Indietail – Skul: The Hero Slayer

Roguelites can be rather difficult and sometimes even frustrating. At times it’s very important to see what you already and what you still need in terms of specific stats or items. Knowledge is key more often than not and can turn a bad run into a good run. That part specifically is what makes me appreciate roguelikes so much. I really like them. More importantly, it’s important to remain calm and not lose your head… or maybe you need to do exactly that like in Skul: The Hero Slayer!

Developer: SouthPAW Games
Publisher: NEOWIZ
Genre: Action, Roguelite, 2D, Platformer, Indie
Release Date: January 21st, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

After the Adventurers joined forces with the Imperial Army and the “Hero of Caerleon”, the Demon King’s castle has fallen. All of the castle’s demons were taken prisoner except for one lone skeleton named “Skul”… So, it’s time for us to step into the role of Skul who’s doing his best to save the Demon King by himself!

BEASTMODE ACTIVATED

Skul is a challenging Action-Roguelite-Platformer that seems to have taken some inspiration from Dead Cells and maybe even Majora’s Mask. Your character may not be the strongest but you can switch out your head throughout your journey and enable yourself to inherit its unique abilities and characteristics. There are 30 different skulls to find throughout your journey, ranging from a fast-hitting and agile thief to a slow archmage to a Dead Cells cameo. Being able to swap skulls on a button press, enables you to change your playstyle on a whim and pick a bone with enemies while covering your weaknesses with different synergies between characters. At the same time, you can enhance your character by acquiring items that on their own also feature unique abilities like dropping a bomb upon swapping or enhancing your physical/magical attack but that also feature synergies in the form of traits. Traits add another layer to builds and strategies in Skul: The Hero Slayer as they can stack and form your build as you move on. You can equip up to nine different weapons and two skulls as well as one equipment piece that you can actively use in combat. The traits you have work in a lot of different ways. The Chase Trait enhances your damage based on the distance to your enemy while the Endure Trait reduces the damage taken. There are also more elaborate traits in the game that summon spirits, magma balls or even increase the damage you take and deal by a percentage, enabling you to really add a lot of synergies and develop incredibly strong runs, which is amazing!

Is that a Naruto-reference? Of course it is!

On another note, you’ll encounter doors to other maps after you complete a map and clear the encounter. Similar to games like Slay The Spire and Curse of the Dead Gods, you can choose where you go and shape your build even more based on what you need. Are you in need of more gold or a new item? Do you want more bones or rather a new character? The doors lead the way. Duh. I like these small additions that on their own may not contribute to a lot but overall give you a lot of freedom as to how your build will shape out and how you want to play the game. There are also special maps like the Bazaar where you can heal up, buy items, get a skull or even other powerful pieces of equipment. There are also mini-bosses in the form of Adventurers that have been hired to deal with you, challenge rooms that can award you with amazing additions to your build but that will also pose a serious threat to you and your run, or even boss encounters where you face off against the Elder Treant or a mad Alchemist. There are five different areas in the game, each with their unique mechanics and enemies. The further you proceed, the more dark quartz and money you’ll earn. Money can be spent in the run itself while Dark Quartz is a permanent currency you use to improve your skull or get a headstart into your run through the power of vendors that you unlock as time goes on.

So many enemies… and only one lone skul.

Skul not only shines through the strategic potential and the challenging yet satisfying combat but also through the Art it uses. Each skull feels unique and looks amazing. The spell effects of your skills range from powerful energy balls and summons to blink and slash effects, and overall also look powerful. That’s something that is just as important to me as gunplay in shooters. If you use a spell and it doesn’t feel as strong as it is, it takes away from the overall experience. In Skul, however, you can summon a giant meteor and feel the impact through the screen as you see your enemies get obliterated. Your slashes feel fast and satisfying. Your stomps feel heavy and strong. Your arrows are alright. I love the art style and the effects and while the music in the game is nothing special, it still adds to the experience, at least a little bit.

UwU it’s a witch and a cute one at that! OwO

But apart from that, there are also a few weaknesses to Skul… For starters, the major bosses you encounter feel nice when you beat them for the first time but they eventually turn into annoying roadblocks instead of actual foes that you need to slay. They still are challenging but I would have liked to see modifiers in the game that make the bosses more challenging or add unique attacks to it, similar to how Hades does it or even Risk of Rain 2. At the same time, I’d like to make another comparison to Hades as that game showed how well story-telling can be done in Roguelites, so it’s kind of bad to see how poorly the (rather obvious) story is executed in Skul. I either would have liked a better story with more interesting dialogue or just no story at all. It’s a bit of a bummer but can’t be helped. 

