Tag Archives: Roguelike

On Heavy Rainfall

Blaugust Post #22

This was supposed to be a post months ago, but it got written on paper and never typed up. I’ve since lost it.

Risk of rain is a mostly platformer with rogue-like elements. It’s (so far) my favorite example of such, although it’s quickly becoming a crowded genre (Spleunky, Rogue Legacy, and the recent Warlocks Vs. Shadows all qualify). I find Risk of Rain interesting largely because of the risk/reward mechanism of its time mechanic.



The primary goal of Risk of Rain is to get to the final level (which is always the UES Contact Light), beat the final boss, and leave the planet that you crashed on. This is accomplished by playing through a minimum of 5 other levels, finding and activating the teleporter in each level, and surviving through the wave of enemies that assault you when you do this. Enemies also spawn naturally over time, at a rate determined by what level you’re on, and how long you’ve been playing the current game. The largest difference in difficulty settings is how quickly this process occurs.

There are 12 characters, 11 of which must be unlocked, and 10 different stages, where which ones you visit are determined semi-randomly. Each of the first 4 levels will be one of 2 options, level 5 is always the Ancient Temple. After that, you can either start revisiting levels or move on to the end of the game. Along the way you will pick up a wide variety of items, mostly randomly determined. There are a few places to influence what items you get, as well as a really big way that you can eventually unlock.

RoR Golems


One of the more interesting things about Risk of rain to me is the character variety. You start off with just the commando, who is fairly decent, but I find somewhat boring. The thing is, starting out, you’re going to die on the first level. You’re going to die on the first level probably more than once. Despite this, you can be making progress toward unlocking the other characters. Beating the three boss options on level 1 will unlock the enforcer. Collecting enough drones will eventually get you the engineer. Enough monster logs will get you the huntress, but there aren’t actually enough monster types until you get to the second level(s) consistently.

Then there are the ones that you won’t unlock by chance. The Sniper requires that you beat the game once, and the Mercenary that you do it 5 times. There are also a few that you need to find, which requires that you a) get the right level, and b) get the version that has that character. HAN-D is a bit easier (in a manner of speaking) because he’s in the final stage, and will therefore always be there if you can get that far.

RoR Trouble


The other interesting thing is the item selection. The longer you spend on a stage, the more money you have to open chests and get items, but the harder the enemies will be, making for a generally enjoyable risk/reward mechanism. Some items are better for some characters than others: Acrid tends to kill things while they’re clumped up, so the item that causes enemies to explode on death is amazing. The command attacks extremely quickly, and so gets more out of items like the ukulele or missiles.

Recently artifacts were added, and these let you modify the game in some ways, which can make things easier or harder, depending. One in particular, Command, allows you to choose what items you get (within the bounds of rarity). Glass cuts your health to only 10%, but makes you do significantly more damage.

RoR Artifact

Co-op doesn’t use Steamworks, so it’s a little iffy. Even so, this is one of the best small indie games I’ve experienced. It goes on sale for very few dollars pretty often, so take a look.


It’s interesting to see the level of randomness we’ll accept in our games. This post is somewhat inspired by the running jokes regarding the luck of Bel and Tam.

One of the complaints Tam and I shared about Darkest Dungeon was the tendency toward “cascading failure”. It was my experience that an enemy crit might lead to your entire team getting stressed, which might make one go crazy and start attacking a party member who would then get more stressed and go crazy, until your entire party is dead. This remains a problem even if the enemies aren’t much of a threat otherwise. Darkest dungeon revels in its randomness, and it was a bit much for me. I figured it would be a good opportunity to examine how other games use randomness.

Two Extremes

On one side, we have roguelikes. On the other hand, there are a lot of examples of games with no randomness whatsoever, like Super Mario Brothers. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m ignoring the second category, but there are a lot more of them than you might think at first. Most scrolling shooters, bullet hell or otherwise, have fixed patterns, with the only changes coming from reaction to the player’s position. Most platformers are similar, even modern ones like Rayman, Ori, and Super Meat Boy. (As an aside, Super Meat Boy is such a wonderful example of a lot of game concepts that I’m probably not going to stop comparing things to it until people no longer remember what it is.) Instead of talking about those, let’s start somewhere else familiar.

