HyperRogue, the non-Euclidean roguelike, is a mind-melting masterpiece

hyperrogue4

A pack of running dogs are chasing me. The ground is falling away beneath their hind-paws, and beyond them is a void that somehow curves toward a horizon stapled across infinity. The running dogs will never stop; they emerged from the womb with their legs tucked to their chests, and as soon as they uncoiled they were in motion. Their mothers did not miss a stride as they gave birth to them.

So goes one minute of my existence in the overlapping infinities of Hyperrogue [official site].

It’s one of the best games I’ve played in a long time, which makes it all the more annoying that I could have been playing it for a long time. The first version came out in 2011 and by 2015, it was available on Steam. You can still play for free, but since I got home from EGX, where I played it for the first time in the Leftfield Collection, I’ve already bought it twice. Once on PC and, because it’s the kind of game I don’t want to let out of hand’s reach at any time, on tablet as well.

As the name suggests, it’s a roguelike of sorts, but it’s not like anything else in the genre. It’s like a combination of Rogue and Chess at all times, and then at different times it’ll drip in a selection from dozens of rulesets and pop culture references. One area throws in Conway’s Game Of Life, another drops in a dollop of Dune. A few steps away, there’s Minesweeper: The RPG. Then there’s a watery area that reminded me of the old boardgame Escape From Atlantis, right before I fell into a Hall of Mirrors and created an army of me to fight against the narcissists.

hyperrogue5

It’s complicated. Or at least it sounds complicated. The truth is that if you can click the cursor on the screen, you can navigate HyperRogue without running into too many problems. You can’t stumble into a sword-point or the maw of a monster because the only way to die is by being ‘check-mated’, unable to make a safe move. You don’t have to worry about stats or hitpoints or inventories because none of those things exist. It’s all about exploration and understanding of the many realms that make up the world.

About those realms.

Put simply, the twist of this particular dungeon crawler is that the dungeons you’re crawling through are hyperbolic realms that exist in non-Euclidean forms. If I were to put that not simply, I’d fall off my chair and lie under the desk for a while wondering if I were thinking about a game or a degree in Advanced Spatiomathematics. Hyperbolic spaces are very complicated and I don’t understand them at all.

hyperrogue3

HyperRogue does the most wonderful thing that a game can do; it gives me enjoyable, clear objectives, a world to explore and adventures that take me across that world, and it does all the difficult and boring stuff on my behalf. Essentially, that’s so often what I want from a game. Cities: Skylines is building blocks with rules and systems attached that make the building blocks more exciting to play with, and graphics that make them more attractive to look at. GTA is a box of dinky cars and action figures that have a life of their own – an 18 certificate Toy Story rather than the crime drama epic it sometimes pretends to be.

This game is a completely new reality, with laws of physics that I’ll never be able to wrap my head around, but it’s also a game about hitting trolls and goblins and all sorts of other creatures. There’s a palace to steal treasure from and there are oceans to sail across, fighting pirates and vikings as you go. You’ll find powerful magic and unstoppable monstrosities, and you’ll do it all without thinking about maths and without ever understanding what this jumble of letters means:

For any given line R and point P not on R, in the plane containing both line R and point P there are at least two distinct lines through P that do not intersect R.

Presumably somebody somewhere knows what that means – it’s the rule that replaces the parallel postulate of Euclidean geometry when dealing with hyperbolic geometry – but I never will and even though I’ve been playing a non-Euclidean game for the past few days, I don’t have to. That is the beauty of computers and brilliant game designers; they do not require me to understand everything about a game, they merely require me to engage.

hyperrogue2

The menus are the only thing I don’t like in HyperRogue. They’re completely devoid of personality and make me feel like I’m logging into a job. That’s a shame because it dissuades me from playing with the different visual modes that show new perspectives on hyperbolic geometry. But it’s a small complaint given how lovely everything else is. It’s clever, unique and packed with stuff to see. There have been loads of updates and additions over the years, and I don’t feel like I’ll ever discover every secret and trick.