I look so evil! I love it!

The characters in the game, though, are more than endearing and adorable. There is a shapeshifting witch and an ogre merchant as well as an evil druid that all help you out on your runs. Similarly, you get to free people and get rewarded for it and there are special encounters at times that are challenging but fun. The whole narrative of the bad guys (aka us, the skeletons, demons and the Demon King) actually being the good guys is something I love and adore and I want more of that. It’s nice to see a change of pace. The Pixel Art and Gameplay are amazing and while I would have liked a better story and more variety in the boss fights… and while some of the translation errors bother me at times, I can look past those weaknesses and say proudly that I love Skul: The Hero Slayer and that I can highly recommend it.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Roguelikes and Burning Out

I love playing Roguelikes and Roguelites. I like the challenge and the strategic/tactical element of it and how different weapons, skills and items can synergise in unexpected ways. I love how I can play Curse of the Dead Gods and have a very bad run that forces me to use heavy weapons all of a sudden… and it works… and it feels good… and suddenly, I’m more comfortable with taking heavy weapons and focusing builds around those… and I like new and innovative concepts that developers come up with in the genre, allowing players to enjoy new iterations of the same gameplay-formula without the risk of potentially not enjoying it.

But at the same time, Roguelikes and Roguelites (to make it easier for myself, I’ll use “Roguelikes” for both of the terms from now on) end up being quite challenging and sometimes even frustrating. Getting a bad run or not receiving the upgrades, stats or resources you wanted is… unfortunate… luck is a big factor in these games after all… and that can lead to frustration building up to the point where I get tired of it.

It’s a bit of a bad habit of mine to play a roguelike for a lot of hours to the point of burning out from it, only to quit playing for a while and to only pick it up later. Remember that post I did on 100%ing Risk of Rain 2? Well,… I’m half-way done with the next post but I’m just not getting the right seeds for my runs to get some of the achievements, which is… unfortunate.

And Curse of the Dead Gods is amazing but after a run or two, I need a break and play something else. Similarly, I’ll play Loop Hero for maybe an hour or two in a row before eventually deciding to switch things up.

The problem is that you’re not guaranteed any good runs. Rarely do you ever have mechanics in place that allow you to have a guaranteed great start. The Binding of Isaac has some mechanics like that in place… but it doesn’t help a lot when you don’t get the damage you need and end up dying because it takes you too long to kill something… or you’re just way too slow in Risk of Rain and die because you can’t dodge fast enough or manoeuvre fast enough around the map.

But while this may sound dooming,… I feel as if it’s fine. It’s fine to take a break from games and to come back later… and with Roguelikes, I tend to come back more often than with other games. I can play a lot of Hades for hours only to then take a break from it for another two weeks. I love taking breaks and coming back with a fresh mind. Sometimes I crave that Isaac run. Sometimes I crave another expedition in Loop Hero. Sometimes I want to Enter the Gungeon again or to climb the Nuclear Throne. Sometimes I just feel like spinning for more coins in Luck be a Landlord or I want to bring out the big guns in Risk of Rain 2. Sometimes, I want to be evil in Despotism 3k and punish humans… or I want to throw poison daggers in Slay The Spire… or I try to understand Heroes of Hammerwatch and Noita.

I could go on and on about frustrating mechanics in challenging games or I could just take a break and come back to them when I feel like it… and that’s the magic of Roguelikes. It’s kind of for that reason that my dynamic collection of “Roguelikes” on Steam features about 79 entries that all are amazing… well, most of them are.

And I figured I’d share that. Take breaks. Go for a stretch. Get something to eat/drink. Come back to a game later before the frustration and the salt ruins it for you. You can do it, I believe in you! And I encourage breaks. Breaks are important. Burning out is fine… just come back later.

Note: The featured image for this post is the same one as one that I used in a previous post… I figured I could use that one again because the games depicted in it were quite fitting this time as well. Celeste isn’t a roguelike but I also burn out from that game… so,… that’s why… Don’t hold that against me, thanks.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Roguelike vs. Roguelite

I love playing Roguelikes. I love playing Roguelites. There is a difference between the two but a lot of times people debate and it just leads to nothing. Sometimes games are labelled as “roguelikes” but they’re actually “rogue-lites”. Sometimes people label games as “rogue-lites” based on one factor and one alone… and that’s kind of wrong, in my opinion. In the end, it doesn’t make a difference, really. As long as you enjoy them, it doesn’t matter what other people call them, right? 

