Your colony has been struck with a deadly plague, turning the inhabitants into bloodthirsty ghouls. Human medicine has no cure but there is word that deep within a cave in the mountains, the Suul’ka built a facility which may hold the cure. As it turns out, it won’t be as simple as going in to the mountains and retrieving the medicine your colony so direly needs. All previous expeditions to the facility have ended in disaster – no one ever comes back alive. In desperation you are sent to the mountains to descend through thirty floors of treachery, traps and monsters. Will you find the antidote and come back alive from The Pit?
Kerberos’s latest title is a spin-off of its well-known Sword of The Stars series. This time however there are no spaceships to fly through space in and especially no 3-dimensional viewpoint. Sword of The Stars: The Pit is a top-down, 2-dimensional, turn based Rogue-like game. The usual Rogue-like hallmarks are present: floors are randomly generated, deaths are permanent and the effects of some loot changes each time you play.
Players have a choice of three classes to choose from. The marine is a combat focused class, skilled in both armed and unarmed combat but weak at medical and foraging skills. The scout is a balanced class that is good at combat and foraging. The engineer is skilled with computers and mechanics making him ideal for fixing broken machinery and salvaging items.
The pit’s floors consist of labyrinth-like corridors connected by rooms. Lurking on each floor is a number of nasties such as security robots, monsters and traps. Successfully traversing each floor will require the player to think carefully about their surroundings, how much ammunition they have, how many monsters might be left and how hungry their character is.
Keeping you character fed is of the utmost importance. Acquiring and conserving food should be your main priority. Without it you will starve and die. Food is in short supply within the facility, however killing certain monsters or searching lockers and freezers can yield enough to keep you going.
Levelling up gives skill points which can be used to increase proficiency in a number of areas. Characters skilled in combat would do well to spend points on foraging, medical or computer skills, and vice-versa. Using skills will occasionally result in automatically gaining a skill point in that area.
Combat can be approached in a variety of ways. Those more confident with the knife or their fists can get up close and personal to deal damage, while others may prefer to shoot from a distance. A word of warning though; ammo is in extremely short supply. It is advisable to only use ammo on bigger monsters and those who deal out most damage.
No rogue-like would be complete without an assortment of loot to collect; The Pit is no different. Lockers, freezers, pantries and security stations can all contain items. In your quest you may even hack computer stations to reveal a crafting recipe or some of the pit’s backstory. Decrypted messages, recipes, item information and monster data are all held in your sotsdex – a kind of encyclopedia.
Graphically, The Pit is simplistic. That is not to say that sprites and environments aren’t perfectly functional, but other rogue-likes such as Dungeons of Dredmor and Binding of Isaac have more character and humour. Environments are samey and drab. Every four or five floors the surroundings change but they are lifeless. The same tiles are used over and over. While it doesn’t detract from the fun, it does little to immerse the player.
It is hard to find fault with The Pit. As it stands it is a fairly solid release and there are no noticeable bugs or glitches. More food on some of the easier difficulties would not go amiss though. A number of times I have found myself progressing well but finding no food to sustain my character. Additionally, a more varied tile set would do wonders for the immersion of the game, and make it a more attractive proposition for those unlikely to buy a game as graphically simplistic.
Rogue-likes can be a hard-sell for some people. Their unrelenting difficulty, permanent death and random loot allocation can turn people off. The Pit is a great introduction to the genre. It is simple enough to get to grips with quickly, but deep enough to keep you playing. While I haven’t reached floor 30 yet, I find it has the “one more go” factor that is critical to maintain player interest.
Fun to play, fairly cheap and with lots of content and room for expansion; The Pit is easy to recommend. Kerberos has created a challenging but rewarding spin-off that is never unfair but always fun to play. While it does have a few small issues, they are negligible and won’t seriously impact enjoyment. Rest assured, The Pit is far from the pits.