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Clearing the Steam Backlog: Roguelike Edition

My Steam library is out of control and I think I need to do something about it.  It’s a goal of mine to eventually have played every title I own.  Not finish everything, as I’m not sure that would be physically possible at this point, but I want to be able to point to anything I own and be able to give a description of what it is and whether I enjoyed it.  A while ago, I did a post where I played the unplayed titles that I had owned for the longest period of time, and I have decided that I like the idea of turning this post into a full-blown series where I try some games based around a theme and determine if I wish to play more.

One of the areas where I own the most games is also one I’m not overly familiar with, and that is the roguelike.  The only permadeath title that I’ve played to completion is Rogue Legacy, and while it’s a personal favorite of mine, I have still never investigated the genre further.  I decided that it’s time to change this.

Today, I have picked out ten roguelike titles in my Steam library through a mixture of asking for recommendations and finding games that looked interesting to me, and I’m going to play each one for a period of time.  I’ll be giving my first impressions of each game, focusing specifically on how accessible it is to someone unfamiliar with the genre, as well as whether the gameplay loop is addicting enough that I want to go back and play more.  Finally, I’ll give my impression as to how likely I am to ever finish the title, based on both my willingness to continue on and whether the difficulty is beyond my abilities.

Note:  Clicking through to purchase the games I talk about may contain affiliate links.  Purchasing something using one gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you!  Thanks for supporting my blog!

Sproggiwood

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I picked Sproggiwood for this list because I wanted to make sure there were a few traditional dungeon-crawling roguelikes on the list.  The art style the game utilizes is also downright adorable, so I hoped that it would ease the frustration of dying halfway through a run.  Gameplay is on the simpler side, as the player controls one of a few different classes and moves about a dungeon utilizing a limited set of potential attacking abilities.  There is a tutorial dungeon that quickly teaches the mechanics of the game and I quickly became addicted to leveling up my character in every dungeon and trying different combinations of moves.

The first thing that I noticed about Sproggiwood is that there are difficulty settings available.  As someone who is easily frustrated by roguelike titles, I appreciate being able to try my hand at a lower difficulty for now and increase the challenge as I get more comfortable with the mechanics.  Additionally, the roguelike elements are fairly light.  The game is divided into different levels that each contain a multi-floor dungeon, so dying only forces the player to restart the individual dungeon, not the game.  Beyond this, there’s also a town-building element to the title that allows the player to pick up buffs that will make the remainder of the game easier.  I thoroughly enjoyed this title and will definitely be playing more of this, perhaps as part of a relaxing morning routine alongside a cup of tea.

Will I play again?  Yes.

Purchase Sproggiwood

The Binding of Isaac

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I have played a bit of The Binding of Isaac here and there over the years, but I haven’t really gotten into the mechanics previously.  Twin-stick shooters aren’t something that I would say I’m overly familiar with, but the controls are solid and I love trying different combinations of items to find the playstyle I enjoy most.  There’s no tutorial necessary here because the mechanics are probably the simplest of any title on this list, and I appreciate this simplicity.

This is a through-and-through roguelike title.  Every time I die, I start from the beginning in a newly generated dungeon without any item pickups.  There are tons of different items that are randomly placed throughout the world, making every run different from the ones before.  I do occasionally get frustrated at the amount that I am reliant on random chance to get a good dungeon setup and items, but runs are quick enough that dying never feels overly punishing.  While I suspect that the game’s difficulty far exceeds my own skill, I definitely want to keep playing and get better.

Will I play again?  Yes.

Purchase The Binding of Isaac

Darkest Dungeon

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Darkest Dungeon is a title I picked primarily because of my love for RPGs.  A roguelike RPG dungeon explorer with permadeath for all of the characters was too interesting to pass up, so I knew that I had to give it a try.  The visuals drew me in before anything else because I fell in love with the creepy and foreboding atmosphere.  After that, I found a deep and engaging turn-based RPG that I had to force myself to stop playing so I could try the rest of the games.

First of all, like Sproggiwood, this game has different difficulty settings.  I’m not sure how much easier the easiest setting really is, but I’m glad that there’s some customization here.  The learning curve here is higher than I would normally feel comfortable with, but a strong RPG and easy access to a glossary and tooltips eased me in surprisingly well.  The roguelike elements are primarily present through the deaths of player characters being irreversible, though retreating from dungeons before completing a quest causes the quest to permanently fail in some cases, as well.  I have some concerns about whether the permadeath for the characters will eventually become frustrating instead of fun as I have to grind characters up repeatedly when I lose my party members to stress-induced heart attacks, but I’m definitely going to be playing a lot more of this one.

Will I play again?  Yes.

