Bestest Best Roguelite: Hoplite Challenge Mode

The mobile version is more attractive but they're both beautiful on the inside

Hoplite was one of the best games of 2014 and would have certainly been in the running for a place on our celebratory calendar if it had been released on PC. It’s a fiendishly clever puzzler/roguelite that uses a small set of skills and enemies to create a tense and tactical battle of wits. Originally developed as part of the 7 Day Roguelike Challenge (it came fourth), the final version is available on iOS and Android.

Now there’s a new version of the game in development, planned as an entrant in the next 7DRL. It’s a Challenge mode, providing players with a random (?) combination of skills to play with. In the original game, skills are unlocked through progress and every run begins with the character as a blank slate. You can play the new mode here, now.

Unfortunately, knowledge of the base game is all but a requirement if you’re going to get the most out of the Challenges. If you don’t know what the abilities of any given build are, or how best to use them against opponents in various configurations, the whole experience will be short and not-so-sweet.

The key thing to keep in mind is that combat isn’t initiated by bumping into an enemy. A great deal of Hoplite’s design is a direct result of working around that tradition. Instead, your soldier attacks when it moves from one hex adjacent to an enemy into another adjacent hex, killing them instantly. There are four enemy types – footsoldiers with a melee attack, archers that can fire at distant targets but cannot attack adjacent hexes, demons that lob bombs and wizards that function like upgraded archers, able to frazzle the player up close as well as zapping from a distance.

Each map is divided into safe places and dangerous places, and every time you move the enemies move as well, rewriting the landscape. A strip of tiles that were previously in an archer’s line of sight might now be safe, while a bomb might have made another route impassable. There’s a chesslike quality, as you attempt to work out which spaces are covered by an enemy, and which ones will be on the next turn. The abilities that you’re given provide alternative means of movement and attack, but the basic principle is to control the board, ensuring that enemies are manipulated into positions of minimal threat and that your character always has available exit routes when the crowd thickens around him.

The Challenge mode is a brilliant extension of a remarkable game. However, I can’t imagine playing it if I hadn’t played the original – it seems like a means of extending Hoplite’s life for those who have mastered the main quest. Taking away choice of skills and progression makes for a stern test and having advanced moves available from the first turn detracts from the beautiful simplicity of the game somewhat.

One for the veterans perhaps but I’d be delighted if the Challenge Mode created enough of a buzz to make a PC version of the original feasible.

16 Comments

  1. Hypocee says:

    Dangerously inaccurate rule explanation. You kill an enemy by either
    1. Moving from a hex that is adjacent to that enemy to another that is adjacent to it, or
    2. Provided you have your spear, moving into an adjacent hex from the direction perpendicular to the edge along which it’s adjacent

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      Adam Smith says:

      Cripes – I swear I described it much better in my initial attempt. Edited.

    • El_Emmental says:

      Yup, and you can kill 2 enemies that way (like some kind of brochette) if you get the right ability.

      The player can also kill a demon by:
      – bashing them into lava using the shield (domino reaction is possible *and* hilarious)
      – bashing a demon into an adjacent hex of a bomb
      – bashing a bomb into an adjacent hex of a demon’s position
      – throwing your spear at a demon position (very rarely worth it without the spear return ability, since you lose the ability to charge them)

      Also, wizards are not exactly upgraded archers: they will not fire if their attack could affect another demon and their attack has a fixed length (that is not affected by the target) . The result is the following:

      The archer will shoot if:
      – you are not at melee range (adjacent hex)
      – you are within 2-5 hex
      – you are in their “kill” axes (vertical, horizontal, diagonals = + x)
      – there is no demon between you and the archer blocking its sight

      The wizard will shoot if:
      – you are at any range within 1-5 hex [better than archer]
      – you are in their “kill” axes (vertical, horizontal, diagonals = + x)
      – there is no demon between or behind* you and the wizard [worse than archer]

      * in the line of sight (x +) and within the 1-5 range.

      Such information can make all the difference in the later levels :)

  2. amateurviking says:

    Given the times and places I tend to play Hoplite, I am rather pleased that this article hasn’t triggered a Pavlovian response.

  3. jonfitt says:

    Hoplite is great. I’ve played many many games on iOS. It’s chock full of neat mechanics that make for an interesting puzzle.
    “I can throw my spear at him, but then I won’t be able to do the lunge attack until I can pick it up, and the ranged attackers are hard to catch without it. But if I don’t throw my spear, he’s going to throw a bomb and trap me on this peninsular. Aha! If I move adjacent to this archer he can’t shoot me, and the wizard behind won’t shoot his friend. Then I can slip past them both and chopping the archer and lunging at the demon!”

    • scottyjx says:

      Holy wha, this challenge mode is basically that to it’s logical extreme. If you remember most/all of the abilities, give this a go. Really hope they add this to the ios version.

  4. valuum says:

    Dont do like I did last time; “this sounds great, totally going to download it… later”. You’ll forget about it dummy, just do it now. It’s awesome.

  5. Cash at Folsom says:

    This is quite a novel twist on one of my favorite mobile games, although even as something of a Hoplite veteran I’m having trouble with not receiving the gifts as a slow trickle, as with the main game.

    Still, I can now play Hoplite in my browser at work, so that’s dangerous, and I’d forgotten how charming the lo-fi version looks.

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    teije says:

    This is one of the 2 games on my iPhone that I play – the other is the wonderful (if now too easy) Damn Little Town. A masterpiece of good, well balanced game design.

  7. April March says:

    The fact that I don’t get to play Hoplite any more is what I miss the most about the shitty phone I had. The second thing I miss the most is how it actually let me delete bloatware (which I suppose made it not so.)

    It doesn’t seem to load for me. Chrome only?

  8. elasticman says:

    Hey, so – while we’re on the subject of mobile games that I need to add to my wishlist, can anyone remind me of that undeniably-hideous-but-apparently-hugely-enjoyable-RPG-maybe-card-game-or-something that Alec (I think?) keeps going on about? I mean it really is hideous.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can make a lick of sense out of this question.

  9. b0rsuk says:

    How can I play the original Hoplite on my PC ? It won’t fit on my phone and it’s too locked to allow installing apps on a SD card.