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Review: Sword of the Stars: The Pit

roguelike indie Kerberos Productions sci-fi PC GamersGate Sword of the Stars: The Pit

Developer: Kerberos Productions
Publisher: Kerberos Productions
Platform: PC (GamersGate, Steam)
Release Date: February 22, 2013
ESRB: N/A (E10+ suggested)

A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review



Sword of the Stars is an interesting series that has remained out of the mainstream since its inception in 2006. Since then, Kerberos Productions have catered to niche 4X players nicely with a handful of games, although not all were received highly. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is their latest effort to addict gamers but isn’t a space 4X game like the rest. Instead, it’s a spin off into the world of sci-fi roguelikes.

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Interestingly, The Pit is an example of what can come from games that do not get successfully crowdfunded. The developer initially placed the project on IndieGoGo where it failed to reach its goal. Fans were not ready to see it lost though and neither were the creators. As such, the game has continued to see work until it finally released this February. With all that said, the game is still not perfect, but it manages to be a great experience all the same.

The Pit slips you into the armored shoes of one of three playable characters attempting to descend to the very bottom of an alien-filled facility. Through one of three character classes, you venture past increasingly difficult enemies and search for the way down to the next level. There are thirty at all, at which point you are to find the so called “Pit” for which the game is named. What’s there? You’re going to have to spend a fair bit of time to find out.

The gameplay is roguelike to its core. Players much pay attention to their health bar as well as hunger bar at all times. For if you die, either due to aliens, poison, or starvation, the game will end. From there, all one can do is simply start over again from square one. Nothing is carried over between plays aside from a scoreboard which keeps track of how well you did in previous games. There’s only one way to win and that’s through careful planning and understanding game mechanics.

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Players simply won’t survive if they don’t have a plan of action. Everything in the world is aided or hindered by how characters are leveled up. There are the obvious ways to level, such as increasing strength or intelligence, but there are many facets of intelligence to choose from. For example, you may spend points to be knowledgeable about computers, electronics, lockpicks, or many more. Each of these has its specific use as you find locked crates and doors in the environment. For example, with the right skillset you can gain use of medical bays, labs, or simply unlock doors.

Without special interest paid to the various stats you’re going to be feeding yourself a highly difficult game. Although it is possible to craft things like lockpicks, there are still many environmental objects that require a certain amount of skill. At the very least the game puts a statistical value on how likely you are to open something versus breaking it. Again, none of a character’s level progress will be brought over to a new game.

Keeping track of what needs leveling is really the least of your worries. More important is the enemies to be faced who lurk in hallways and rooms throughout. At least battles in The Pit aren’t hard to understand. There are a variety of melee weapons and guns to use, many of which are discovered later. When an enemy is in range for a particular weapon you simply need to fire. Both auto and manual aiming are accommodated, although some items see better use with one or the other.

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The entire game is turn based, although this is not shown directly. There are no markers telling whose turn it is; instead, the game will simply pause you as the enemy takes its turn. If there are no enemies around the game simply feels fluid. It’s when they are nearby taking turns that the character may appear to pause every so often. It’s a bit jarring when not in combat, and may annoy players. However, during a fight it’s easy to see how the turn based play works and it is helpful with planning your next move.

As you engage in fights, weapons and armor start to degrade. From there, you can find new items or ways to repair them. One exciting aspect of The Pit is that there’s rarely one way to do anything. There are various bays that may be used to craft new goods, or others to heal and repair things. Of course, as many good things as exist to aid players there are also bad items such as traps around every corner.

Crafting is an integral part of completing the game. Although you can craft curing potions or new gear, the most important is food. As your hunger bar dwindles, searching out a place to cobble up a meal becomes the only goal. Unfortunately, the game only provides one recipe (if you play the tutorial). There are over forty in all but the player is tasked with uncovering them all. As cool as this sounds, it plays out in much meaner fashion as failed attempts at making meals result in losing ingredients. At the start, ingredients are fairly rare to come by and it is almost painful to lose a batch due to a failed recipe attempt.

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This is true of using lab benches to craft other goods as well. How are you ever supposed to learn how to make things? The game actually has a way to do so, although it is a bit cumbersome. You see, there are pieces of information you’ll find around. As they are written in the alien Zuul language though they must first be translated. These Zuul documents provide important information, but some players may not recognize how to make use of them.

The Pit makes no accommodations for newbies. This is a hardcore roguelike and as such it is sure to please fans. There is such a wealth to do and upgrade that it never feels like you’re saying the same game twice. Levels only grow larger and tougher the further you descend. This is a game that requires tons of time and dedication to make it to the bottom. Players who enjoy this sort of thing will find themselves spending hours trying to build characters just right so their next mission will succeed. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is just the game for those roguelike fans who enjoy statistics and unfriendly aliens.

 

Pros:

+ Wealth of ways to build a character
+ Massive amount of crafting recipes to get new goods
+ Variety of weapons and modifications

Cons:

- Discovering recipes wastes many supplies
- “Invisible” turn based system is annoying during exploration


 

Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Great


Definitely check out Sword of the Stars: The Pit if you enjoy roguelikes with a sci-fi twist.




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