Well,… it would be boring if I were to just leave it at that, as I personally think that there is a difference between rogue-lites and roguelikes. 

Faster Than Light would be a roguelike for me. Pawnbarian? Roguelike! The Binding of Isaac? Roguelite! Hades? Roguelite!

Now, the original game (can be found all over the internet but also on steam) that defined the genre of “Rogue-likes” was, as the name suggests, the 1980 game “Rogue”! It was an ASCII based game that featured turn-based combat, procedural generation and permadeath. While it was hard and challenging, it was also rather strategic and allowed you to step back, think about your next move, and then go on. All games that are like “Rogue” are rogue-likes, duh. Games that are like Roguelikes but aren’t exactly Roguelikes would be Roguelike-likes or Roguelites! Games that aren’t grid-based or that aren’t turn-based, for instance, would fall into that category. There are some people in the gaming community that define roguelikes and rogue-lites just by the amount of permanent character progression in the game, which I personally feel is wrong. I think that that’s a feature that shouldn’t define a genre. Whether or not a game features permanent character progression doesn’t matter for me when I tag a game as a rogue-lite or a roguelike in one of my reviews.

A new addition to my library, Noita, is a fantastically magical Rogue-lite that I can highly recommend!

So, Pawnbarian, for instance, features grid-based, turn-based combat that allows you to be rather strategic about the way you play. Slay The Spire may not be grid-based but it still is a rogue-like for me since the combat feels rather strategic to me. Meanwhile, Hades is more of a rogue-lite in my opinion as it adds a lot more to the original rogue-formula than just action and character progression. It adds dialogues, a story, permanent resources, cosmetics, and even fishing into the game. It’s a rogue-lite in my opinion.

Technically speaking my favourite Pokémon games are roguelikes: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a great series that features dungeon-crawling with turn-and-grid-based combat as well as resource-management. I’m not sure if other people would agree with me here, but in my opinion, that’s quite a lot like Rogue… or quite rogue-like!

But hey, opinions change and I’d love to hear more about your opinions on the matter so that I could educate myself. As far as I know, there is also the Berlin Interpretation that defines eight high-value factors and six low-value factors. Among the high-value factors, there’s procedural or random dungeon generation, permadeath, turn-based gameplay, non-modal gameplay, a degree of complexity, resource management for survival, hack and slash -ish based gameplay, and exploration. Having more of these features or fewer of them doesn’t exclude or include a game. It just makes a game “more roguelike” or “less roguelike”.

With Guild of Dungeoneering, I’m honestly not quite sure if it’s still a roguelike (technically, it should be…) or if it’s already a roguelite (I mean, it’s quite different, right?).

While I agree with a lot of these features, I’m not entirely sure what to do with the Berlin Interpretation. I guess, you could grade games in those aspects and then compare them to other games to decide whether or not the game is a roguelike or not… but generally speaking, I doubt that I’d ever use that interpretation/definition. 

Instead, I tend to go with the strategy aspect vs. other approach definition. Most of the time, I go with how I feel about a game and I’m sure I misclassified some of my reviews… but generally speaking, I don’t think that Diablo or Minecraft are roguelikes and I do think that Isaac is a rogue-lite. My blog, my rules!

Hope you enjoyed this post! I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for ages now and am glad, I got to make it. Going more in-def with some of this stuff would have been boring, so I tried to keep it light… or should I say… lite? :^) 

Do you care about that stuff? If so, what definition do you use? What’s important for you? Let me know!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Is another review needed?

Some games out there are real gems but will never get any attention. And that’s sad, so I started reviewing games on this blog and recommending underrated games to friends and eventually, this became a big part of my life. It’s a hobby that I’ve been doing for more than a year now and it’s always fun to find gems and recommend stuff and write down my thoughts about all of these things. Lovely!

Meanwhile, other gems out there are well-known and have their own dedicated communities. People know titles like Slay the Spire, The Binding of Isaac, Stardew Valley, etc. already. Do they need more reviews or should I even write about titles like that?

Note: Since I forgot to take any screenshots for most of the games I’m mentioning in this post apart from Hades, I’ll only use screenshots from Hades. I’ll keep it spoiler-free, though, so no worries about that.

