Jim and John have been playing the incredible top-down sci-fi roguelike, Teleglitch. They really do like it. Read on for why, below.
Jim: Let’s have a chat about Teleglitch in this window.
John: Okay. I haven’t gotten very far though.
Jim: Nor has anyone! Probably.
John: Have you gotten far enough to have a save point?
Jim: Yes, I have the first two save points.
Jim: That took some doing. And I haven’t been able to repeat the feat on my Steam install of it.
John: I’m very much a beginner, still learning to run and stab without getting hurt.
Jim: Stabbing is crucial to success, I believe. And in the game! Because it’s saves valuable gun resources.
John: Indeed. I was all bullet happy the first few times. Now I am bullet unhappy.
Jim: I think the most striking things about it, aside from the brutal difficulty, is how atmospheric it is – do you agree?
John: Yes. And I think so much of that is thanks to the top-down line-of-sight thing. It makes everything much more intense. Also, it’s the first rogue-like I’ve seen that tries to tell a consistent story. What was it about it that grabbed you? Why this game?
Jim: I was eating food with Quinns and he said “it’s a phenomenon!” He wouldn’t say much else. So I had a play and was immediately grabbed. It could have been made for me, actually. I love hammy sci-fi, and top-down games, and difficulty.
John: And teleporting.
Jim: I like that it’s even more lo-fi than 16-bit games of the same ilk.
John: I like that I’m ignorant enough that the super-sciency descriptions of the technology make me go, “Gosh, that’s interesting.”
Jim: Yeah, the sci-fi is sold really well, I think. It’s just sort of weird enough to be plausible, like reading stories about quantum physics in New Scientist.
Jim: It’s really threatening, too, with the big droning areas of void and so on.
John: Yeah – the sound effects cannot be underrated. Especially the madness of the train noises.
Jim: All the effects, really. Visually it does some startling things with stuff like the weapon distortion blasts. It’s just beautifully made, in a way that a lot of games just miss. What I thought was odd, actually, was that I loved this but didn’t enjoy Hotline Miami, and I wondered if it was because in Teleglitch your death takes longer. You will die, but it’s seldom without a tooth-and-claw scrap. And there’s a lot of brutal improvisation with bombs and things to get past.
John: I’m exactly the same. I bounced off Hotline Miami as if it were made of spaceballoons. But was instantly hooked by Teleglitch. I feel like Teleglitch wants to be played.
Jim: There was an element of mystery on first play of it, too. I had no idea what to expect. And the game keeps that up.
John: Yes – I’m loving that the crafting is so smoothly implemented, not a fiddly distraction, and then allows me to be better equipped for my mad, scrambling panics.
Jim: Yes, even 3D games struggle to get across such a solid system of exploring, scavenging, and then piecing things together. I suppose it’s partly because it’s so simple, but it feels like a perfectly conceived system in a way that so few other games manage.
John: As you progress, do you ever get a greater feeling of stability? Even if it’s just enough ammo to feel calm for a bit?
Jim: Occasionally. It goes up and down, depending on if you waste resources by screwing up an encounter. But the game’s baddies escalate monstrously, and you have to do stuff like build a scanner that shows where ambushes will be, so you can avoid them. I’d say it just gets more and more tense. I can’t imagine what the final levels must be like.
Jim: It makes me feel weird that I will almost certainly never see those levels, no matter how much I might grind onwards with it. I can’t quite understand why I have spent so much time on it, either.
John: That’s what I wanted to find out from you. So you’ve no inkling?
Jim: I think it’s a skill mastery thing. I can detect myself getting better at it, and getting a little further each time. But only with sustained play. If I step away for a few weeks I have to relearn much of it. Often these days I have no patience for games that are wantonly difficult, so there must be something about the specific experience of the ones that grab me, some sweet spot of challenge and atmosphere. A challenge I want to best, an atmosphere I want to soak in.
John: For me, it masters something that so few games ever get right: when I fail, it’s all on me. And that, for me, is the incentive to keep going. When a game unfairly kills me I tend to think, “Right, I’m done.” But when I know it was my floundering fingers, I want to better that.
Jim: Yes, I think that’s down to the devs getting randomised content just right. They can’t rely on the player learning “this is where the ninja ambuses me” to get past a difficulty spike, so the fights have to be manageable with the tools the player has.
John: I really do wish that could be the case for more games – to take away the option for developers to think that we can rehearse a sequence before passing it.
Jim: Yeah, it’s bizarre, but I suppose inevitable given how people have ended up designing game as a necessary series of events. Blame Half-Life! Returning to Teleglitch, though, I think this proves yet again that games made with incredibly limited assets and resources can be just as compelling as anything made by giant studios. The realism wars are long over, I suppose, but games like this are just kicking the perfectly textured corpse As much as I think a lot of people will be put off by the roguelike brutality of Teleglitch, i can’t help but recommend everyone play it
John: It’s so odd, switching out of Papers Please to have this chat, wanting to go back to Teleglitch, and really not having considered that the graphics are lofi in the first place. I’m a massive gamewimp, but the brutality has only made me like it more. So I’d say the same, emphasising that if you’re usually put off by such things, this is the one to give a go anyway.
Teleglitch has been out for absolutely ages.