COGconnected’s Game of the Year Awards 2021: Best Roguelite
A genre defined by the titular ‘Rogue’ back in 1980, Roguelite games present a unique challenge to the player. Death is an expected part of the experience. A roguelite game will see the hero tackle an increasingly difficult challenge – often set in a randomly generated environment or scenario – only to fall and return to start. While death in video games isn’t new, roguelites often strip players of all non-essential gear, forcing them to start fresh with entirely random pick-ups on the next run. These games tend to have a shorter overarching narrative as a whole, but present a unique challenge that encourages the growth of skill, learned patience, and quick studying to survive.
This year saw an unprecedented number of roguelites launch, each one offering something unique from each other, whether it be a new narrative twist or a curious mechanical combination. Here are the top 10 nominations for COGconnected’s Best Roguelite of 2021.
Unsighted is an apocalyptic roguelite that offers a slew of familiar gaming pieces rolled into a single adventure. The hero, Alma, is an android brought to life to fight in the war of Arcadia City between humans and robots. To remain sentient, the machines must collect anima from a fallen meteor or be doomed to become ‘Unsighted.’ Given 579 hours to take control of the anima and save the people, what seems like a long time for the player is quickly dwindling for others.
This game features items and puzzles reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda, combat mechanics of skill-based adventure games in balancing stamina and HP levels, and crafting not unlike that found in Minecraft. NPCs have their own clocks which are ticking away, and there are measures to extend their lifespan, but it quickly boils down to which characters the player finds necessary and which can be sacrificed. Unsighted covers a lot of familiar gaming territory, but each piece captures a key essence of gaming parts to make a challenging and satisfying whole.
A curious blend of roguelite and deck-building mechanics, Griftlands is set in a grim sci-fi future of bartering and battle around every corner. The cards in your custom deck not only control specific combat techniques to use in battle, but they also offer a host of features that don’t require a pistol in hand. Persuading a bartender to offer information, interrogating a criminal to hand over something you need, or casually talking your way out of a gunfight are all viable solutions to any situation in Griftlands if you’ve found the card to do it. Should you find out the hard way that intimidating a mob boss was a bad idea, you’ll come back with the opportunity to adjust your deck and try something new. There are plenty of ways to play out every situation, and using the deck-building feature to adjust your playstyle makes for a far more flexible and customized experience each time you play and inevitably fall.
A more traditional take on the classic roguelite RPG combination, Undermine sees the player dropped into an underground dungeon tasked with defeating all the baddies and finding your way to the heart of the dungeon itself. Along the way, players will rescue prisoners, pick up gold and loot, utilize crafting, and proceed through the generated levels until meeting an unfortunate end, only to head back to start and try again. Combat is fast and fluid but more accessible than a bullet-hell game. Unlike in many RPGs, Undermine lets the player jump at will to avoid objects or dodge incoming attacks. At its core, Undermine exudes that inexplicable driving sense of “just one more run” each time you fall, as it doesn’t ever quite come across as unfair but rather it encourages you to learn from your mistakes and delve deeper into the dungeon.
An explosively popular title, Valheim is a third-person survival roguelite in which fallen Vikings must prove their worth before ascending to Valhalla. Valheim can be played single-player or with friends and places a heavy reliance on gathering materials to craft weapons, shelter, and survive through a procedurally generated open-world map. It offers multiple biomes of varying difficulty and a day and night cycle to keep players on their toes. Health and stamina must be restored by eating, and the quality of food will affect how greatly these are replenished. Farming, foraging, and hunting are key mechanics to survival on the players’ quest to defeat the five bosses of Valheim before you can ascend. It’s a game of constant tension and tactical patience. You must build fortifications, farm the fields, and grow strong before rushing off to quell the beasts and take your place in Valhalla. Attempting it too early could prove to be your downfall.
6. Curse of the Dead Gods
One of the more punishing nominees, Curse of the Dead Gods is presented as an isometric dungeon crawler with fast-paced and intense combat. Descending into the depths of a bottomless tomb filled with evil gods, the player will find new weapons, loot, and treasure the further they delve. The further they explore, the more corrupted they become with curses born of greed. Curses will offer new random abilities such as setting enemies on fire and then exploding or turning invisible when dodging out of danger, but like any good curse, it will come with a price. Utilizing a beautiful cell-shaded art style, Curse of the Dead Gods wants players to get into the thick of the action quickly and challenge their survival skills right out of the gate. Should the player fall, which you will, you’ll lose your shiny new weapons and powerful new curses, only to start over again. Everything about Curse of the Dead Gods is fast and fluid, and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.
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