Sproggiwood (2015)


First, there were the original roguelikes, a genre of harcore rpgs that build on the foundations of Rogue and its predecessors, using (most of the time) ASCII-graphics and which increasingly grew in complexity until they surpassed every other RPG on the market. Yet only a tiny part of the already diminished rpg-player base actually played and appreciated these games, which were as far away from the commercial markets as possible.

Then the genre was sort of re-discovered by the wider public and simplified (core mechanics) and yet enhanced (graphics) roguelikes like Dungeons of Dredmor showed that these games could attract a bigger player base and “worse”, could actually sell. Then games that were clearly not roguelikes were more and more labelled as such, because, you know, randomness, permadeath, retrographics and so on.

On of these was Rogue Legacy, that managed to have permadeath and yet allowed for character progression (big innovation for me at last, haven’t seen it been done before like that). Instead of XP, you grind for money, with which you buy skills and other enhancements for the overall character template from which your characters are derived, sort of a meta-gaming progression path. Which was okay, I actually loved that game, because the initial difficulty could be alleviated by platformer skills and there was a lot of stuff that could be unlocked by grinding money.

But if you happen to not like the coreplay, then the addictive quality of the game including the endless repition of castle-visits became your typical, boring grind. All that is a roundabout-way of explaining why I disliked Sproggiwood. It actually looks and feels more like a typical 2nd generation roguelike (simplified and with nice graphics), but adapts the meta-gaming component of Rogue Legacy. And while I initially liked the core gameplay, I realized after a few hours with the game, that it lacks Rogue Legacy’s varied enhancements to unlock, which makes progression decidedly less interesting.

Besides a few basic character template updates (more HP, faster EXP gain), most of the outside-of-character progression is based on finding and buying better equipment (which again isn’t all that varied). There’s actually an old-school EXP progression during dungeon trips, but this is reset each time you finish one, which just adds insult to injury, with the limited progression outside of them (and which makes each dungeon visit feel even more grindy).

But the biggest problem is that combat feels more like a puzzle game than typical RPG combat. Enemies hit for the nearly the same amount of damage every time, so the game becomes about avoiding their hits and getting in a position where you strike first most of the time. Second, they always have the same set of movement patterns and once you know them, its all about maneuvering. Which is fun for enemies the first few times you meet them, but after some time, its become grindy fast.

Which is not to say the game can’t be fun for a few hours, but after that I wished either for the meta-gaming progression complexity of Rogue Legacy or for the more-oldschool (if heavily simplified) character progression and build-variety of Dungeons of Dredmor. Instead we get a game that after a certain point has decidedly outstayed its welcome and all you want to do is finish the main story. Unlocking all the other stuff and playing through each dungeon with all characters (who despite some skill differences in their in-dungeon progression paths feel very samey) seems more like a chore than anything else.