“Roguelike” is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot. Here, I’m using it to mean “procedurally generated characters who are given procedurally generated overarching quests but need to perform lots of little procedurally generated little quests to accomplish those overarching quests. Oh, and you’re going to die a lot. Like, a lot a lot.”
Heat Signature is currently on sale for 20% off on Steam for $11.99. Twelve bucks.
Holy cow, is it worth it.
The conceit is simple. You start at a space station with a choice of four space-farers before you. They have, randomly, either a short blade, a long blade, a wrench, or a gun as well as some other item. Pick one of them. Walk over to the mission board and pick a mission… and the mission will be, randomly, a steal an item, kill a guy, capture a guy, rescue a guy. Then you get in your little pod ship and fly through your procedurally generated star system and get to the procedurally generated ship and perform your mission despite whatever number of guards you might happen to have on the ship. (Note: Blades kill, wrenches incapacitate without killing. So if you have to capture a guy, be sure to have a wrench on you. If you only have guns or blades, you’re going to fail the mission.)
If you’re successful with your mission, fly back to your home base (hey, why not hijack the ship you just looted?) and then do it all over again.
At some point you’re going to talk to the guy sitting the corner about your own personal mission (which is get revenge on a guy for hurting/killing a loved one, rescue a kidnapped loved one, steal a particular item to pay off the debt of a loved one…) and learn that it will cost 200 Currency Units to do that particular quest. Holy cow. The missions you’re going to be doing at this point give you, like, 9 Currency Units.
So you play and you play and you die and you start over and you play and you play and you figure out the mechanics and you die and you get better and you successfully do enough missions in a row (including the ones that pay 20, 30, 40 Currency Units) to get assigned that mission… and you die. Because, seriously, it’s a bear.
So you get better. You learn how to use sidewinders, and teleporters, and invisibility shields.
And then you write a review like this one telling other people that they need to get this game because it’s an awesome roguelike that also happens to be on sale.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))