If you’re at all interested, go and play the free version. You’ll most likely be surprised when you realise HyperRogue has made you laugh before it’s made you furrow your brow in deep thought. Right click everything to read the witty little descriptions of monsters and items. This is a very clever game that realises how ridiculous its entire conceit is, and it refuses to be boring, always changing the rules and concealing entire worlds in the gap between one step and the next.

hyperrogue1

It’s also strangely beautiful at times. Watching those dogs, the world crumbling behind them, I looked to the horizon while plotting an escape route and the impossibility of its curvature filled me with dread. But I wanted to go there all the same.

You can download HyperRogue for free, or buy it through Steam (£3.99) or itch.io (name your price). The paid versions are updated more frequently and contain leaderboards, achievements and other bits and bobs.

34 Comments

  1. LTK says:

    It’s about time Hyperrogue got featured on RPS! It’s an absolutely captivating game, and it has been since the beginning.

    Hyperbolic planes aren’t that complicated though. It’s basically like a leaf of lettuce, which is flat at the base and frilled at the edge. The leaf grows from the middle faster than it grows from the edges, and as a result you can’t press it down on a flat surface without folding it. In hyperbolic space, however, you could press it perfectly flat.

    The coolest practical result is that, unlike an euclidian plane, it’s almost impossible to return to your starting point on a hyperbolic plane. If you started to draw two parallel lines on a hyperbolic plane, instead of remaining parallel they would diverge towards infinity almost immediately. In Hyperrogue, this means that you can walk around what subjectively feels like a small area, and never ever see the same place twice, because every direction you choose brings you exponentially further away from everything else.

    It’s been years since I played it but I used to start it up regularly for some mind-bending roguelike action. I wonder what’s changed recently.

    • LTK says:

      I just remembered how cleverly it illustrates the hyperbolic geometry with the walls that separate different biomes. Every wall is perfectly straight, and infinite, yet at no point do two walls intersect. (This is what “line R and point P not on line R ” etc. really means.) Naturally, this also means that every biome is infinite, since its borders can in no way connect. Yet you can traverse dozens of these infinite biomes in just ten minutes. Isn’t that crazy?

    • Mr. Mister says:

      I’ve had the game on android for some years now, and still haven’t managed to beat it completely once. I really like it.

      For those curious how the hyperplane is simulated, look at the screenshots – the game is played on a grid of hexagonal and heptagonal tiles, where each heptagonal tile is surrounded by hexagonal tiles, and each hexagonal tile is surrounded by alternating hexagonal and heptagonal tiles.

      Compared to an euclidean plane of only hexagonal tiles, and simplifying things, this makes its circles of the same radius contain more area than their euclidean equivalents. Think as if you were always at the center of a (Fourier’s? Can’t remember) disc.

      Also I despise the maelstorm, pairing turtles, and the stirped grey land with many dogs and half the floor tiles collapsible.

  2. nogglebeak says:

    “Roguelike is a term used to describe a subgenre of role-playing video games that are characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated game levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and permanent death of the player-character. Most roguelikes are based on a high fantasy narrative, reflecting their influence from tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.”

    Really irks me the constant misuse of the term. I have a feeling it’s only misused by people who have never actually played a Rogue-like, let alone Rogue.

    • Nelyeth says:

      Or, mayyyybe it’s used by people that care more about the usual meaning than the strict definition. A word’s meaning isn’t an absolute truth, and it evolves based on the way it’s used. Also, I bet Adam’s played more than his share of (quote-unquote) roguelikes, roguelites, rougelikelite and the like, so why would you even make that last point ?

      Now be a deary and be excellent. Didn’t you read the rules ?

      • notponies says:

        Also, if we want to consider the roguelike/roguelite thing in general:

        This video is about the burgeoning “Soulslike” genre but it also mentions the roguelike labelling controversy. To boil things down, insisting a game is a roguelike only if it follows the Berlin Interpretation is like saying a game is an FPS only if it has keycard hunting.

        As an aside, I used to lurk on the roguelike development newsgroup around the time the Berlin Interpretation was drawn up, and at the time everyone was heavily inspired by NetHack specifically (while I was a poor Angband player…). I can’t help but believe that had an impact on what made it into the Berlin Interpretation.

    • arienette says:

      Yes yes, we know. It’s all a bit tiresome now. Your life might be easier if you stopped letting this little thing bother you.

