Indie Dev Showcase 6/11/22

The Indie game showcases highlight the many developer-submitted games and game demos we play here on the channel. If you would like to submit a game for a future stream please get in touch.

The Last Sunshine Developer Interview

For this cast, I sat down with Jonathan White who is the developer of the Last Sunshine and the recent re-release The Last Sunshine Rekindled. We spoke about his background and developing a combination of a shooter and a roguelite.

Salt and Sacrifice is a Sidegrade Sequel

DOUBLE THE SALT

Salt and Sanctuary by Ska Studios was one of the more solid 2D attempts at making a soulslike along with metroidvania progression. While the game wasn’t perfect, the mysterious world, disturbing character designs, and challenging gameplay made it a highlight of the year. With Salt and Sacrifice, the developers have experimented in a new way that unfortunately does drag things down a bit.

Mage Madness

The story finds you in a completely new area from the original. After being imprisoned for a crime, your only options are to either rot in jail or become an inquisitor who hunts mages. Taking the latter, you head towards the land of the mages, and in typical soulslike fashion, you’re killed within 30 seconds of playing. Revived via the pact you made, your only way to get free of your pact is to find a cure and take out every mage you see along the way.

The basics of the first game are here, as you are free to customize your character from a variety of weapons and gear that can be found or crafted. The original’s massive skill tree has been expanded with more classes and options. The class and armor perks are required for you to use weapons and armor pieces of certain levels respectively. Unlike the first game, your “eastus” flask here can be upgraded via crafting as opposed to specific nodes on the tree.

Right away, a lot of the more archaic aspects of the first game are gone. The faction/idol system of the first game — where you could set up bases for different groups by using consumable items is no more. But the real twist, and major gameplay difference between the two games, come with a new focus.

Monster Mage

The first game easily fit as a metroidvania soulslike, but with Salt and Sacrifice, the developers have taken inspiration from Monster Hunter. Instead of one hugely connected world, the game is split between different self-contained zones. While there are still major upgrades that add new tech hidden throughout the world, progress is now locked via “mage doors.” To open these doors up, you need to find, kill, and consume the heart of a certain number of mages.

The mages themselves act like the monsters from Monster Hunter — they will randomly go around the area causing trouble. Each mage has a set of attacks and summons they can use. As you do damage to them, they’ll warp around until you’ve done enough damage to trigger the boss fight. Killing the mage will reward you with the heart the first time you kill them and droppable resources. Like Monster Hunter, there is a random assortment of goods that will be given, and this is a part of a greater focus on crafting.

Most of your gear will come from crafting them out of the resources from mages. Killing a mage can also reward artifacts that come in different rarities and levels. As you explore each zone, you may also come across a book that will allow you to set up repeatable hunts, but the mages will also show up randomly as you make progress.

Boss fights range from easy to incredibly annoying to fight due to the combat system

Your two forms of major progress will come from unlocking more areas and finding inquisitor tools that take the place of the brands as your metroidvania unlocks.

All this adds up to a game that feels different than the first, but Salt and Sacrifice also shows the limitations of the mechanics and not in the best way.

Ragdoll Rage

The original’s combat system was good and served the purpose given the mechanics at work. With Salt and Sacrifice and the changes made to the overall pacing, we can see some major pain points with the transition to hunts.

Stamina, which is used for attacking and defending, feels very low compared to the first. It is very easy to run out even with a few basic attacks or dodging at the start considering how much gets thrown your way. The mages themselves fight with random patterns, but said patterns are not equal. Many of them have attacks that require your full attention to dodge, and the AI has a habit of spamming this attack several times in a row — making it near impossible to dodge everything or get in for a hit.

Here’s the big point, when your character is in the air or standing, their hitbox will take every attack that connects; you are only immune to damage when you are lying on the ground. For spam attacks, if one hits you, there is a good chance the next five will hit as well. Anytime the player is knocked into the air, you cannot always air recover out of it, and more than likely, you are going to take more damage while you are helpless.

It is very easy in this game to go from full health to dead from a single attack that either stun locks you, or all the individual projectiles connect and wipe you out. Fortunately, mage health does not regenerate when you die outside of the actual boss encounters, but the rest of the enemies come back.

