Graft­ing and ex­plod­ing in robo-rogue­like Poly­bot-7.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Tom Sykes

While he works on his am­bi­tious, ro­bot-based rogue­like Cog­mind, de­vel­oper Josh ‘Kyzrati’ Ge has used its source code to make a smaller ti­tle for this year’s 7-Day Rogue­like game jam – a game jam where, like the name sug­gests, de­vel­op­ers cre­ate a rogue­like in a week. That game is Poly­bot-7, a bot-fo­cused dun­geon delver that does some novel things with the hum­ble in­ven­tory sys­tem.

Set­tling it­self some­where be­tween ASCII rogue­likes and mod­ern games with more ap­proach­able UIs, Poly­bot in­vites you to ex­plore a mul­ti­lay­ered fa­cil­ity pop­u­lated by mur­der­ous machines and loot. Make it to the end of the five-level gaunt­let and you can new game plus your way through it again.

The vis­ual style evokes the likes of ADOM and Ang­band, even if the ASCII char­ac­ters are op­tional. How­ever this plays more smoothly than those largely key­board-driven games, as you can con­trol (al­most) ev­ery­thing via the mouse alone. A fur­ther act of stream­lin­ing is the sur­pris­ing lack of con­trol over your in­ven­tory. Move in range of a new weapon, ar­mour piece, doohickey or doo­dad, and your cute lit­tle ro­bot will hoover it up and at­tach the thing au­to­mat­i­cally.

If that sounds lim­it­ing, well, it’s meant to be. The only way to drop equip­ment is to ‘purge’ ev­ery­thing from your sys­tem, de­stroy­ing half your load and scat­ter­ing the rest. You’ll there­fore want to give un­wanted items a wide berth, to keep your ro­bot from fill­ing up on junk. How­ever, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t re­turn to items later. Un­col­lected loot will de­grade to slush after a while, some of which can be used to recharge your weapons.

Speak­ing of guns, rather than as­sign­ing them to slots, by de­fault ev­ery­thing you’re hold­ing is equipped on your lit­tle ro­bot in Poly­bot-7. The ap­pro­pri­ate firearm will be se­lected au­to­mat­i­cally as you aim at en­e­mies with the mouse, although weapons, ar­mour and so on can be tog­gled on or off for more gran­u­lar con­trol.

It’s an ap­proach to in­ven­tory man­age­ment that isn’t com­mon in RPGs, and it gives a re­fresh­ingly nar­row fo­cus. Rather than col­lect­ing XP or hunt­ing for food, as in so many RPGs, you’re care­fully build­ing the ul­ti­mate ro­bot, piece by piece.

in the mix

Also un­com­mon is the at­ten­tion paid to the sound de­sign, the well-mixed noises el­e­vat­ing a some­times vis­ually ba­sic game into one sup­ported by a cav­ernous at­mos­phere. The low-res sprites don’t sell the fic­tion, but as bul­lets echo through hall­ways, lasers ping against metal and ex­ploded grenades rock your en­e­mies, the fa­cil­ity is brought beau­ti­fully to life.

Dis­till­ing much of the early ac­cess

Cog­mind into a game jam free­bie,

Poly­bot-7 is an in­ven­tive rogue­like that will likely con­sume your next few lunch breaks. If this is the level of qual­ity we can ex­pect from Cog­mind it­self, then I have a feel­ing we’re in for some­thing spe­cial.

The only way to drop equip­ment is to ‘purge’ ev­ery­thing

Many rogue­likes are big and com­plex, but here’s a rel­a­tively sim­ple and fo­cused one that plays like noth­ing else.

En­e­mies ex­plode in a sat­is­fy­ing shower of com­po­nents.

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