Entering early access on Steam today after some Itch exclusivity, Monothetic's roguelike shooter Beacon has a delightfully grim concept - Freja Akiyama has been smashed into soup by a hard landing on an very hostile planet. Fortunately her ship's escape pod comes equipped with a cloning bay and gene-splicing lab. Each time she dies, you get to jam a few rogue strains of collected alien (or even robot) DNA into her next iteration, visibly mutating her. It's like a stylish future-tech version of The Binding Of Isaac's blobby sprite abominations. See the new trailer below.
From the little bit I've played of Beacon so far, 'hostile' seems a bit of an understatement in describing its planet. For starters, there are frequent hailstorms, only on this planet, hail comes in the form of exploding, deadly crystals the size of trucks. While playable in twin-stick format, I've been testing it with mouse and keyboard, and I'm still getting a feel for its movement and lengthy dodge-rolls. Primary weapons have unlimited ammo, but grenades and other collected gadgets do have limited uses, and I'm - as always - terrible at knowing when to spend them.
It's a lovely game to look at though, well-lit flat polygons accompanied by some dense particle effects give it a stark retro-future look, though it can get a little bit cluttered in some messier fights. Still, as with any roguelike (roguelite?) there's a lot to learn, and I've only just started. One thing I do find rather striking is the flavour text - the game leans hard into its dark, existential horror elements, describing each mutation in lurid prose. The combination of sharp, polygonal environments and unsettlingly meaty lore is intriguing.
As it's been lurking around on Itch since last April, its time on Steam should be the last stretch of development. Right now there's five levels, three bosses and hundreds of items, weapons and mutations. There's a sixth level, more enemies and a mutations system for the bosses on the way. They also hope to add difficulty options and smooth out some of the performance hiccups (it did stutter occasionally while I was testing it) by launch as well. Major updates should come every 4-6 weeks, and the game will launch in 6-10 months, depending on how smoothly things go.