More Super Meat Boy

Ultimate Illusion

It’s not hard to see where the Final Fantasy series took its original inspiration from, and so it’s not a large surprise that it ended up with random elements to replace the dice rolling that tabletop RPGs use. As a result, there’s turn order, damage variance, spell effectiveness, enemy target selection, enemy attack selection, encounter rate, encounter type, and probably other things that I’m forgetting that are randomly determined. Even with all of this, Final Fantasy is not random enough that it feels unfair. You know that your fighter or monk is going to reliably do a certain amount of damage, enough to kill an enemy in X number of hits. You know that if you use fire spells on undead enemies, most of them will take more damage than usual. You can even have a good idea of how much damage enemies do, so you know when you need to heal. Even though there’s some amount of randomness inherent in all of these things, it isn’t overwhelming.

Final Fantasy 1


Roguelikes (so-named because of the game Rogue) feel like the above does not go far enough. Some of my favorite games fall into this category, like Risk of Rain, the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, and Diablo (think about it). Hallmarks here include all of the above, plus random (or semi-random) level design, random items, and getting set back dramatically if you die. The goal in this is to ensure that every time you play the game it’s a little different. The large death penalty also encourages learning, instead of memorization; your growing skill as a player is supposed to be the driving factor behind making further progress. There are enough games calling themselves roguelikes with progression systems that this isn’t always true.

My problem with some games like this is that it’s possible to get an RNG overdose. Using Risk of Rain as an example, if you’re playing one of the close-range characters and don’t have a decent source of healing by about 20 minutes (on normal), you might be doomed due to circumstances that are mostly outside of your control. Likewise if you’re the commando (the character you start with) and haven’t found something that helps you deal with groups, you’re going to have a hard time. Roguelikes in general tend to be somewhat bad about this, it’s possible to have lost and not even know for a period of time. In Risk of Rain in particular, this time is unlikely to be longer than about 10 minutes. In Darkest Dungeon, it sometimes wasn’t as kind. (Ex: “You didn’t bring enough shovels, but you don’t know that yet!”) They also have the problem outlined in the opening, where defeat comes from a series of unlucky rolls in a very short amount of time.

Risk of Rain
Then there’s the engineer, in which case you don’t care about items.

Sliding Scale

This doesn’t seem like an easy problem to solve. In games of this style, things have to vary enough to be interesting, without screwing the player over completely. You might argue that “screwing the player over completely” is the point, but I don’t buy that, and that mentality is why most of these games struggle to expand their audience. I think one of the best solutions is the ability to choose how difficult the game is, but this isn’t perfect. Diablo doesn’t make you play on Hardcore mode, but it’s there as an option. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon only makes you start at square one (Level 1, no items) for the bonus dungeons.

I haven’t given up on roguelikes as a whole, and I’m always interested to see how the next one handles some of these issues. The fact that other people like even the games I think are too random proves that there’s an audience that enjoys that. Steam certainly has plenty to choose from.

On 1812

If you heard the podcast from February 1, you may have already heard a bit about Overture (I mentioned it again on February 8). Since the podcasts I’ve learned a bit more about it, and I’d like to share. It’s an interesting game, if a bit basic, and I’ve lost several hours to it already.


Overture is in many ways a real-time roguelike in a more traditional sense than that normally implies. It has somewhat randomly generated levels (although they all appear to be overall rectangular, so that part isn’t that interesting), random enemies, and swift death when you’re still learning what you’re doing. Play somewhat resembles games like Diablo, except you move with WASD and attack with the mouse. You move somewhat faster when moving in the direction you’re facing and not attacking, which it turns out is an important mechanic. The game asks you to defeat enemies in 10 levels while challenging a boss at the end of each. Beating a boss allows you to upgrade either your health or your mana, and you are also given the opportunity to spend gold on random chests.

