That headline may be a bold claim but the only way I can imagine it being false is if you’re already playing Cogmind [official site]. It’s a sci-fi game in which you control robots that can repair and reconfigure themselves by picking up pieces of fallen enemies. It has a relatively friendly interface for such a complex game (you don’t need to learn a thousand key inputs) and even though it’s still in alpha, the latest build is extremely solid.Cogmind doesn’t come for free and buying into the alpha will set you back $24.99. That gives you immediate access and you’ll get a Steam key when the game launches there later this year. I haven’t played it since late last year, possibly having been tipped off by our very own coverage, and even though I’m buried in a pile of exciting new games (with more to come), I don’t think I’m going to be able to resist the urge to check out all the shiny new stuff this evening.
Recent work has focused on user-friendliness, with some optional changes to inventory management at the heart of that. The latest release, alpha 11, contains all sorts of new goodies though, including new items, weapons, robots and map types. What is already an extremely rich game is getting richer by the month.
Cogmind is a wonderful thing, carefully and intelligently constructed, and with a gorgeous ASCII aesthetic. Developer Josh Ge has written about his use of ASCII on the website for his other major project, X@COM – an XCOM roguelike – and I’m going to quote him because it’s not often I read a good defense of ASCII (not that it needs to be defended, IN MY OPINION):
“ASCII tends to appear ‘simpler’ to the untrained eye, but looks are deceiving–while ASCII is certainly a more abstract representation of the environment, the higher visual density makes it possible to tightly pack a much greater amount of information into a given viewing area, as well as more clearly present that information (a classic ‘ASCII vs. pixel art’ argument). The abstract representation is intentional, and comes with numerous benefits which we’ll get to later. Moreover, as you’re starting to see with the Cogmind interface style and content (and even art!), ASCII does not have to be ‘simple.’
“ASCII isn’t just convenient, its abstract appearance is also capable of being more meaningful to the active player, in the same way that reading a book is more engaging than watching a movie. At a game mechanics level a given object/symbol represents whatever the developer says it is. An in-game description, or even just a name, provides all you need to know, while details beyond that are open to interpretation.
“The style is not for everyone, but there are still plenty of people out there who enjoy exercising their imaginations while playing games (hopefully this will still be a thing in another generation or two).”