Sproggiwood First Look

2014-10-24_00003Last night I got to put a few hours into Sproggiwood, a new rogue-like from Freehold Games. You know the drill with me; this is my ‘gut reaction’ post rather than in in-depth review.

I’ve been playing a lot of ArcheAge and some Dragon Age 2 lately; games that are relatively complex. Sproggiwood was a breath of fresh air because it’s an ‘easy’ game to play. I don’t mean it isn’t challenging, I just mean you won’t have to spend much time figuring out the controls or reading tips online. You can play it completely with a mouse if you want to, or you can just use the keyboard (I’m guessing it would be an excellent laptop game and I’ll be surprised if they don’t port it to tablets at some point).

The core gameplay of Sproggiwood is fairly typical rogue-like stuff. You head into a grid-based dungeon and explore it 1 step at a time. Everything is turn based. Enemies move at the same time you do. All movement is orthogonal making it easy to play with WSAD keys. There are a lot of different items to collect and figuring out how they work, and how they work together, is part of the fun.

Your gear consists of three slots: armor, weapon and accessory. Additionally you can carry 1 consumable item. If you find a different consumable you can use it right away, replace the consumable you’re carrying (the old one goes poof), or convert it into gold.

You have two stats: health and stamina. Stamina is used to power skills and it replenishes as you fight. Unlike many rogue-likes, in Sproggiwood health doesn’t replenish with time, nor is there a concept of food.

At least in the early stages of the game dungeons are pretty short. You jump in, fight your way down, leveling up as you go. Each time you level you get a skill point to use in one of 4 skills (each class has a different set of skills). You get to the bottom of the dungeon, fight a boss and then a doorway pops open and you head back to town.

So let’s talk about town. When you first start you play a Farmer. After you clear the first dungeon you get to add a building to your town; the building you choose determines the next class that’ll be unlocked. In my three or so hours of playing I’ve unlocked Warrior, Archer and Thief; there are 6 classes altogether (Wizard and Vampire are the two I haven’t gotten to yet). You can arrange the buildings in your town and build roads and things but as far as I can tell that’s all just decoration.

While in town you can also shop for three classes of products:

First are the three types of town upgrades. Upgrading aspects of your town will help you gain experience faster, start with more health, and get reduced prices in the shops.

Second is gear. You can buy gear for your adventurers so when they head into the dungeon they don’t start with the basic free gear.

Third is consumables that allow your adventurer to start a dungeon with a health potion or a teleport scroll or any of a number of other consumables.

Now here’s the catch: for gear and consumables you can only choose from items you’ve already discovered via opening chests in the dungeon.

2014-10-24_00001Every time you enter a dungeon you’re reset to level 1 (and the dungeon is randomized). Obviously as the game progresses (and there’s a light-hearted storyline to drive you forward) the dungeons get tougher. So here’s your main game-loop. You go into an easy dungeon and fight a boss and discover cool weapons, armor and consumables in the process (discovering them makes them available in the store). You can use these while in the dungeon but they vanish when you teleport out. You also collect a bunch of gold that you then spend back in town on higher quality starter gear to make your adventurer tough enough to take on the next dungeon even though s/he has to start at level 1 again. When you buy gear from the store it’s persistent. Buy a nice sword once and you can choose it every time you enter a dungeon (though all gear is class specific). Even consumables are persistent. If you buy a healing potion once, every time you enter a dungeon you can choose to start with a healing potion.

Now let’s talk about death. Here’s where Sproggiwood is a lot gentler than most rogue-likes. When you die in a dungeon you have to restart it and you’re back to being level 1, but you keep any gold you’ve acquired. There’s one catch: the bulk of your gold (at least at low levels) comes from a 1000 gold bonus you get for clearing a dungeon for the first time with any given class. Still, dying and having a few hundred gold pieces to show for your trouble is better than dying and having nothing to show!

So those are the basics but let’s get to the subjective stuff: Is Sproggiwood any fun?

Yes, assuming your brain is wired in a way that lets you enjoy colorful, turn-based rogue-likes, Sproggiwood is a lot of fun. What I like about it is that it’s accessible. You always read about how awesome rogue-likes are because you die horribly over and over and over but each time you learn some tiny little bit of knowledge that makes you better. That may be true but honestly I don’t often have that much patience. Sproggiwood isn’t as punishing (yet anyway) as most rogue-likes but it still teaches you how to play in ways that are not immediately obvious at first (plus even if you die you get some gold out of the attempt which takes away that ‘wasted time’ feeling of coming out empty handed).

As an example, there are a lot of slimes early on. They come in different colors and when you kill them they leave a blotch on the ground. You’ll quickly learn that green slimes (first encountered in dungeon #2) leave a blotch of poison that causes a few hit points worth of damage if you move over it. So the first ‘tier of knowledge’ is realizing you should lure green slimes out of corridors before you kill them so you’ll be able to walk around their poison blotch. The next tier of knowledge is realizing that other monsters are also poisoned when they walk over a green slime death blotch, and in walking over it they eliminate it. So then you start trying to maneuver the enemies so that you can kill a green slime and the giant behind it will step in that puddle of poison trying to get to you, taking some damage and cleaning up the blotch at the same time. Stuff like that.

Another example. Scattered around the dungeons are pots that you can break to earn coins. Fair enough, I need gold. But then I found armor that gives you 5 health every time you break a pot. That seemed OK but maybe not as good as the +25 HP armor I was wearing since there aren’t THAT many pots laying around. But THEN I found a scroll that turns all monsters in the area into pots! OK now we have an effective combo! Wear that +5 HP/pot armor and carry a ‘turn monsters into pots’ scroll and you have a really effective way of both clearing out monsters and regaining health (and some gold too).

