Sword of the Stars: The Pit Review. OLE!
Developer: Kerberos Productions
Genre: Tactical Roguelike
Too often games take it easy on players in the name of 'attracting new players' or gathering a 'more diverse fan base'. Thankfully, we sometimes get a game that just doesn't give a damn about taking it easy, or developing a tear-jerking story and just provides a challenging experience for all gamers. Sword of the Stars: The Pit, is one such game...
Since the game is based primarily around, well, the game rather than a heavy plot, any story elements do little more than 'set the scene' for the upcoming adventure. Nonetheless, there is a story, however simplistic it might be. Arbuda IV, a colony on the edge of human-controlled space, has been stricken with a deadly, horrific plague which has caused the inhabitants to turn into ghouls, an illness for which there is no cure. It is up to the player to find a long rumored ancient alien structure deep within the mountains and, hopefully, come back out with a cure.
In classic roguelike fashion, the player must make their way deeper and deeper into the randomly generated dungeons, slaying baddies and acquiring loot along the way. During one's journey down, the player must keep an eye out for a variety of items (which are held within randomly placed containers) which will not only help them, but in certain situations might be an absolute requirement. Items such as the anti-venom to cure poison, lockpicks to get through a particularly difficult door, or food to replenish one's hunger. One will also notice a variety of crafting stations and data consoles, which we will get back to in a minute.
As the player moves through the game, they will notice that there is a little blue bar on the bottom left which is continually decreasing. This is the hunger meter. Though the player starts with a moderate amount of food to refill this bar, it will not last for long. If one does not satisfy this hunger, the player will grow increasingly weaker until they eventually die. This kind of mechanic often infuriates gamers, but when placed into a world were supplies can be plentiful or almost non-existent, it gives a sense of urgency. It forces the player to keep their wits about them and not panic, wanting to keep their character alive since the game is on a permanent hardcore mode.
Using a turn-based system, a system which also influences everything else in the game, combat is quick and simple to understand. Upon coming into contact with an enemy, the player can either stay and fight, exchanging attacks till either dies, or turn and flee. Fighting will net the player experience points which they will eventually be able to use to increase their skills, and the possibility of some loot. It is worth noting that combat, though simplistic, can be incredibly difficult if one is not properly equipped, even on lower difficulties.
While playing on higher difficulties, due to encountering more powerful enemies earlier on, one will soon realize that it is often best to flee rather than fight. The one problem with this strategy, however, is that the game uses a line of sight mechanic which will black out anything which is not within the players line of sight. If the player comes across a large enemy which will most likely kill them, for example, fleeing would result in losing complete sight of the enemy. With no way to track their enemies movement, one could easily get into more trouble than they otherwise would have. This small, yet significant feature adds a most enjoyable level of intensity to SotS.
Another significant feature of SotS is the crafting system. Most items which the player will come across can be used create something else, whether it be food, stims, or even weapons and armor. One can acquire recipes for these items through trial and error or through the hacking of data consoles which may hold an encrypted message that contains a recipe. One of the more interesting aspects of this feature is what the player will find themselves doing with it when they are in dire need of supplies. They will start trying to combine anything which they can just to help them keep alive for an extra 30 turns, maybe even discovering something exotic along the way.
Despite pulling off everything as far as the gameplay is concerned, no game is without its faults. Fortunately, the only thing which seems to be lacking in SotS is in the audio department. While the graphical style is very crisp and the animations, while simplistic, are well done, the audio assets, and the music in particular, is sub par. The music is almost entirely forgettable, though it does set the mood pretty well. The only real upside to the audio? Anyone can listen to your own music while playing.
Sword of the Stars: The Pit is about as solid a dungeon crawler as you can ask for. It is, at times, ridiculously difficult, a must-have for gaming masochists. Due to the random nature of the game, you can easily play through it multiple times without it becoming boring.