Roguelike Elements in Games: What the Indie Scene Gets Wrong

the binding of isaac 10-22-15-1

While the indie scene is often thought of as more creative than the AAA industry, it also has its fads and trends that dominate the market. The most well-known of these was the popularity of pixel platformers, although even before the indie boom, there were the occasional independently-made games that became popular. Nowadays, many indie developers are interested in borrowing mechanics from roguelikes, especially the ones that defined the genre: permanent death and procedural generation.

As with everything popular, there are critics and detractors. Many people who aren’t too fond of the “roguelike-lite” games are those who played a lot of traditional roguelikes. While some criticism might come from a place of elitism, there’s also a lot of valid arguments that might explain why most modern games with roguelike elements probably won’t have the staying power of NetHack or Angband.

This article examines problems with several roguelike-lite games. As those games can have rather dedicated fanbases, I feel the need to say that its intention is not to convince anyone that his/her favorite game sucks, but rather to compare their design choices with those of traditional roguelikes and see what can they learn from them.

The Purpose of Roguelike Games


The idea behind the original Rogue was to create a replayable adventure game–its creators wanted to counteract the fact that once the games they’ve played (mostly early interactive fiction titles like Colossal Cave Adventure) were finished, there was no reason to play them again, as the actions required to win stayed the same.

Rogue achieved its goal by placing the player in procedurally-generated dungeons. This meant that while playing it for the second time, one would not have the advantage of knowing the maps, or the placement of traps, monsters, or items. Aside from creating different levels for each game session, Rogue also randomized the appearance of items. A red potion could heal you in one game, and paralyze you in another. The only way of finding out was either trial and error, or using a Scroll of Identify–which was a guessing game in itself, as the scrolls were randomized as well.

The lack of a typical save system meant that the player couldn’t just save scum to find out which items were which. Additionally, the character’s constant need to eat meant that you couldn’t just grind levels until you could kill everything with your bare hands, as the only way to get more food was to find it on the lower levels of the dungeon. Thus, Rogue eliminated common ways of exploiting the game, and forced those who wanted to win to become proficient.

While later roguelikes emulated Rogue in everything from turn-based combat to ASCII graphics, its procedural generation and permanent death became the most important things about the genre. Roguelikes were all about challenge and consequence, as learning the game’s intricacies was more important than memorization or grinding.

The games became complex–but the complexity actually made them more fair, as it reduced the effects of luck, allowing the players to prepare themselves even for the worst situations. While Rogue would sometimes become unwinnable when the game didn’t generate enough food rations for the player to survive, NetHack gave skilled players many ways of avoiding death. Unavoidable deaths still happened occasionally, but they usually required extraordinarily bad luck.

Diet Rogue

While the huge influx of roguelike-lite games is a fairly recent phenomenon, titles inspired by the genre have been made for a long time. The late 1980s gave us a series of semi-random text-based, realtime-with-pause puzzle games known as Kroz, as well as Castle of the Winds, a two-part tile-based dungeon crawler, which is kind of like Moria or Angband, but allows unlimited saving and reloading. In the 1990s, randomization and item identification puzzles were used to great effect in Toejam & Earl, while a few years later Moria and Angband influences shaped Diablo, a gamer that revolutionized the action-RPG genre.

The popularity of roguelike elements in modern indie games can be traced back to Derek Yu’s Spelunky, which inserted procedural generation and permanent death into an arcade-style platformer. In later years, the genre was popularized by The Binding of Isaac and FTL: Faster Than Light, the former of which combined the aforementioned elements with Zelda-style action-adventure, the latter with space exploration. As those titles became popular, ‘roguelike elements’ turned into an indie fad.

The Appeal of Death and Randomness

The popularity of roguelikes and roguelike-lite games is intrinsically linked to the fact that, after many years of dumbing down, the difficult games have returned. It’s a great thing too, as most players want to be challenged, and developers lately aren’t afraid to oblige them. There’s been a lot of talk about ‘games as experiences’ versus ‘games as challenges’ –some people reasoning that, as games have gradually developed victory conditions, cutscenes, and storylines, those things became more important than achieving a high score.