Purchase Darkest Dungeon

TumbleSeed

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I’m a sucker for a fun art style and unique gameplay gimmick, so Tumbleseed looks like it should be for me.  The primary mechanic behind this game is that the player controls a seed on a balance board.  Raising the balance board unevenly makes the seed roll to the left or right and the ultimate goal is to get up a mountain while avoiding pits and enemies.

I’ll be completely honest here:  I hated this game.  Of all of the titles I tried for this post, it wasn’t even a competition as to which one I enjoyed the least.  The balancing mechanic, while responsive, mostly led to me screaming at my computer in frustration because I could never get my seed to stop rolling regardless of how well the board was balanced.  In a weird way, I actually suspect that, once I got the mechanic down, this may be one of the easier roguelikes to finish.  The tutorial is strong and I have a good grasp of what the game is about because of it.  Unfortunately, none of that can change the simple fact that I didn’t enjoy my time here in the slightest.

Will I play again?  No.

Purchase Tumbleseed

Don’t Starve

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I play a lot of Minecraft, so I wanted to pick a few survival roguelikes because I’m looking for more crafting-based games to play.  Don’t Starve is one of the more popular titles out there within this niche and, since I love the visual style, it seemed like an obvious choice.  While I did enjoy a lot of what I saw in this game, there are also some issues here that hurt my overall experience.

First of all, I do want to mention that I love the customization options for the world.  The player has control over the look and spawn rate of about every naturally occurring item in the game, allowing for every run to be completely different.  while not uncommon in the survival genre, there’s not really a tutorial here.  My Minecraft knowledge really came into play here as I struggled to survive through my first few days.  Overall, however, the primary issue I have with this game that hinders my overall enjoyment is the time investment.  I don’t want to play a roguelike where I may invest hours of my life into building up a perfect community for my character, only to be attacked by a rogue bee and lose everything.  Some people love that, and this is a great title for them, but I prefer titles where the gameplay loop is a little shorter.

Will I play again?  No.

Purchase Don’t Starve

Dungeons of Dredmor

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This is another title that I primarily picked because I wanted to try playing a few traditional dungeon crawlers.  Dungeons of Dredmor feels like it should fit the bill of being a traditional experience, even if the art style can be a little rough on the eyes at times.  While there is certainly some fun to be had here, this missed the mark for me in a major way.

First of all, while there is a tutorial, it isn’t nearly sufficient to explain the depth of the mechanics available here.  When I created a character for the first time, I was tasked with picking the abilities I wanted to use for that run from a massive and completely overwhelming list.  After picking some moves at random, I just ran through the dungeon in a confused state until I eventually died.  While learning as I go is certainly a viable option in a roguelike, some games do this better than others.  There are plenty of mechanics in Darkest Dungeon, for example, that I feel I am not fully knowledgable on yet, but the game is still easing me into the experience and letting me learn at my own pace.  Overall, I found this one to be underwhelming and I won’t give it another try in the future.

Will I play again?  No.

Purchase Dungeons of Dredmor

FTL:  Faster Than Light

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I don’t know how I missed playing FTL:  Faster Than Light.  It took the indie gaming world by storm years ago, but for some reason, I was never that interested in it.  Well, a roguelike management game felt like an interesting combination that I needed to try, so I finally got a chance to experience this spaceship simulator.

The tutorial here is wonderful.  It gives me every mechanic I need to know in order to be successful, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome and gets me playing within ten minutes.  While I’m not always the best at management titles, I picked up on what I needed to do and was running my spaceship well within a few minutes.  I love how simplistic the mechanics are because it feels like the game has perfected the concept of being easy to play and hard to master.  While I have some concerns about whether luck comes into play a little too often, I can’t wait to try and push further into space in the future.

Will I play again?  Yes.

Purchase FTL: Faster Than Light

The Flame in the Flood

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I picked The Flame in the Flood as another survival roguelike to try and transfer my love of Minecraft into more games.  First of all, the art direction and music here are exceptional.  When I got on my raft for the first time, I honestly never wanted to dock again because I was having far too much fun listening to folk music as I rowed my character down the river.  While I did enjoy a lot of what I played of this game, it isn’t a winner for me overall.

A lot of the concerns I had with Don’t Starve can be echoed here, as well.  There wasn’t enough of a tutorial to make me feel like I had any idea what I was doing, and I hate the idea of playing for hours only to die and start from square one.  I strongly believe that there’s a lot to love here for the type of gamer that this title appeals to, but I am not the intended audience here and will never fully appreciate it as a result.

Will I play again?  No.

Purchase The Flame in the Flood

Wizard of Legend

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I really like the concept of these isometric roguelike dungeon crawlers, given that Wizard of Legend is one of several that I tried out for the purposes of this post.  The art style on display here may be my favorite out of anything I played, with beautifully crafted pixel art that makes me want to start up a new round just from staring at the screenshot.  I promised myself, however, that I would finish this post first!