One thing that doesn’t come back is your resources. For this game, your healing flask and ammunition for your range weapon require you to gather resources and craft them. In the first game, your flask would also be restored back to its capacity at checkpoints. This system is an odd choice given the difficulty and how easy it is to drain them. But these decisions emphasize a point about Salt and Sacrifice’s design changes and how it is far more grinding than the first game.

Grind Souls

The first game had grinding in the traditional sense of getting enough salt to unlock levels and get upgrade materials. Here, the amount of grinding has been increased. Not only do you need to grind areas for basic resources, but you need to grind mage encounters and their spawns for upgrade materials, along with different ones for the various weapons.

While the game will track a named mage during a hunt, you cannot set it to track wandering mages while you are exploring a zone. Good luck keeping track of one if they decide to warp while they are just slightly off screen from you. This could be forgiven if not for one major problem — the game has no in-game maps or guide markers. Trying to remember where all the heart doors are becomes frustrating when you start having multiple ones at different thresholds. When you die, there is no indication where your death spot is, and if you die from a fall, the drop point shows up where you landed, not where you fell.

Each biome only has one warp point at the start of it, and you can only do leveling up and gear upgrades back at the hub. I do like the shortcuts that you can open that allow you to quickly get back to certain areas, but there is still a lot of backtracking that will need to be done.

Feeling Salty

Salt and Sacrifice despite being the sequel feels like a step back and shows the limitations of the combat system. If you haven’t played the first game yet, I easily recommend that one for your 2D soulslike fix. This isn’t a bad game, but it just feels like two steps forward and three steps back.

If you enjoyed this story, consider joining the Game-Wisdom Discord channel. It’s open to everyone.

Indie Dev Showcase (6/5/22)

For this indie dev showcase, I went with some of my favorite boomer, and not so boomer, shooters that I’ve played lately.

Indie Store Page Review for the Last Defense

Besides reviewing indie games, I also review store pages and provide help with marketing indie games. I’m always looking for store pages to review if you would like me to check out yours, please get in touch. For this episode, this is the game The Last Defense

Indie Store Page Review of Toaster Defense

This is a store page review of the indie game Toaster Defense. If you would like me to review your store page for a future show, please reach out.

Rogue Legacy 2 is a Roguelite Return

THE ORIGINAL ROGUELITE

Rogue Legacy is the game that popularized what would become the sub-genre known as “roguelite” — the idea of having a focus on persistence as progression in a roguelike. Since its release, the roguelike and lite genres have blown up across the board. With all these new flavors, Rogue Legacy 2 has recently left early access and now asks the question: can the original roguelite show these newcomers some new tricks?

The Liter Side

The basic gameplay of the original returns with a new story. A Kingdom has fallen to a mysterious corruption, the guardians have been taken over by a strange force, and you once again sign away your life and your descendants to Charon to figure out what’s going on. The upgraded visuals are impressive, with improved lighting that makes everything pop.

If you missed the first one, the progression of the game comes in the form of your estate/castle. Gold, earned by killing enemies and finding treasure chests can be used after a run to add additions to your castle. These additions become progressively more expensive, but they will unlock new classes, raise stats, add new quality of life features, and more.

In runs, you can find blueprints that can be used to acquire new equipment pieces with a set bonus for wearing them all. Unlike the first game, your major improvements this time come in the form of heirlooms that are placed in each biome. Once unlocked, they stay active for the rest of the game. Runes, that offer passive bonuses, are still locked to completing a variety of puzzles and mini challenges throughout the world. A new unlock is in the form of “scars” which are bonus challenges whose resources can be used to unlock additional features and boost your stats even higher. The roguelite nature of Rogue Legacy 2 is on full display, and I can just see people attempting level 1 challenges or “low level” runs.

the persistence is back in full force

A new resource “resolve” acts as a reserve used to equip relics that provide a variety of passive bonuses that can be found in a run. Once your resolve gets less than 100, further drains will reduce your max health. These relics can be worth it and with the right ones can easily break a run.

Class diversity has been given a facelift with more classes, more special powers, and of course, more whacky traits. The traits were a big part of the original’s charm, with characters having traits that affect their run but can also earn you more gold for taking them.

Everything about Rogue Legacy 2 brings back the charm of the original, but it also brings back the issues I had as well.

