed SEIV to give the Carriers mod a try.

          • vecordae says:

            SotS2 is basically SotS1 with a prettier engine and several hours worth of bonus tedium added in per game to make it more “realistic”. It’s a playable game at this point, but is still full of all sorts of inexplicable, frustrating, and pointless design decisions. Some enjoy it. Many do not. It’s a playable game, but I’d hesitate to call it a “good” one.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            The standout features for SoTS1 was the much more detailed combat and the properly diverse tech trees. The tech tree’s just as interesting in SoTS2 and the combat’s even more detailed (although it’s now reaching the point where the insane complexity just deteriorates into a constant state of confusion rather than offering more possibilities).

            The other features were only standard or a little behind the curve for the most part. They haven’t really progressed from SoTS1 to 2, they’ve been rejigged a bit but to no clear benefit in my experience. And the optimization and user friendliness, oh how that has suffered. AI turns take a painfully long time to complete, the whole UI is sluggish to respond and there’s just menus nested in menues nested in menues everywhere. Just opening the fleet layout screen still makes my game grind to a juddering halt for a minute or so.

            That said, everyone loves the crap out of endless space but I still run into niggling bugs in that from time to time, so that can’t be a dealbreaker for everyone. And whereas in ES I was zeroing in on optimal strategies within my first half a dozen games, in SoTS2 I spent my first game nose buried in the manual and only partly due to the user unfriendly layout. It may be bloated, but part of me enjoyed it for being the first game to thoroughly confuse my since childhood.

        • dontnormally says:


          Somebody knows how to get my attention.

      • Trithne says:

        The Pit’s honestly been a good thing for KP – It got back some of the faith they lost with Sots2’s utterly terrible launch and the subsequent PR clusterfuck. (Having the CEO shoot down legitimate complaints with ‘You’re playing it wrong’ is not an ideal way to rebuild your image). It’s a genuinely fun game that was on time and actually works.

    • mouton says:

      You can just play the demo and judge for yourself.

    • Ashley_Hoskin says:

      what Sarah responded I’m shocked that any one can earn $9320 in a few weeks on the internet. did you look at this link… link to zapit.nu

  2. BTAxis says:

    I don’t really like roguelikes… Though I’ve had some fun with DoomRL due to the nostalgia factor.

  3. Sarissofoi says:

    Any good roguelikes with some graphics?
    I don’t find appeal in ASCI graphics. Sadly.
    Recently I play Rogue’s Tale and it is good but sometimes frustrating and not so complicated.
    Looking for something with more things to do but also looking well(SNES graphic level enough).

    • TehTR says:

      You might want to look up Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup an open source roguelike with fully implemented graphics (even includes a paperdoll system for your character) they’re not exactly high fidelity but a huge change compared to the original ASCII. Good roguelike system, easy to get into but hard to master.

      Dungeons of dredmore is a more modern take on the roguelike game, mouse driven UI instead of hotkeys, more modern graphics, but also a fairly simple skill/level system, but with many options to give it some extra life.

    • trout says:

      it might look like i just stole a link from the sunday papers and reposted it here under my own auspices, but there’s no reason to think that at all:

      link to indiestatik.com

      • JustAPigeon says:

        Try Brogue (linked in the page posted by trout). It is ascii but it is also gorgeous. And the UI is great.

        edit: replied to the wrong comment, this was directed to Sarissofoi

        • JFS says:

          Brogue is supercool. Even though it hasn’t got graphics, you don’t even notice that fact.

      • LionsPhil says:

        “Open source” is not “Freeware”, gruntle gruntle.

    • mesic says:

      Well, now that you mention super nes you can try emulating one of the best commercial roguelikes: Mistery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer, there is a translation patch somewhere in the internets, google it, its a little gem of a game.

    • Hypocee says:

      A couple of the Roguelike Radio guys consider Shiren the Wanderer one of the best roguelikes, in its SNES and NDS incarnations for different reasons: link to roguelikeradio.com

    • Moraven says:

      Console option:
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Not the greatest graphics but more than 2d top down sprites!.

      • strangeloup says:

        Baroque also has a really intriguing (and weird as hell) storyline. Very cryptic, and you have to do some rather unexpected things to properly progress — which you’d only figure out from experimentation or a walkthrough. Its quirky nicheness is basically why I think it’s both pretty damn great and not very widely known.

        • Dominic White says:

          Baroque also got a whole lot of really angry reviews from people who didn’t even know what genre of game they were playing. At least a few spent multiple paragraphs ranting about how terrible it is to lose progress on death.

          It’s really sad that paid, supposedly professional reviewers often can’t even identify what kind of game they’re reviewing.

    • Githian says:

      I humbly suggest Zettai Hero Project for PSP.

      • valz says:

        AKA, ZHP: Unlosing Hero! Very good game from the makers of Disgaea.

  4. jrodman says:

    Any acceptable roguelike features a thorough manual. Does this have a manual?

    • caddyB says:

      It does.

      • jrodman says:

        This manual is quite good. However, it is a bit handwavey at times. Is there a spoiler document that says things like.. what exactly does 1 point of might give me?

  5. solidsquid says:

    Question is, if everyone worth their salt is working on a roguelike then are you working on your own? Rogue Paper Shotgun maybe?