I don’t want to spoil any more of this kind of thing, but for me that’s where the real joy of Sproggiwood comes from. Finding an item or a skill that seems kind of strange and then realizing that combining it with something else makes it pretty potent. Or learning how monsters behave and turning that behavior against them.

I’m enjoying Sproggiwood a lot; more than I expected to in fact. My only disappointment is that the town screen looks like it’s going to have some kind of function, but really it’s just for looks. You keep adding buildings to it, and citizens move in (and say random things) but it’s all just for ambiance, at least in the first few hours. If that changes I’ll update this post.
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Sproggiwood is available on Steam or the Humble Store for $14.99.

Disclosure: This post is based on a copy of Sproggiwood provided by Freehold Games.

Trailer Time!

My PR friends have been sharing some cool trailers so I figured it was time to pass them on.

First up is Sproggiwood from Freehold Games. It’s described as “a turn-based tactical roguelike set in a Finnish mythological world.”

Sproggiwood has already been Greenlit at Steam and the devs are aiming for a Fall release. No pricing details are available yet.

Next up is Space Hulk: Deathwing, a FPS set in the Warhammer 40K mythos, and published by Focus Home Interactive and co-produced by Cyanide Studios. The developer is Streum On Studio (who I’m not familiar with). When I first watched this trailer I assumed it was just CGI but they say this is all in-engine.

Space Hulk: Deathwing is coming in 2015 for PC and consoles. Here’s the PR spiel:

Space Hulk®: Deathwing™ is a First-Person Shooter experience of Games Workshop’s classic Space Hulk boardgame set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000, developed on Unreal Engine 4 by Streum On Studio, the team behind E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy. Published by Focus Home Interactive and co-produced by Cyanide Studio, Space Hulk: Deathwing offers players the chance to experience a desperate battle against Genestealers in the claustrophobic tunnels of a Space Hulk, as they will gain skills, new abilities and new equipment thanks to experience earned during perilous missions.

Space Hulks drift along the currents of the Warp, the immaterial dimension of Chaos. Made up of gigantic mangled asteroids, derelict ship wrecks and other spatial debris, they sometimes grow to the size of a moon and often contain treasured and ancient lost technologies. However, they are ripe with danger including infestations of the lethal Genestealers.

Players take on the role of a Space Marine from one of the most secret and most feared Space Marine Companies: the Deathwing from the Dark Angels. Strap on your Terminator armour and equip the emblematic weaponry of the Space Marines to overcome the threats awaiting you in the Space Hulk. As a Librarian, you will also master the destructive powers of the Psykers. Your skills and performance in battle grant you Fervor Points, to spend on 4 skill trees allowing you to improve your abilities, unlock new powers, access powerful relics and devastating new weapons.

Last up for today is Styx: Master of Shadows. Once again Focus Home Interactive is publishing and this time Cyanide Studios is the developer. They call this an “infiltration game” and it looks like it plays a lot like Thief, only with more options. Since you play Styx the goblin you can hide under and inside things, plus you have magic abilities. It’s a long video with commentary that gives a really good feel for the game, I think.

Styx is coming out late this summer for PC, Xbox One and PS4. Quite a surprise for me as I’d either never heard of it or forgotten all about it.

Here again is the PR spiel:

Styx: Master of Shadows is an infiltration game with RPG elements developed by Cyanide Studio for PC.
Styx is a Goblin two centuries old… the very first of all the Goblins, he’s a master in the arts of stealth, theft, and murder. The depths of the miles-high Tower of Akenash, where Humans and Elves hide and protect the Tree, the source of the Amber, are the best chance Styx has of quickly amassing a small fortune and, perhaps, discover more about his true origins along the way.

Battle your way to the top of the lofty Tower of Akenash through immense and vertiginous levels that highlight the vertical perspective. You will complete numerous missions with various objectives as you climb up – murder, information recovery, theft of precious artifacts, etc – and gradually reconstruct the puzzle that provides the key to the mystery of your origins. The levels are open and the objectives can be completed in various ways: you are therefore free to choose the best way to proceed and the most suitable strategy to employ to achieve and complete your mission objectives. But remember you’re a Goblin: if your target is twice your size, or more, you’re better off eliminating them silently. and in the back!

The premises of the Tower of Akenash are protected by many: Humans of course, but also Elves whose science of magic cannot be overlooked, huge Orcs who have been victims of (more or less) successful experiments, but also other, stranger creatures. Guards, soldiers and other protectors of the Tower will adapt their behavior dynamically, depending on your actions: you better keep a low profile and prepare your plan of action beforehand. Study the guard patrols closely, use areas of light and shadow to your advantage, lure your target to a secluded area to assassinate him silently, or arrange “accidents” to remain undetected!

Styx: Master of Shadows also includes game mechanics right out of RPG, so as you gain experience you will unlock new skills, special and impressive moves and new and lethal weapons in 6 talent trees! You will also acquire extraordinary powers from the Amber flowing from the Source Tree which will help you out of a tight spot, make you invisible to the eyes of your enemies and which you can use to generate “disposable” clones of yourself! Explore every inch of the levels and not only will you uncover clues about your past but also, and more importantly, valuable treasure that you can steal from under the noses and beards of the guards in the Tower of Akenash!