    • Landiss says:

      This game is kind of role-playing, has procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics (if tile doesn’t have to be square) and permanent death. What’s the issue exactly?

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Hyperrogue fits all of these criteria, besides the “role-playing” (in the class-based sense, obviously not the narrative sense, which has nothing to do with roguelikes).

    • JigglyNaga says:

      Roguelike is a term used to describe a subgenre of role-playing video games that are characterized by […] tile-based graphics

      What, they only count when they’re played with tiles? ASCII till I die!

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      I absolutely agree that roguelites are a different genre than roguelikes, just for classification purposes, but Hyperrogue fits your definition perfectly, so I’m not sure what your issue is.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Fortunately, you care so much that nobody else has to.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      It’s “rogue-like”, not “rogue-exactly”. Although the game name includes the word “rogue” in it, the game description states “The game is inspired by the roguelike genre (although in a very minimalist way)”. I find it’s a helpful descriptor of the type of gameplay to expect, but it should be noted that we rarely see it alone without any other descriptors. This is why “action rogue-like” is perfectly valid, just as “acid rock” is technically not the same as “rock”.

      Ultimately genre names are pretty soft and malleable, making them terrible absolute terms. But the goal is to communicate ideas, and it’s doing it just fine here as long as it’s not the only word being used.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Hey did you know World of Warcraft is a rogue-like

  3. Bobtree says:

    Hydra Slayer is worth a look too. It’s another very strange roguelike from the same developer with math-puzzle combat mechanics. Hyper Rogue is a nice, weird diversion, but Hydra Slayer devoured 30 hours and I could play a lot more of it.

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    Is there a non-Euclidean FPS? I’d play a non-Euclidean FPS.

  5. Premium User Badge

    jssebastian says:

    The running dogs will never stop; they emerged from the womb with their legs tucked to their chests, and as soon as they uncoiled they were in motion. Their mothers did not miss a stride as they gave birth to them.

    those are some nice words… though it remains a mystery from rest of article if they really have something to do with the game or you were just feeling a bit literary…

    • kalzekdor says:

      The dogs are from the Land of Eternal Motion, where the ground breaks away after anything steps on it. In gameplay terms, you’re unable to pass your turn (which is really your staple offensive action), as well as being unable to step anywhere either you or any (ground-based) enemy have been. Fortunately, the Land of Eternal Motion doesn’t have any native flying enemies, but don’t let some from other realms follow you in, or you’re gonna have a bad time.

  6. TheBetterStory says:

    This feels like it could have been a Wot I Think.

  7. willow731 says:

    I read this article yesterday, was intrigued, tried the free version, then went and bought the game. Spent the rest of the evening and half the night playing it. Wonderful game. Thanks!

  8. kalzekdor says:

    It’s also available for Android, for all your portable inter-dimemsional travel needs.

    • kalzekdor says:

      Oh, and some quick tips: Collecting 10 of a Realm’s unique treasure unlocks that Realm’s Orb (consumable pickup that has a specific benefit, either a one-off or for a duration), allowing it to spawn both within that Realm, as well as the Crossroads. Collecting 25 of a Realm’s treasure also allows that Orb to spawn in
      other
      realms. Careful, though, the difficulty of any specific Realm is proportional to the amount of that Realm’s treasure you have.

  9. bonuswavepilot says:

    Between this video and hearing about this on the pods recently, I really like the concept of this, but watching it in motion makes my eyeballs squirm.

    It’s weird, I usually don’t have any problem with visual stuff in games – never get nauseous or what-have-you, but I have trouble watching the effect of the difference in movement at different distances as the player moves in this.

    (I think the last time I remember a game having this effect on me was some levels of Clown-O-Mania on the Amiga)

    Sucks to be me, but I hope they keep making such interesting stuff, even if it disagrees with my particular optical arrangements.

    • zenorogue says:

      Thanks! These problems seem to be gone when one gets used to it; it is also easier when you control the movement (play the game rather than watch a video), and/or try changing the settings, such as the scrolling speed. I had nausea myself when starting developing, but this is no longer a problem even in longer sessions (except when working on new display modes or playing on some strange screen) — but I still have nausea with typical FPP games.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>