As both stories and their presentation became more elaborate, completing the game and seeing how it ends became not a reward for the dedicated gamers, but an essential part of the experience, like watching a movie to the end. The resurgence of challenging games seems to prove that idea at least partially wrong. Many players are interested in mastering the gameplay just as much as experiencing the audiovisual and narrative aspect of the gaming experience.

Undeniably, there is something intriguing about a game where failure might result in having to start over. While the influx of retro-style platformers has made the high level of difficulty acceptable again, the difficulty of most of these titles was very specific. In games like Super Meat Boy, a very high level of precision is required, but only for a few seconds. The player must perform perfectly, or almost perfectly, for the duration of a level or until he/she reaches a checkpoint. However, levels are short and checkpoints are plentiful.

Thus, all the consequences are short-term. A bad move will stop you from progressing, but will not erase the progress you’ve already made, nor will it have consequences that aren’t obvious or immediate. The roguelike approach to difficulty is the opposite. Playing it safe, conserving resources, and planning become crucial, as lost progress can be counted not in seconds, but sometimes in hours.

Procedural generation is an appealing concept as well. Clever use of algorithns may lead to a lot of content being put in a seemingly small game. The idea that a game is completely different with each playthrough sounds great as well, as players can get sick of strict linearity and hand-holding.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Designing Levels On Infinite Typewriters

Darkest Dungeon

The thing about randomness and permanent death is that they’re not universally good things. Like many things in video games (cutscenes, RPG elements, non-linearity, open world), they can be used in better or worse ways, and there are some game concepts, styles, and genres in which they work better than in others.

Roguelike-lite games can often be too random, not random enough, or random in all the wrong places. While Sunless Sea shuffles some places around the map, it’s not random enough and it always plays like the same game. The exact coordinates of places you need to visit are randomized (and it affects the difficulty and profitability of certain quests), but you still have to visit those same places and do those same things. This is especially annoying in games with permadeath, as the player will quickly grow bored of the repetitive early game actions.

On the other hand, games like FTL, Zafehouse Diaries, and Darkest Dungeon can often be too random–similar actions can give wildly different results that depend more on the random number generator than on the player’s choice, making them too dependent on luck. Note that the randomness or lack thereof is in completely different areas of the game. Generally speaking, aiming for more randomness in level creation with less randomness in the outcome of player actions is a good rule of thumb.

Another thing that needs to be considered is whether roguelike elements work well with the game being developed. Traditional roguelikes belonged to a specific genre: role-playing games focused on combat and dungeon crawling. They were also fairly short, and their difficulty was based on player’s limited knowledge and resources. Obviously, an extremely long and narrative-driven game wouldn’t benefit from permanent death (unless it’s treated as an optional challenge like in Pillars of Eternity). You wouldn’t want to start from square one if you got killed by an end boss in one of the Final Fantasy games.

Procedural generation, on the other hand, would be an unwelcome change to games in which difficulty comes from enemy placement and environmental danger. If something like Dark Souls put random enemies in random places, most of the levels would become either laughably easy or nearly impossible. Outside of gameplay, it’s also important to note that in almost all cases, storyline, music, and visuals work much better when hand crafted, even in largely procedural titles.

Roguelike-lite developers sometimes disregard an important part of roguelike design: mechanics that prevent grinding. As the Skinner box approach to RPG elements is, unfortunately, pretty common, it sometimes creeps into the very genre that sought to avoid it. Games like Sunless Sea force the player to grind for money, grind for stats, and even grind to make subsequent playthroughs easier. They might do it to give the player sense of progress, or to make them spend more time on the game session, but whatever the reason is, it actually makes the games less enjoyable. Not only is grinding itself pretty boring, it also defeats the idea behind the roguelike difficulty. Ultimately, roguelikes are about the risk of losing progress and about having to master the game. If that risk is minimized, and mastery can be substituted with the ability to do the same thing for hours without getting bored, this kind of difficulty becomes pointless.

Who Needs A Life When You Have ASCII?

