Soulash, by Wizards Of The Code, made a great first impression when its first demo version landed last month, with a fresh set of ideas under its chunky ASCII art. Now the villainous survival roguelike (although it bends the definition a little by not having randomly generated maps) has a paid version, an updated demo (free on Itch), and a much larger world to explore. There's new classes to play and a lot of new abilities with fancier animations and audio than the simple graphics suggest. It's the first step in what the developer hopes will be a years-long evolution as the game enters early access. Below, a new trailer.
While its use of ASCII tiles gives Soulash a pointedly old-school look, it feels like there's a far more modern design here, wrapped up in primitive visuals for convenience's sake. There's a little bit of modern survival sim to the game, with trees that can be chopped, wood and stone that can be crafted into gear, and health and thirst gauges to maintain, but you can usually just get by with violence. Nearly everything is trying to kill you, so there's really no problem in stomping into a human village, murdering everyone and sleeping in their beds. Villagers make for tasty late-night snacks too.
The game's combat is surprisingly tactical, with facing (indicated by a small coloured dot by each ASCII symbol) determining what you can see and what you can hit. You also move faster forwards than backpedalling. It's not often that you can sneak up behind an enemy without relying on stealth rolls, or duck into the shadows and have them walk right past in a roguelike. It's actually possible to avoid combat at night by ducking behind a tree and circling around it as the enemy passes, blinking indicators showing you what your character can hear, but not see.
The world of Soulash is, in the game's current iteration, static. Every time you start, there'll be a small human village to the north-east, and a cliff further in with some caves you can sleep in (mostly) safely. While enemy spawns and loot are random or unpredictable, knowing the layout of the land lets you plan your early forays, and there's a sprawling amount of terrain to explore in this version. The developer explains his reasoning behind the static world in this blog here. I'm curious if this will eventually make future playthroughs tedious, but so far it's just making me feel better prepared. I'm curious to see where it goes next.
Soulash is $9.99 on Itch, and the free demo has been updated to match the paid version. While not officially in early access, buying into early alpha builds definitely fits the definition.