When you inevitably die, you retain the gold your character finished with, and you can use it to upgrade characters or unlock new ones; it’s somewhat similar to Rogue Legacy in this sense. Upgrading only seems to improve your damage output, not your resources, so you still need to remain evasive or you’ll die pretty quickly. Items in the dungeon can improve your attack, defense, and mana regeneration, generally speaking. Weapons frequently have another effect that triggers on-hit, essences frequently have a similar effect on-kill. These can range from bursts of damage, to more gold, to potion drops.


Meet the Cast

The playable classes are divided into 4 groups of 5 classes: Warriors, Rogues, Mages, and Shamans, where that last one houses everything that didn’t fit neatly into the first 3 categories. Generally warriors have higher defense, rogues move faster, and mages have significantly faster mana regeneration. Most Shamans have one of these also (Paladins have the defense of warriors, Priests have the mana regen of mages, etc.), but a few are slightly different. There are both short-range and long-range classes in most categories, although mages tend toward long-range and warriors tend toward the opposite.

All classes have a “standard” attack on right-click, these vary in effectiveness and range by class. Some examples here are the Peltast (warrior) who throws spears that go through enemies, the Trickster (rogue) who can attack wherever the cursor is without a projectile, and the Invoker (mage), who has a very short-range, very low damage fireball. Right click is usually a secondary attack that costs mana, usually . The Barbarian (warrior) gains a stackable damage aura, the Witch (mage) has a very powerful spray attack, and the Bandit (rogue) has a fan of knives burst.

A few classes have a right-click that isn’t a one-off attack. The most notable case is the Invoker, who becomes a demon with a primary attack that shoots homing fireballs. This form drains mana and you revert to the very weak base form when it runs out. The Brute works similarly, turning into a hammer-throwing berserker, but the brute isn’t quite as helpless when not transformed and has some big disadvantages for transforming. There’s also a Druid (shaman), who only spends mana on switching forms, and doesn’t have a noticeably stronger one. The caster form has a long-ranged magic missile, but moves slowly. The wolf form is very fast (faster than most rogues) and has a high attack speed, but a very short-range. Departing from the transformation theme, there are also oddballs like the Arsonist (mage), who randomly lights fires when right-click is held, or the Necromancer (mage) who summons skeletons.


Meet the Opposition

There are a lot of enemies in this game, and depending on enemy type they seem to act slightly differently. A lot of them are fairly basic and will merely walk toward you, like most skeletons, and rats, and bats. Minotaurs are a special case because they also have this behavior, but are much, much faster than most other enemies, so they usually feel like they’re charging you. There are quite a few archer or mage-type enemies that will attempt to shoot at you from afar, most of them will try to avoid you if you approach them. Others will just continue trying to shoot you in the face. Behaviors seem to get more complex as you get further into the dungeon, and I haven’t seen the later floors yet.

There are also champion-type enemies that get a random name and more health and damage; if they have other properties I haven’t noticed. These aren’t usually a threat by themselves, but traps sometimes call 3-4 of them in addition to a swarm of normal enemies, and that can cause problems. There are also minibosses with somewhat more varied abilities, these are a threat on their own. Most levels have a large slime that thinks it’s a boss from a bullet hell game guarding the staircase. This was the cause of death for most of my first characters.

Of course, then there are the actual bosses. The “tutorial” warns you that you need to be able to move fast in boss fights, and that’s largely accurate. The game doesn’t pull punches, and sometimes has bosses that rush you in addition to their projectile attacks. Boss tactics don’t stop there, and they can also summon other enemies, lay traps, or interfere with you in other ways. Now that I’m getting more familiar with the game, the level bosses are my most common cause of death.


Apparently this is a thing you can do

I didn’t know about it when I mentioned it, and it ended before I could point it out, but Overture actually had a Kickstarter conclude recently, even though the game is “finished”. The goals of the campaign were to get it on more platforms (Mac & Linux), soundtrack improvements, and performance improvements. I had mixed feelings about this at first, but after a while I concluded that I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Nowhere are the developers misrepresenting the product currently for sale or what they wanted to do with the Kickstarter. It’s an interesting step in post-release support, but not an entirely unwelcome one. I’m just not sure I personally would buy the game again just to get my money added to the Kickstarter pool.

I do recommend Overture to anyone looking for a generally uncomplicated roguelike where things might get a little crazy. I’m certainly having fun with it.