While putting roguelike elements in indie games has become a fad, it would be unfair to assume that those flawed games are flawed because the developers don’t know or don’t care about the consequences of their design choices. Even though I spent this whole article criticizing some aspects of the genre, there’s one thing I need to admit: games like NetHack, Angband, ADOM, Dungeon Crawl and Dwarf Fortress are so elaborate, interesting, and well-designed due to how many work hours were spent building, refining, and fine-tuning them. NetHack is still in development, and was first released in 1987 while borrowing a lot of code from an earlier game, Hack, which started out as a clone of Rogue. The gameplay ideas were built upon since 1980 while disregarding graphics, story, and even an intuitive interface. Creating a great roguelike is a monumental task, and the end result will be enjoyed only by small groups of dedicated fans.

Modern roguelike-lite games often don’t offer much to fans of traditional roguelikes, and they’re sometimes not even that fun to play. Ultimately, though, they’ve done their job by introducing new players to a largely obscure genre, through their attractive presentation, and gameplay that doesn’t require encyclopedic knowledge of a fictional world. It might be the casualization of one of the most hardcore genres out there, but the end result is still more hardcore than the norm. While most of these games will probably not have dedicated fanbases in ten, twenty, or thirty years, for the gamers of today they might be an entry point to things they wouldn’t even think of playing. I probably won’t be picking up too many upcoming games that describe themselves as having ‘roguelike elements’ but hey, at least more people will have an idea of what constitutes as a roguelike.

Further reading:

Maciej Miszczyk


I play games (I have a preference for old, weird and difficult ones but that’s not the rule) and write articles about them that are sometimes a bit too long. Sometimes I also do things other than gaming, I swear.

  • Yo this is an awesome read as per Maciej’s writing! So proud to have him writing for us.

  • Burning Finger

    One day we’ll get that modern roguelike that looks good, sounds good, has a good UI, and is complex and well made enough to keep people playing for decades.

    Yeah right.

  • That’s called The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, my friend.
    Afterbirth looks amazing, and it’s only a few days away from release!

  • deadeye

    Yeah I feel like modern “roguelites” just focus on the difficulty aspect so much that they kinda forget to actually balance the game.

    Binding of Isaac’s main flaw is that its difficulty fluctuates way too much. One run, you can get really lucky and get very good items, and it’s just a breeze, and then another run you get very little. Although I will say that there are basically no instances of just unavoidable death, which is nice.

    FTL and some other games, it can feel like if the game doesn’t want you to win, you’re not going to. When you’re in the third system and haven’t been able to get any new weapons or major upgrades, you might as well just start over.

    And I’m just gonna go on record and say I really don’t like Risk of Rain. People seemed to gush over that game nonstop, and I kept trying to like it, but it just never happened. It’s either tedious and grueling or you look at an enemy and they die.

    Roguelikes are indeed random but the majority of the modern ones give the player every tool they need to succeed, and luck plays a very small role. Difficulty is fine when the player is able to see “okay, this is what I did wrong”. If they think “wow, the game sure fucked me over big time”, then it’s not the good kind of difficulty. And I feel like in most roguelites, I tend to think the latter rather than the former.

  • Misogynerd

    This is pretty good and I have to agree, I love Nethack , still haven’t beaten it yet. As for modern roguelite games, I have only played Binding of Isaac, which is OK, FTL, which is pretty good, and Rogue Legacy which has good gameplay, but I don’t think the idea was totally thought through. The best part were the fixed extra bosses to be honest.

    Procedural generated content does only work in games where the combat does not massively depend of the layout of the level, sure not getting mobbed in Nethack is good, but compared to a game that takes place in real time, it’s not important. I liked the random maps of Persona 3 for that reason but didn’t like the ones in BoI and Rogue Legacy.

    Events should be used very rarely and I thought was the biggest fault of FTL. They could end up making or breaking a playthrough and you couldn’t have any influence on the result. That being said that game had a good low strategy headroom and prevented grinding well.

    I do think devs underestimate the value and appeal an old fashioned linear or set world can have. Those games are more focused towards the speedrunning or challenge community, but they show that you don’t have to randomize everything.