That’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot for the past couple of months. I’ve got countless posts sitting in the drafts about titles that I wanted to review and that I wanted to talk about. Just when I was about to get ready for the finishing touches, I ended up hesitating: Do I add something to the world by just saying what is already known? There are too many reviews for me to add any new thoughts to the same topic, after all, right? 

And that’s where my opinion changed recently: The fact that it’s a review by me should be enough to make my review different from other reviews.

The Steam Curator “Can you pet the dog?” would now say “yes, you can pet the dog”, I guess.

Even though everyone has probably said everything about every popular game out there, I can’t be 100% sure about that without having read all of the reviews out there. Obviously, that’s not possible. I can’t read every review out there and honestly, I don’t want to. In the first place, I don’t read reviews on games that I’m reviewing until after I’ve posted them as I don’t want to get influenced by other people’s opinions on the matter. I feel like that’s quite important, especially as I don’t want to accidentally or subconsciously write something similar or maybe even the same sentences as someone else has. 

Alas, I kind of changed my opinion on the matter. Of course, countless people probably know about Graveyard Keeper, Monster Train, Celeste, and the like, but I think that my opinion should matter as well. Maybe I actually do have something to add to the giant pool of reviews out there. Maybe I actually do have a different point as to why a game should or should not be bought. 

Every opinion matters, after all, and alas, every review is important. There probably is someone out there that hasn’t played Celeste yet or that has been hesitating to play it because they don’t like Platformers… and only recently, I played it for the very first time and enjoyed it a lot! It made me feel good about myself as a person that plays games as I was dashing through the air in levels that other people thought were really difficult. Meanwhile, Celeste was thought-provoking and challenging in other rooms when people said that it was an easy level while I was struggling to figure out what the intended way was and whether or not my way was doable, at all. There are countless reviews on Celeste out there but I’m not sure if any platformer-haters out there have taken a look at the game only to say that it’s actually great as an introduction to platformers. I don’t know if people that hate the genre would pick it up. Alas, my opinion as someone like that, as someone who hates and sucks at platformers, matters! My opinion matters and in that instance I probably have something meaningful to add to the ocean of reviews.

Well, who would have thought that there’s lava in hell, eh? What a surprise… /s – no spoiler. 😛

Or take Hades, for instance, the game that got updated so much during Early Access that I ended up having to rewrite my review a total of nine (!) times because things that I didn’t like got changed or updated and suddenly with new implementations old weapons and boons actually were incredibly strong or powerful. I suddenly enjoyed those, so I rewrote a few paragraphs, only to realise that it all didn’t work out too well, as my style changed in that time. When I was done with rewriting it for the ninth time, it has already been released with its version 1.0 and everyone hopped onto the hype train, resulting in me feeling like my review wasn’t needed. Again, that mindset is bad. 

I can praise and love Hades as much as I want to and I’ll do so eventually. I’ll be able to add a lot to the discussion as I’m a mythology-crack and as I love Transistor and Bastion. I probably have other takes on the game that other reviewers may not have had.

Alas, since I have had different interests in my life and since I’ve been enjoying different games, movies, books, poems, shows, and other media, my reviews may already have a different take on things. Just because I am obsessed with mythology, I may already have different bits and pieces of information to add to the discussion. Just because I’m into Drama and plays and stuff, I may already be able to connect lore pieces together or laugh about something that other people may not get. 

No turning back now.

I’m not saying that I’m better at reviewing games than other people or that my reviews are better or worse. I’m just saying that every review is unique and that every reviewer has different tastes, interests and takes on the same topic, making them unique and special and alas, their opinions are important. 

What does this mean for me and my blog? Well, I’ll revisit all of those drafts and try to publish some of my older posts throughout the year and rework them to fit my current style and you’ll probably see some newer games in there as well as some more popular ones. There will be the odd one here and there with a very underrated and unknown game and I’ll just hope that it’ll get more attention. 

I hope you liked my take on the matter. I feel as every take on a topic is important even if some if not all points are the same. As long as it’s written independantly it should be allowed to exist. As long as it’s a different person writing it, it already should be able to provide some new thoughts and opinions on it. And well, obviously, the people that read my blog posts are not the same that read Frosti‘s or Krikket‘s, right? 

Alas, I hope you enjoyed this post and the next few on other stuff. Have a nice day and stay awesome!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.