Sword of the Stars: The Pit
Game Name: Sword of the Stars: The Pit
Developer and Publisher: Kerberos Productions
All right, enough of these AAA titles. Time to delve back into the indie stuff. I know, I know. It smells funny and the floor is a bit sticky (don’t worry, just crushed dreams and developer tears), but maybe we’ll find something cool?
Since XCOM I’ve been on a bit of a Sci-Fi kick. Oh sure, fantasy and wizards are cool and all, but I have a deep, insatiable craving for lasers. So many lasers. So I figured I would browse through my Steam library, dust the shelves, and see what looked neat. One little roguelike caught my attention: Sword of the Stars: The Pit.
Released in March of this year, with the first expansion following in July, The Pit was handled directly by Kerberos, the same team responsible for the creation of not only the original two games and their expansions, but the creator of the setting itself. So if you’re a diehard SotS fan then consider this a treat. Or an abomination. I don’t know. It’s your opinion.
In The Pit, your planet is being ravaged by a terrible space plague, and it’s turning people into space ghouls, so you have to delve into the spacey space space to space the spacers (space). But serious face here, there are alien ruins with a possible cure at the bottom. So you fight your way through level after level to the bottom to find the “possible” cure. If the idea sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. Thankfully, the game seems aware of this silliness and does not take itself too seriously and is loaded with tongue-in-cheek humor and pretty damn chuckle-worthy dialogue.
As you start the game you’re given three different character classes, each with their own detailed background and starting skills. The marine is pure brute combat, built to stomp aliens and not much else. The engineer is more about the brains, able to hack into computers and create devastating weaponry. The scout is quick and smooth, accurate with a pistol and overall a well-balanced killing machine.
Unlike the previous Sword of the Star games, The Pit is a turn-based RPG where you play as a singular character. Delving through the levels, killing monsters and completing tasks net you XP and the precious loot. Gaining a level doles out stat points for your core stats (might, brains, finesse) and skill points (pistols, medicine, foraging, etc.). Doing just about anything in the game requires you to succeed a skill check. Failing the checks have varying consequences ranging from the overwhelming feeling that your existence is meaningless, to things exploding and rendering your existence meaningless.
The Pit is quite difficult. The developers have said that there are thirty levels that you have to clear through before you can find “the cure”. Coupled with permadeath and the limited save function (you can save, but you must also exit the game when you do so and when you reload the save is lost) you are in for some tough battles. So far? The deepest I’ve gotten is fourteen. And that’s just on the normal difficulty setting (would have gotten deeper if it weren’t for those damn space bears). Though the difficulty hasn’t deterred me. Some of the fun of playing is seeing just how deep you can go and reveling in the lists of statistics you’re given upon your death (weapons used, numbers of creatures killed, etc.) and what exactly spelled your demise.
Much like other roguelikes of its nature (Torchlight, Dungeons of Dreadmoor, Diablo) The Pit has a high rate of replayability. Each of the levels are randomly generated and the creators have said that after reaching the bottom of the pit you are able to unlock an endless dungeon mode which enables you to spelunk until you clunk (*cricket chirps*). There are also bio mods present which allow you to customize not only your weapons, but your character itself. Each of the colored mods have different abilities to it which are either helpful, or drastically unhelpful. This little added gambling helps keep each playthrough unique.
Crafting is another important feature of the gameplay. As you cruise through the levels you’ll find ingredients that can be cooked to make “delicious” food, or scienced together to make unholy weaponry. You can of course scour the levels for the various recipes to these creations and be a true dungeon delver. Or you can be like me and go to the wiki page which has an ever-growing list of recipes. Don’t look at me like that. This game is hard and I’m weak.
One mechanic which adds to the overall difficulty of the game is their interpretation of line of sight. As you move through doorways and around corners you’ll see shaded out areas of the map. This represents your character’s line of sight. Anything lurking there (monsters, aliens, space bears) will be completely invisible to you, though if you listen closely you might just hear them gnashing away at your previous incarnations. I particularly liked that not only does the line of sight incorporate corners, but also the area directly behind you. As you’re moving the shadows move incredibly smoothly and it’s overall a well-done feature.
That purple guy is called a Strangler. Guess what he does? It rhymes with wrangles, and is made more difficult by turtlenecks.
The folks at Kerberos are pretty well regarded when it comes to taking care of their games post-launch. The game has been patched a few times since it was launched in March and already an expansion, Mind Games, has been released which adds new levels, items, weapons, enemies, two new playable characters, and the addition of Psionic Powers (to be read in your best H.G. Wells impersonation). I haven’t gotten my hands on Mind Games yet, as I like to get the most I can out of the vanilla experience before altering the core game.
Now, I like this game. I do. It’s a fun little roguelike that does its job well. But that’s just it. It does the job, and not much else. There’s nothing particularly amazing or special about the game. You’re not going to be wowed by the grand innovations this game does not have. It fits in its niche quite nicely and shows no ambition to move out. Considering the low price and decent amount of replayability, this suits me just fine. Sometimes you don’t need a game-changer, you just need something entertaining to do on a Saturday night, which Sword of the Stars: The Pit handles quite nicely.
For Sword of the Stars: The Pit for the PC I give 4/6
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