    I do think it’s gonna end up like RPG like leveling and stats mechanics. Unnecessary distractions in other genres that are stapled in for Skinner Box or too try and vary the game but end up diluting the experience. It is a tool for games to feel longer though at least.

    Here is another great article talking about Roguelikes and how they can face issues in longevity and maintaining freshness and challenge:

  • Maciej Miszczyk

    >I do want to ask, what are the best and worst modern games with Roguelike elements?

    Binding of Isaac, FTL and Darkest Dungeon are probably the most fun to play for me. Sunless Sea has to be one of the most boring ones gameplay-wise which is a real fucking shame because I love the world those guys made, it’s just so creative and interesting. on the other hand, many of that game’s problems stem not only from the problems of roguelike-lite genre but also from the fact that the devs are more experienced with browser-based MMOs than anything else, and browser-based MMOs are almost always grindfests.

    also, nice that you’ve mentioned NetHack4. I love NetHack4. it is only the UI redesign by now but then again, the UI is NetHack’s biggest problem and those guys do an amazing job of making it more approachable.

  • Hawk Hopper

    I have no experience with rogues, but I’ve played some rogue-lites (the original Binding of Isaac, Risk of Rain, and Teleglitch). The only one I liked was Teleglitch, but I haven’t played a lot of it.

    Regarding randomly generated levels, I’m just don’t like them. They offer nothing visually interesting or memorable. They are just bland and I don’t like them.

  • OverlordZetta

    Very cool read.

  • Peter Popper

    How did the Mystery Dungeon series not get a single mention in this article? Odd.

  • Misogynerd

    To play a little Devil’s Advocate:
    I do think there is some appeal in the “wow, the game sure fucked me over big time” random aspect of roguelikes, at least for the most experienced players since it always keeps the way challenging. Even Nethack can end up boring veterans since they eventually develop a constant strategy that will lead them to victory, which is why that game has a lot of challenge runs. It’s the only way for players to keep interest in the game.
    Making the difficulty sometimes practically impossible even for experienced players does make them come back and continue the game without them having to resort to intentionally crippling their character to still have a challenge.
    I like games that force me to play optimally or that punish exploits. For example I feel the compulsion to exploit bosses in Fire Emblem to train weak characters but the ranking mode makes that a terrible option if you want a good rank.
    That’s why I never liked the terms “good difficulty” and “fake difficulty”, difficulty includes many broad aspects of games. People react differently to various types of challenges.
    I do think games do need to be more designed about offering an experience for the people who like to clear the game let’s say naked at level 1 versus games that need the player to at least have 50 dexterity, the legendary weapon and be level 15 to inflict damage to the final boss. The trick is that you shouldn’t directly mix these two philosophies together.

  • Tyrannikos

    This is the kind of content I like to see. Thanks for writing it up, Maciej.

  • deadeye

    “fake difficulty”, in it’s proper usage, means something that killed the player, presented a loss condition, or deprived the player of something, and the player had no way of knowing that that event was coming up, and could not prepare for it.

    Some folks might be okay with it, but by and large, most folks don’t like it, and most consider it to just be bad game design.

    It forces trial and error gameplay, which is counter-intuitive to what roguelikes are supposed to be about, which is using your head to overcome difficulty.

    Some roguelikes have come up with solutions like having different classes you can pick from. Some just naturally being harder to play than others, and that appeals to the veterans. Meanwhile, there are other classes that are perfect for folks just starting out.

    Accessibility and being challenging and nuanced enough to satisfy good players are not mutually exclusive. They can indeed co-exist, and quite a few roguelikes actually manage to do this.

  • Mr0303

    The Binding of Isaac has a perfect length for a rogue like game. Anything more would increase the levels of stress and the bitterness of losing. Plus the variety of creatures and modifiers helps keeping the experience fresh.

    I view rogue like games in a similar manner to old Nintendo/Sega games. They can be completed in under an hour, but where the latter focus on difficulty, rogue likes focus on variety (at least they should).