Floaty Fighting

Of the variety of action roguelikes I’ve played, both Rogue Legacies feel the most inconsistent in terms of movement and combat for several reasons.

While it may not look like it, there are aspects of bullet hell in both games in how you must dodge attacks. Many enemies can launch all varieties of projectiles at you, some that track, some that can go through walls, etc. One of the biggest annoyances with the game is the lack of standardized alerts about oncoming attacks.

Some attacks the game will warn you that the enemy is about to do them, others they won’t. The same goes for incoming projectiles off-screen — some of them the game will let you know, other times you’ll get hit with no warning. It becomes very frustrating when you are trying to keep track of things and you can have three different projectiles and no way to tell how they behave. You have no invincibility frames while dashing (only one class gets an I-frame dodge), and it’s very common to have a situation where dodging one attack puts you right in front of another.

The enemy physics is one of the most frustrating aspects of the game, to the point that I’m glad that there is an assist option to disable damage when coming in contact. Many classes have attacks that don’t push the enemy back when you hit them. This can lead to issues of enemies that you’re trying to attack, and they just fly or dash straight into you and do damage. For classes that can crit off dash attacks, it is far too risky to use this move on the later areas as you’re increasing the chance of you taking more damage.

Since enemies don’t respond to attacks, you can dodge all their projectiles, get into melee range and start hitting, and they’ll launch an attack with no tell and hit you without any means of dodging. Many of my deaths came from situations where it felt like the game was just not giving me a way to succeed — rooms where projectiles come from all angles, with enemies of varying tells, that all hit like a truck if I run into them or their attacks. I found that range attacks can break the difficulty in a lot of the later areas simply by not having to try and duck and weave around projectiles while trying to hit enemies.

The Daily Grind

Rogue Legacy 2 is certainly a roguelite and is by far one of the most grind-heavy out there. Every form of progression will take time to gather the necessary resources to upgrade. As with the first game, the general positioning and difficulty of the biomes don’t change, which means that your best way of grinding resources is to always go to the hardest area you can in order to maximize the gold you find. Just like with the first game, and with roguelites in general, you’re going to have a lot of throwaway runs that are just there to grind resources before having your “serious runs.”

skill is still the primary factor in winning fights

The biggest hurdle to progress much like the first game is just how tanky the bosses are. Expect to spend a lot of minutes dodging the same patterns as you whittle down their health bars. A new feature that allows you to gain bonus damage requires you to hunt down clues in each biome. Damage is the most important stat, as killing enemies fast prevents them from firing back at you obviously. Because the cost of all upgrades gets progressively more expensive as you spend, it’s very easy to make things harder for you by getting upgrades that aren’t directly helping you but increasing the cost of everything else (the game has been patched with a recommended upgrade path). For people who do finish the game, there is an extensive array of post-game content and progressive difficulty if you really want to keep the rogue-lite-ness going.

A Family Reunion

Rogue Legacy 2 is the bigger, better-looking version of the first game. If you enjoyed the first game through and through, this is certainly more to love. If you were hoping for some refinements to the design and pain points, then this action family tree simulator still has some thorns to deal with. This is still the quintessential roguelite on the market and a must-play for fans of the original.

This was played with a press key provided by the publisher

If you enjoyed this story, consider joining the Game-Wisdom Discord channel. It’s open to everyone.

Indie Dev Showcase 5/26/22

Each indie dev showcase highlights the developer-submitted games and demos we check out for our Wednesday night streams. If you would like to submit a game for a future one please reach out.

The Indie Dev Showcase 5/18/22

The indie showcases highlight the developer submitted games and demos I play for Game-Wisdom. Please reach out if you would like me to play your game.

Trek to Yomi Review

Trek to Yomi just came out a few weeks ago and I went through it on stream, and while it certainly had style, the substance was lacking.

The Weekly Indie Dev Showcase

The latest indie dev showcase, where I play developer submitted games and demos over on game-wisdom. If you would like to submit a game for a future piece, please get in touch.

A Talk With Studio Centurion on Line War

For this interview, I spoke with Christian and Stefan of Studio Centurion to discuss their game Line War, and how they’re trying to build a new kind of RTS game that focuses on strategy as opposed to micro. We spoke about how the game came about, thoughts on RTS gameplay, and more.