Release Date: October 24, 2014
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I recently completed my first impressions of a number of roguelike titles in another post, and while there were a total of six games that caught my interest, there was something about Sproggiwood, in particular, that I couldn’t get out of my head. It wasn’t the most complicated by any means, nor was it the most visually striking. Still, my hour spent with this dungeon-crawler was the most engaged I felt with any of the titles that I tried. Since I have now beaten the game, let’s see if my final review matches my initial impression.
The gameplay of Sproggiwood is deceptively simple. The player moves the protagonist around a grid and defeats enemies while ultimately attempting to get to the final floor of a dungeon and complete a boss encounter. Combat is turn-based, adding some tactical depth to every encounter. This may not sound like anything special when put like that, but appearances are deceiving and there are a number of features that make this title more complex and interesting than it may seem.
First of all, as mentioned earlier, this is a roguelike title, meaning that every new dungeon run starts players at level one and forces them to grind their way up to a high enough level to fight the boss. Dying at any point during the dungeon will force players to start over. Thankfully, death forces players to start at the beginning of the procedurally-generated dungeon they were currently working through, not the beginning of the game. This mild approach to roguelikes may not engage hardcore fans, but for people that are interested in trying a more approachable game in an otherwise intimidating genre, this is a good entry point.
Every dungeon contained in the game is short, taking no more than a handful of minutes to clear. This is good, as it means death never feels like a punishment and I felt like I was really learning and evolving with each fresh run. Frustration is also minimized through the use of a shop system. While there’s very little incremental progression available between runs, such as in Rogue Legacy, items previously found in dungeons can be purchased in exchange for coins, which allows for players to equip them before heading into the dungeon, instead of purely relying on blind luck. This adds a degree of strategy, as I can decide how I want to play the game, instead of hoping the RNG works in my favor.
When I first started playing, I had some concerns about whether the gameplay would get too repetitive over time, as most of my playtime involves walking in a random direction in search of a staircase to proceed to the next dungeon level. It turns out that my fears were unfounded, as there’s a deceptive amount of strategy here. In addition to the countless different combinations of equipment that can be brought into a dungeon, there are also six character classes that play wildly different from one another. Whether I wanted to be a tanky warrior that could absorb damage or an archer that could shoot enemies from afar, there is a class at the ready to suit every play style. On top of this, every character has four different abilities that can be leveled up, meaning that even the same class can be leveled up in different ways depending on the need of the dungeon.
The different character classes also add a lot of replayability to the game, as there are rewards for beating each dungeon with every character and difficulty level. Sprinting through the game as the starting farmer class on easy will only take a few hours, but for some more challenge, trying to play on savage difficulty with a few different classes will add dozens of additional hours of fun onto a playthrough.
That’s not to say the game is perfect, however. While the gameplay itself is solid and well-developed, the other areas are not as impressive. There is a story here that is interesting enough, but there’s nothing new or impressive about it. In particular, any tensions and rising stakes in the plot are let down by a lackluster finale. While I generally enjoyed the variety of enemies, there is some significant boss repeating, with the same enemy being reused for three out of the ten stages as the final boss. Finally, the longer I looked at it, the less I really appreciated the art style. It was cute and cartoon-inspired at first, but over time, it just lacked the variety I would have liked in a title like this, with many of the stages looking nearly identical. None of my above complaints are dealbreakers, by any means, but they do all add up to create a game that is strong on gameplay and a little short on polish.
Overall, while Sproggiwood is a roguelike, there’s a lot here that simultaneously is welcoming to newcomers and potentially offputting to longtime fans of the genre. Many of the reasons that I adored the game, such as the minimized focus on luck, how little death ever set me back, and the ability to have some control over how my runs start through an equipment menu will probably be the very reasons that someone else dislikes the game. Fans of “start from scratch” roguelikes may not find much here that’s worth playing. Speaking as a relative newcomer to the genre, however, I quickly became addicted and, even as I write this review, I’m already planning to go back and try beating all of the bosses on harder difficulties and experiment with all of the different class and equipment combinations.
Review Score: 7.5/10
Have you ever played Sproggiwood? Let me know in the comments below! Additionally, keep an eye out for a ranking of the different classes available in this game coming soon!