  • Maciej Miszczyk

    I think Mystery Dungeon and those that follow in its footsteps is something different entirely – a console roguelike. those games (on which I’m not an expert, although I’ve played a few) have roots in the classics and in jRPGs (first Mystery Dungeon was a Dragon Quest spin-off IIRC) but generally seem to have a style that is different from both the traditional ASCII ones like NetHack or Angband but also different from the Western indie scene.

  • orbo

    Never been a fan of the roguelike genre itself, though that doesn’t mean I don’t like any of the games.
    I like FTL, but as mentioned in the article and comments, it can be TOO random, in which the outcome of events are based largely on luck than good decision making and bad luck while progressing through the sectors can leave the game unwinnable if the game doesn’t like you, which it very often doesn’t.
    Like when you start with a ship without an anti-missile bot and every ship you come across uses (an unlimited amount of btw) missiles, making you spend all of your creds on repairs and unable to afford anything else, like a freaking anti-missile bot so you don’t spend all your creds on repairs.

  • AndyLC

    because if you point out that ‘pixel platformers’ and roguelikes never quite died out in Japan like it did in the west it makes the western indie scene look less ‘indie’ :p

  • Breezer

    What they got wrong is that those hipster fucks never played Rogue

  • daggot △

    My favorite rougelite is elona+ honestly. It’s basically ADOM with a dash of animu and a bunch of other crazy shit thrown in and the permadeath mechanic thrown out.

    Its a really interesting game

  • fnd

    Didn’t read but i think the general idea is that hand-made levels are superior to procedurally generated levels. Indies ends up elevating a flaw to a good thing which is wrong.

  • Siveon

    Well, to be fair, this mostly is talking about the western indie scene. The series had a huge impact in Japan and many doujin games, but not really for the west I believe.

  • Siveon

    I wouldn’t say that, the Mystery Dungeon games have a few oddities like being able to throw anything, but they’re very similar to most roguelikes – if a bit easier.

    Having to eat food, being able to level, turn-based movement. The only thing I believe most Mystery Dungeon games took out was the randomized effects on weapons and curses.

  • Siveon

    He said “roguelike” not “roguelite”.

    Also re:”complex”.


  • Maciej Miszczyk

    eh, IIRC many of later Japanese roguelikes actually did away with things like true permadeath. I think Izuna for example removed all your items when you died but it was possible to store them between playing sessions so you didn’t have to start from square one.

  • Neojames82

    I am a bit of a sucker for the modern rougelike-lite games (isn’t that a tongue twister) but what Maciej made some really good points and I actually my favorite “old-school” Rouge-clone I played was Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup Also, if you want a sorta throw back game that is now, you can try out Tales Of Maj’Eyal on Steam or GOG.

    Again, good stuff, Maciej. :)

  • Maciej Miszczyk

    kind of, but playing Rogue (and other very early games in the genre) alone wouldn’t fix the problems – what they need to play is a selection of roguelikes to see the logical progression from early Rogue clones to the more complex games like NetHack and from there on to more streamlined and (almost) accessible ones like DCSS

  • Maciej Miszczyk

    DCSS is an interesting case because it’s a traditional roguelike made for modern gamers – there are basically no instadeaths, it’s possible to complete the game in a reasonable amount of time without reading spoilers and it has pretty good UI. it’s a very good game, although I prefer the crazy complexity of NetHack – it’s an obtuse game but it’s the good kind of obtuse

  • Crayll

    Great article. Can’t even begin to count how much time I’ve spent playing roguelikes – DCSS alone has probably consumed a third of my life by now.

    Don’t much care for the modern ‘lites’, for most of the reasons the article mentioned (though I do have a soft spot for FTL).

  • Neojames82

    I have Vulture in my Steam wishlist which gives NetHack a bit of a graphic face-lift so I think I’ll give it a go tomorrow but yeah, I do like DCSS a lot. :)

  • Audie Bakerson

    I can’t think of a random level that I really remember from anything other than a proper roguelike.

  • Yabloko Molloco San

    I’d rather play Smash TV for the next 20 years.

  • Siveon

    Pokemon Mystery Dungeon did the same thing and it still felt like a normal roguelike to me. Shiren for the DS did the same, I believe Chocobo’s Dungeon for the Wii as well.

