I Love When A Steam Early Access Game Gets It Right

I Love When A Steam Early Access Game Gets It Right

Cryptark keeps kicking my arse, and I love it.

The derelict space ship invader roguelike just hit Steam Early Access, but I don't think I'd have guessed it was early without the disclaimer. The game's campaign and presentation are slick as hell — fully voice acted and backed by a soundtrack that reminds me of the original StarCraft — and everything feels weighty, tangible, and terrifying. You're piloting a mechanical goddamn hulk. You're the biggest badass in the 'verse — aside from literally everything else.

Here's how it works: your goal is to infiltrate and disarm a series of (increasingly difficult) randomised space ships. First you select your loadout and point of entry, like so:

Then you set about finding and destroying key defence systems, which are still active despite the fact that who or whatever flew these things is long gone. Alien cyborg monstrosities roam ships' menacing halls, and they're vicious but manageable — unless you idiotically bumble into an alarm, like your good ol' role model and life coach, Nathan.

It's in your best interest, then, to first methodically work your way through a ship, taking out cores that control alarm, shield, repair, and drone manufacturing systems. It all comes together like so:

With those out of the way, you can destroy the main core and, boom, the ship's yours to send to the chop shop. Then you collect a wad of space bucks and move onto the next one.

It's a satisfying loop that leaves ample room for surprises, not to mention combat that sees you float like a butterfly and sting like a Big Daddy from BioShock. You accumulate random upgrades from tech stations on ships too, which incentivizes you to try out different weapon/item combos. Right now I'm all about the shotgun and shield for more, shall we say, intimate encounters, but I'd like to see if I can become not-terrible with the rail gun. There are also flamethrowers. And nukes.

In short, Cryptark already feels like a nicely polished game — campaign progression, world-building, and all. Admittedly, roguelikes are more adaptable to Early Access than most genres, but it's still great to see one get it this right. I encountered one glitch (a sequence break that caused an early dialogue to not trigger, forcing me to restart), and the timer — which causes you to miss out on some of your reward money if you disarm ships too slowly — is a little annoying, but otherwise I can wholeheartedly recommend checking it out right now.

Given that the main framework is already in place, the developers plan to spend 6-12 months adding more. In their words, they want to expand Cryptark with "more weapons, more enemies, more ships, more narrative to explore, challenges to overcome and tactics to create." Consider me on board for the ride.

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    This looks good, but:


      It's too late for that. "Roguelike" now has all the weight and cultural acceptance of "sandbox" or "FPS". The intent of the writer is noble, but even in 2013, when it was written it was already too late.

        Some people just have to accept that language evolves, despite what purists of a word may think. The word 'cute' has evolved in quite an interesting way, for example.

    Maybe its my lack of game knowledge, but I find "sandbox" and "FPS" **much** more descriptive of a game than "roguelike", and much more useful a term to include in an opening sentence. I would never have to go googling to work out exactly what a reviewer means when they describe something as a sandbox game.

    Wikipedia suggests roguelikes are turn based, tile based and high fantasy, and this game is none of those. I guess the wikipedia article is a bit dated and the term has broadened. Maybe if things were still defined as they are in that wikipedia article that would make this game a "roguelike-like", which the same wikipedia article suggests is actually a term that people use. Yuck.

      Being someone who has played way too many roguelikes to count over the last 2-3 years I can safely say that only a very small minority of them were turn based with a tile/grid system. I've been contradicting people on the term for a long time now. The old definition of roguelike is dead, it now basically means a game with permadeath, procedural/random elements and you build your character as you go. Sometimes there is a persistent "meta' that allows you to carry upgrades across runs.

      Time for people to get with the program. At some point the first FPS and RPG were made and they're nothing like the standard fare we have in those genres now. Things evolve over time and the genres become much larger in terms of what will fit into them.

        And yet, when you consider the terms, a modern day FPS is still exactly that: a first-person shooter. Even if very different to Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, it still fits its label.

        But if a roguelike is now hard to recognise as being like the original game Rogue (a 35 year old game most current day gamers will never have played), maybe the term has lost its (already pretty limited IMO) value? You say you've been contradicting people for a long time, that suggests a lot of unresolved confusion about the term. Do you ever have to argue with someone over whether a game is an FPS or not?

        hehehe, it's struck a nerve with me, sorry for getting away from the topic of the game itself, i'll stop now.

          Contradicting people more due to them trying to keep the term where it was initially and being pedantic about games not literally being "like" rogue.

          Rogue was so different to every other game that had been released at that point that it defined its own genre. Hence why people started saying that other games were like rogue...roguelike.

          The first RPGs were all like dungeons and dragons, 4 person party based going through a dungeon or open world. RPGs then evolved and you get turn based things like Heroes of might and magic, third person games like fable/skyrim etc etc. If you say a game is an RPG does that really tell you what the game is? You assume there's some kind of leveling aspect to it but not all of them have even that. The same thing happens with roguelikes. That alone gives some basic principles that the game follows but you need more definition to get a better picture of it.

          Games are all multi-genre in their classification now. You can have an RPG roguelike , an FPS roguelike, a turn based roguelike. All of those games are different and all will give you a different idea of what the game is if you have a basic understanding of what recent roguelike games are like.

          Again, same thing applies to RPGs. If you applied the old definition of a 4 player party based exploration/dungeon crawler as being all an RPG is then someone comes along and calls Heroes of Might and Magic an RPG...?

          By today's definitions you'd call Rogue a dungeon crawler RPG with permadeath, but you'd also apply the same classification to the first dungeon and dragons games.

          Definitions change over time to suit modern day trends. Simple as that.

          Last edited 12/10/15 9:46 pm

    I love how narrow, prejudicial, judgemental and arrogant our definition of the word "right" is.

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