    • Low Life says:

      Rogue Paper Shotgun? That’s awesome.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      I’m helping out with Inside Out, a tale of eldritch domestic horror in three acts. There will be no weapons but one button makes the player character scream for help.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      You prepare to delve into the RPS Comments to claim the Amulet of Mij for the glory of Horace.

      Choose your class!
      6:Avatar of boundless rage

  6. Fomorian1988 says:

    All together now!

    When you walk through the garden
    You gotta watch your back
    Well I beg your pardon
    Walk the straight and narrow track…

    • belgerog says:

      …if you walk with Jesus
      he’s gonna save your soul
      you gotta keep the devil

    • Barlk says:

      Oh man, the 5th season theme song. I fucking love it.

      “Well I beg your pardon…”

      “He’s got the fire and the fury… at his command.”

      But I can’t go back. I *just* burned through the entire boxset. Maybe in a couple of weeks…

  7. mouton says:

    I am playing this, I really like it and for me it is much better than Dredmor. Dredmor was half-joke, this game is much more polished. Haven’t encountered a single bug either, after playing for 10+ hours. Also, it scales very well to my 1080p LCD in full screen – something that really surprised me.

    • El_Duderino says:

      Bought it to scratch my roguelike itch, and I really like it too. It is hard like adamantium spaceship plating or something though (and I have been playing roguelikes to and fro for something like 15 years). The sadorandomizer definetely feels like it has *all* the weight on “sado” for me. Died due to running out of ammo something like 4-5 times. Ate my own badly thrown nade a couple of times. Got caught in the the crossfire between 5 security bots and was instagibbed one time by just opening a door. Also died from the effects of nasty traps a couple of times. So far the difficulty feels just right, since I get a bit longer each time.

    • Resok says:

      Been playing the game heavily for a while now also and I have to say it’s a blast. Lots of depth and interesting things to discover. The difficulty level I think is just right, it’s quite punishing at times, other times quite rewarding. Have to watch your ammo, food and medpacks carefully and figure out what weapons are the right fit for the threat you’re facing (don’t melee a protean!).

      There’s a lot to discover from the crafting and message system and scrounging together odds and ends to make some of the stronger and more useful weapons and equipment is quite rewarding. Highly recommended.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    >”Retro” graphics with mismatched size pixels

    All of my pet peeve.

    Also, kind of offended that a 2D game that only has much to repaint at all when taking input is running the laptop hot when idle. FTL, for pity’s sake, is more graphically sophisticated but much less demanding.

  9. Captain Joyless says:

    I wasn’t impressed with it.

    It felt like a poor man’s Dungeons of Dredmor: vastly fewer classes (just 3), but still with the biggest weaknesses: the game is pretty much a slog with nothing but randomized loot. The levels are extremely boring and repetitive. 5-6 levels before you even get so much as a palette swap. Monsters pretty much fall into two categories: completely trivial and “you lose.” A large amount of damage is simply unavoidable, because you can’t use bullets in every fight or you run out, yet some monsters will inevitably poison/debuff you. This is balanced out by a generous amount of passive regen, but you end up with a lot of downtime after any significant fight – like sitting at your computer for 30-60 seconds waiting for health to regen downtime.

    I didn’t like Dredmor much to begin with, but this is just sort of a stripped-down sci-fi version. Back to FTL… still haven’t unlocked the Mantis ship… curséd Mantiseses….

    • guygodbois00 says:

      This. Sums up my experience with The Pit quite well.

      • geldonyetich says:

        Me too.

        At least you don’t need to worry it’s going to be rife with the bugs SOTS2 had; no, The Pit is simple enough that their skeletal crew of creators were easily up to the task of writing it nice, stable, and feature complete.

        However, if you’ve played Dungeons of Dredmor, you’ve played The Pit, only with a fantasy setting and a whole lot more features and refinement. The Pit’s overall RPG mechanics are a lot simpler, too, but this may actually be a point in its favor depending on how you look at it: Dredmor’s stats are actually a bit over-the-top bloaty.

        Oh, and there’s such a thing as dying of starvation in The Pit. So there’s something if you felt Dredmor was being too forgiving there.

    • mouton says:

      Frankly, I found diversity in Dredmor to be mostly superficial and I welcome the more focused experience in The Pit. General mechanics are much more fun as well and I love how brutal the game is.

      Oh, and you don’t have to sit there to regenerate. You can press ctrl+x and it will rest until you are healed, all in 3 seconds or so.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        When I press Control-X I do rest, but the HP ticks up very slowly, and it usually takes over a minute to heal half my health bar.

        Also, I don’t really think the game is “brutal” particularly once you acquire a significant amount of metagame information. And the reliance on metagame knowledge (recipes, deciphering) is a negative feature, not a positive one. FTL pulls it off because it opens up new “classes” for later plays, not items you can use in every play.

        • mouton says:

          Even with recipes the game murders you. It can become easy-ish at times, but then, blam, new wave of killer enemies or their combinations and you are in a serious pickle. And we are still speaking about “normal” difficulty.

  10. strangeloup says:

    I’ve just had a go of the demo and I really enjoyed it. The promo art made me think it might be a bit of a Roguelike Dead Space, which would be no bad thing, but more than anything else so far it reminds me of a Roguelike Fallout.

    Given that it’s fairly cheap I’m tempted to give it a shot. I seemed to click with it a lot faster than Dungeons of Dredmor, I think partially because a sci-fi setting is less common for Roguelikes, and the humour in Dredmor felt a bit like it was trying too hard.