    While there is definitely a Mystery Dungeon feel that has it’s own staples, many people (including myself) still count the series as a type of roguelike. Progression systems or no.

    By the way, I’ve noticed that nobody calls One Way Heroics out for being so similar to Mystery Dungeon. Now that is an awesome Japanese roguelike.

  • Siveon

    DCSS got so much easier though. I’d still put it up there for modern roguelikes, like ToE4 and Unreal World.

    (Maybe even Neo Scavenger :X)

  • Misogynerd

    Well lots of games do include elements of trial and error, it’s even the basis of some games, Max Payne 1 & 2 has plenty of enter room and get blasted by a shotgun situations. At least the trial was quick and sent you back 10-20 seconds. Hell even ghost trick had you fail various times to learn more information to truly save the current victim.

    Nethack does have the “spoiler system”, you learn not to eat Kobold corpses, not inflict melee damage on Floating eyes, and how to correctly handle Cockatrices. You can spoil yourself on all those mechanics, but once you learn them clearing the game is significantly easier.
    What I meant when talking about playing optimally and playing however you want is mutually exclusive. You can’t have a game where you need to be a certain level and need certain equipment to clear the game and where you can clear it any way you want. I do like super bosses for providing very specific challenges like Elizabeth from P3.

  • deadeye

    It all comes down to what “playing optimally” entails. If there is like one specific set of equipment or abilities you need, then I don’t really like that sort of thing.

    Knowing the mechanics also doesn’t inherently make the game any easier. There are plenty of games with very simple mechanics that always manage to consistently push the player.

    This is where I think roguelikes can benefit at least somewhat with some more linear design elements. Like perhaps making “challenge” levels that are designed specifically to throw the player into really intense situations.

    Now that I think about it, I think it’s kind of surprising I’ve never seen a roguelike with a level editor. I think that could be pretty interesting.

  • JackDandy

    Another great piece from Maciej. Keep ’em coming!

    Anyway, here’s my two shekels:

    -Intro to genre
    I most definitely agree on how the roguelite can act as an intro to the genre. Up until Spelunky, I didn’t realize this kind of game even existed. The excitement it offered me multiplied once I realized the huge amount of games based on this genre. From there I moved to DoomRL, and then Nethack, DF, Brogue and other good stuff.

    -DAS random levels
    About that.. Doesn’t Bloodborne have random dungeons? Don’t have a console so I didn’t play it, but can somebody give impressions?

    -Unlockables vs mastery

    Also agree on this one. Having unlockables is just a cheap way of replacing game mechanic mastery.

    ALSO – Brogue is the best Roguelike and if you disagree then your opinion is wrong

  • JackDandy

    You should check out Brogue. The level design algorithm is exceptionally good- makes levels feel nearly hand crafted. Lots of detail like grass patches, dense bushes, magma, water, chasms, bridges…
    Indiana Jones-style traps (not just “arrows shoot out, get poisoned”, but ones that even after you trigger them you can use your wits to avoid)… Treasure vaults..
    It really puts RLs that have “hallways-room-hallways-room” to shame.

    There’s also a simplistic tileset that looks very good, if you can’t stand ASCII. Also, a SUPER-user friendly control system and interface.

  • Maciej Miszczyk

    oh, I still think they count as roguelike, but also that their a sort of their own movement within the genre

  • Hawk Hopper

    I’ll try it some time soon. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • British_Otaku

    I don’t have enough words to describe how good an article this is. Looking forward to both reading this in the coming years and looking through the source you handpicked.

  • bixeob

    Great article :)

  • Llama Adventure

    I remember playing a game called Uplink that was kind of an hacker simulator, and I honestly feel that what little roguelike elements were in the game ruined it for me. The early game is interesting when you’re still figuring out how everything works and how to complete certain jobs, but really there’s only like 16 job types in the entire game and each job from a certain job type pretty much plays exactly the same as any other job from that job type. Thus the game just becomes a tedious grind to get back to the point you were when you permadied. The whole thing got so boring and aggravating I quit even though I was close to beating the game because I just couldn’t stand to spend another 2 hours grinding the exact same jobs just to get back to where I was and make about another 20 minutes of progress before I lost again. Having the option to save after every major milestone (like whenever your ranking goes up or something) would’ve made a HUGE difference.

