Hands-On Preview of Pylon: Rogue at PAX West 2017
When was the last time you played a good top-down fantasy, hack and slash adventure game? There are a number of series that fit that description, but at PAX West 2017 I had the opportunity to try out QuantumSquid Interactive’s Pylon: Rogue, a blend of rogue-like and APRG that meshes incredibly well into some very memorable gameplay.
You can see a number of games within it, yet as a whole, it stands out as a fresh experience both new and familiar. Pylon: Rogue gives players four classes to choose from: The gargantuan and powerful Golem, the precise shot of the Ranger, the stealthy Assassin, and the berserker-esque Moneydin. Each of these classes features three distinct fighting styles, giving you a variety of approaches to the game. After trying a few classes and failing within a few rounds, I finally found my stride playing as the Ranger and finished my entire hands-on demo using her.
One of the key – and for some players, off-putting – mechanics of the game is permadeath. As soon as you fall in battle all of your gear, as well as progress through the story, is gone. In the early stages of the game it didn’t matter to me, but the more I advanced with the Ranger the more I felt the pressure of a dwindling health bar and seemingly insurmountable enemies. The game consists of a series of worlds, each one with an over-world map for players to travel on, selecting which area to explore next. After completing each of the stages, the final boss battle for that world is unlocked. Should you die at any point, all of your progress is lost. Given the top-down nature and constant waves of enemies, Pylon: Rogue comes across like a new and improved version of the Gauntlet series.
“Given the top-down nature and constant waves of enemies, Pylon: Rogue comes across like a new and improved version of the Gauntlet series.”
Stages are formulaic, but in a way that makes sense for the style of game: Players enter a procedurally enhanced room with at least one door. All doors are locked until you clear out a number of waves of enemies. The player is rewarded with a chest of random loot, the doors unlock, and they are free to select their own path. Each stage will have a special high-value chest hidden somewhere in the stage, and finding the end doesn’t mean the stage is over: I was able to turn around and keep exploring the map for more goods.
The control’s felt fine-tuned, at no point was I frustrated or confused about what I needed to do. Evasive rolling is a godsend, and luckily all characters will roll the same distance and speed, with no cool-down required. This means even the oversized Golem will be able to dodge out of harm’s way just as quickly and effectively as the Assassin. Each class has its own perks over one another: the Ranger, being the only ranged character and thus putting it in less danger, has a greatly decreased chance of finding health drops or scrolls – the item necessary for pulling off high-damage super attacks. The Moneydin has a much higher drop rate of gold and even has an ability to turn enemies into gold, but the drop rate of gear is severely decreased. This means traveling to the shop to buy new gear is essential for the Moneydin. Conversely, the Assassin will find a higher drop rate of loot from scavenging the enemy, but her ability to find gold is diminished. It’s a balancing act to level out the playing field between the characters and it works rather well.
“Before my demo ended I actually had about 10 active effects stacked on my Ranger and it was at this point I was legitimately invested in her survival.”
The final – and perhaps most enjoyable aspect of the game beyond the graphics and controls – is the loot system. Characters can equip one piece of armor, one weapon, and one trinket, which each can have bonus effects beyond increasing stats. You can also find all manner of loot dropped from enemies or chests – and purchased in the market – that add special bonus effects to combat, and each of these pieces of loot can be upgraded. The fantastic part is that these abilities stack. At one point, my evasive roll would leave a trail of damaging fire, my arrows would cast slow and deal shock damage, and I would steal a portion of damage I dealt as health to my enemies. Before my demo ended I actually had about 10 active effects stacked on my Ranger and it was at this point I was legitimately invested in her survival. That is how Pylon: Rogue draws you in, the game itself is simple enough in concept, but the more you play the more desperately you want to get to the end. The pressure of permadeath and losing everything you have earned from some seriously challenging battles forces you to improve your skills or suffer the ultimate fate.
Pylon: Rogue has been shaping up to be a great experience, one that will answer the kind of challenge APRG gamers have been looking for. The game has been in early access on Steam for some time, but it will release in full on September 21. If you are looking for a challenge or just love a good top-down fantasy, I recommend giving Pylon: Rogue a closer look.