In addition to the beautiful art style, however, the title has strong gameplay to show off, too.  The tutorial here was absolutely perfect, being short and informative at the same time, and the progression system of unlocking new spells and armor through the currency received in the dungeons leaves me always wanting to do another run in order to see what else I can buy.  I had to tear myself away from this game in order to move onto other titles, but I’m definitely going back soon.

Will I play again?  Yes.

Purchase Wizard of Legend

Lost Castle

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Finally, I picked out Lost Castle because I had heard comparisons to Rogue Legacy in the past.  While these comparisons are definitely warranted, I would say that they’re only similar in terms of game mechanics, as opposed to quality.  While Lost Castle tries to be an interesting title in its own right, it does not, in any way, live up to the standards of its inspiration.

First of all, let’s be clear here:  the skill tree system from this game is ripped straight out of any other incrementally-progressing roguelike out there already.  WhileI did find myself growing increasingly addicted to gaining a few hit points after every run, there’s nothing unique about this leveling system as a whole.  The gameplay is also incredibly similar to Castle Crashers but, again, without as much polish or charm.  The funny thing is, while it sounds like I hated the game, I really didn’t.  Acknowledging that there wasn’t anything unique or different here doesn’t mean I necessarily disliked it.  It’s not going to be my game of the year by any means, but I’m definitely going to complete some more runs and see if I can beat it eventually.

Will I play again?  Yes.

Purchase Lost Castle

Total Results

Games I will play again:  6

Games I have abandoned:  4

Overall, finding six titles that I actually enjoy from a genre that I’ve never given much thought to seems like an overall success.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish any of these or not, as my own skill levels may hinder my ability to continue in some of these titles, but I’m definitely going to keep trying.  As for the games I didn’t enjoy as much, well, at least I know what they’re about and can feel better because I didn’t let them collect dust in my Steam library for the next decade.

Since the goal is to weed out my Steam backlog a little bit, as I make these posts, I will be sorting the games I play into two category lists.  One list will contain all of the titles that I deem to be worth playing more in the future, and the other will be where the games I have abandoned live.  This should declutter my Steam library over time, which I desperately need at this point.  As a fun bonus, I’ll be doing a wrap-up post at the end of the year where I total up how many games I have screened, as well as how many of the games I vowed to play more actually got completed by me at some point!

Do you have a backlog problem or any suggestions for future backlog-clearing categories that I can try?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

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12 replies »

  1. Yikes, gaming backlogs are super hard to follow. It takes lots of time and dedication to cover those for sure, even if you don’t intend to ever finish them in full. Even for me where I’ve focused on just the major titles of 2018, there’s still quite a few left on my to do list and it’s already 2019 and the season for lots of new releases is about to begin to occupy my time as I try to do reviews for as many as possible. So the possibility of abandoning some games is very high at this point, let alone never going back to play through the few 2017’s titles I’ve missed. I think what you’re aiming for is a nice way to declutter a vast Steam library so hopefully it works out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope so, too. I’m not going to be focusing heavily on 2019 releases this year in favor of just weeding out my library. The goal is to have a good portion of my library sorted out regarding whether I want to play them or not by the end of the year.

      Like

  2. Great list, there’s a few on here I want to try on that I haven’t previously played. I’ve noticed from this post and other ones that you really don’t seem to like survival games. Which is perfectly fine. Its one of my favorite genres. The reason I mention that is your style of writing has something I really enjoy and I could honestly stand to take a few pointers from for my own reviews.

    Which is you can manage to write a negative view on a game without offending the people that really like the game. You have disliked quite a few games that I seriously enjoy. And I’ve never once felt that fanboy feeling kick in, the urge to stand up for the game. Some other writers can provoke that response from me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the kind words! I try to be positive but critical when I review. I want to get the point across that I don’t like a game and have valid reasons for it, but I also want to do this without insulting people who may love the game for equally valid reasons or even hurt the feelings of any developers that have spent countless hours working on the title in question. It’s a fine line, and one that I’m sure I will cross from time to time by accident, but I don’t ever want people to feel like they’re being attacked for enjoying something I dislike.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Yeah it is a very fine line, which I’ll attest as a writer myself, is really hard to follow. I’m probably nowhere close to it, but I do try to give potential readers the best explanation of all underlying elements of a game and my likes/dislikes so they can make an informed decision about a title without completely feeling like I overhype it or trash it unnecessarily. And especially if you don’t like the genre in question or aren’t familiar with it too much, it’s an excellent attribute to have

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your concerns over the grinding up of characters in Darkest Dungeon isn’t unfounded. My first visit to the final set of dungeons in the game resulted in the whole party being killed, and they were the only ones strong enough to handle it. I had to spend another couple of hours running regular dungeons to get another team built up which was a bit dull by that point.

    Liked by 1 person

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