  • You mean Cogmind? :)

  • Someone or Other

    Tellin’ it like it is.

  • Hawk Hopper

    I played about 30 minutes of Brogue today and it was pretty good. One highlight was I used a potion and it blew up. I caught on fire and fell (jumped?) down a chasm and then died in 2 turns while still on fire. Thanks again for the recommendation.

  • Very interesting article. I will reconsider some mechanics of my next rogue-lite game ;-)

  • Olejka Petrow

    I like Rogue-lites. Because i like action combat. Don’t get me wrong, i like turn-based games too, but not when you controll only one character and not when WHOLE game is turn-based. I onestly tryed to play traditional rogue-likes like Tales of Maj’Eyal, Stone Soup, etc, but they bore me too fast. They just as random in difficulty, but comat is nowhere near as fun as Spelunky, Isaac or Rogue Legacy for more.

    The thing is – there’s no real difference if the room is 2×3 or 4×3 in traditional roguelike system. It’s mechanics just can’t create interesting levels. In Spelunky or any other roguelike platformer generated architecture of the level is affecting your actions stronger – you jump differentely, you manuver differentely. All i did in classic roguelikes is luring enemies in tunnels so they don’t surround me.

    “Modern roguelike-lite games often don’t offer much to fans of traditional roguelikes, and they’re sometimes not even that fun to play” – traditional roguelikes not allways that fun to play either. I think the main point is – rogue-lite platformer is not for fans of rogue-likes. It’s for the fans of platformers. Just like a FPS with RPG-elements is not for the fans of traditional RPGs, it’s for fans of FPS, just with a little spin.

  • Celerity

    So I recently read a tweet by Carl. It said something along the lines of “People that have only played one game in a particular genre have no business reviewing it.” I agreed so strongly I immediately checked out his site and began poking about. This is the first article I’ve found.

    Now while it does present a balanced take on the situation, one you do not normally see what the article misses is that this new gen of roguelites and not rogue based games does is redefine the term roguelike in such a way that it loses all meaning. It doesn’t really serve as a gateway for the real thing, as all the proverbial “Johnny Come Latelies” believe it is the real thing and actually protest the inclusion of real Roguelike elements such as the iconic fail state because “the game is longer than FTL and Isaac”.

    This becomes especially absurd when discussing Darkest Dungeon as various uninformed people (not here) do review a game genre they think they are experiencing for the first time and call it “brutal” and various other synonyms just for being… long, when the reality is that it’s just a grinder game, and actually a fairly easy one at that. You figure out most of the classes and skills are completely useless, spam the few that aren’t, and win eventually if your boredom tolerance doesn’t give out before that.

    Now it wasn’t always such a massive grindfest, though it was always lacking in depth and difficulty. Unfortunately the devs thought grind = content, that tedium = difficulty, and even went as far as hiring the creator of a tedium/grind mod whose work is featured in the core game.

    Certain… less informed review sites have parroted the PR taglines they were given and keep making memes about the game and overhyping it and spreading false information and so on.

    Meanwhile, I have extensive experience with Roguelikes and extensive experience single handedly redesigning that game so that it actually performed as advertised and actually was at least somewhat Roguelike. My review of the game got censored directly by the developers within a day.

    Curiously enough, when I was searching for the link so I could prove that claim I found the world wasn’t quite as unaware as I believed it was about this particular company.

    This was written about 8 hours before my review was censored.

    Now I mention all of this because a lot of review sites shy away from posting highly critical impressions of a company, especially if most are unaware of that company’s true nature and do not have such a strongly negative impression (that and blacklisting of course). I have a more recent review that very extensively goes over the failings of this game and company and community as they are all intertwined and collectively resulted in the grand disappointment that we all recieved. It doesn’t seem Nichegamer is such a site at all, so I’ll be submitting that review. Warning: Very long.