The Humble Roguelike Bundle: What You Missed

The Humble Roguelike Bundle: What You Missed


        Remember when the first Humble Bundle came out? Those were simple days.  Days in which I still had money in my Paypal account.  Days my backlog had less than a hundred games.  Unfortunately for my wallet and my social life, those days are dead and gone.

        The latest nail in my financial coffin came in the form of last week’s Humble Weekly Roguelike Sale which contained 6 games from my favorite genre, physics-based puzzle games! I kid, I kid. They’re Roguelikes. If you haven’t tried the genre, allow me to educate you:

        Roguelikes (named after the original game, Rogue) are built on the concept that failure and death are teaching tools and most often reset all of a player’s progress. There are no save states or continues; every death means you start from the beginning. To make things interesting, floors, items, and power-ups are randomly generated leading to addictive replayability. If you’re looking for a good introduction to the genre, try Brogue: a free game that streamlines all the elements of classic roguelikes and provides a condensed and enjoyable experience.

        Now, let’s take a look at what you missed if you didn’t snag the Roguelike Bundle:


Sword of the Stars: The Pit – Gold Edition

Release Date: November 8th, 2013
Played on: PC
Publisher: Self-Published
Developer: Kerberos Productions
Price: $12.99

Set in the distant future, this sci-fi roguelike feels like an organic evolution of Ye Roguelikes of Olde. Despite complex game mechanics like visibility, item maintenance, and 25 different skill trees, the game is fairly intuitive, especially if you have experience with other roguelikes. The game was criticized for staying within its comfort zone and not deviating from the standard roguelike formula. That’s not a bad thing. I could write volumes about the huge amounts of flavor text on items and enemies, the variety of unique skills, or the inventory management lifted straight from Resident Evil 4 (always a fun waste of time), but I’ll simply say this: the game may be rather obtuse and unintuitive to roguelike newcomers, but if you’re already a fan of roguelikes and want another one to mess around with, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Sword of the Stars: The Pit.


The Binding of Isaac

Release Date: September 28th, 2011
Played on: PC, Mac OS, Linux
Publisher: Self-Published
Developer: Edmund McMillen & Florian Himsl
Price: $4.99 + Expansion: $2.99

A roguelike in spirit (but certainly not in gameplay), Isaac is one of my favorite games of all time and certainly the most well-known game in this bundle. For the few of you that haven’t already heard of it, Isaac is a top-down twin-stick shooter starring the eponymous Isaac as he fights off increasingly more disturbing enemies on a quest to escape a dangerous and ever-changing basement. Each basement level provides you with a procedurally generated layout, a boss and multiple opportunities to upgrade your character. In true roguelike fashion, death means you lose all your progress and start from square one. Unlockable characters, power ups and challenge modes make this game an addictive instant classic I’ve poured over 100 hours into in the past two years.


Dungeons of Dredmor Complete

Release Date: July 13th, 2011
Played on: PC, Mac OS, Linux
Publisher: Self-Published
Developer: Gaslamp Games, Inc.
Price: $6.99

Dungeons of Dredmor is a roguelike that has been upgraded and polished to be palatable for a modern audience. Goofy visuals and an easy-to-use interface make the game feel more like Diablo than Nethack. Pick a name, choose seven bizarre and upgradable skills, and throw yourself at a difficult and fun game. The factor that kept drawing me back was the skill tree system. While uncomplicated, each skill path has such ridiculous abilities that you can’t help but want to see more of them. Fleshsmithing, for instance, lets you create explosions from corpses and construct a literal meat shield, while Necronomiconomics allows you to summon an eldritch abomination inside the corpse of your enemy and destroy it from within. However, I should warn you that this game is hard. Very, very hard. Even after 30+ hours on the easiest difficulty setting I only managed to reach the final boss once, so be prepared to die a lot. For players that find the game too difficult, permadeath is optional. Conversely, players that find the game too easy can select several levels of difficulty and have the option to give the game more floors and enemies. It’s a great game for diehard roguelike fans, like me, and newcomers to the genre.


Hack, Slash, Loot

Release Date: April 5th, 2012
Played on: PC
Publisher: Self-Published
Developer: David Williamson
Price: $6.99

Hack, Slash, Loot is as barebones as a roguelike can get, but that isn’t a bad thing. The game is a turn-based dungeon reminiscent of classic roguelikes like Rogue and Nethack, but is simplified and given a pixelated aesthetic. The game is incredibly bare-bones with a nearly nonexistent interface yet boasts an impressive array of characters, multiple quests, and is rather fun once you get a handle on it. New characters are unlocked by dying multiple times. In addition, each quest throws a unique set of enemies and circumstances at you so adjusting your style of play between them is as rewarding as it is challenging. This is a fun game for anyone who doesn’t have time to invest two hours into a (ultimately unsuccessful) dungeon run, without the complicated interface that bogs down many roguelikes. While I find this game to be a bit too simple for my tastes, I can see myself picking it up every now and then in the future.


Teleglitch: Die More Edition

Release Date: July 24th, 2013
Played on: PC, Mac OS, Linux
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Test3 Projects
Price: $12.99

This is a game that pops up every now and then on roguelike Top 10 lists, and with good reason: it’s a fast-paced twin stick shooter with unique environments, an intuitive crafting system, and combat that will test your critical thinking skills as much as your twitch reflexes. “Do I want to use these last few bullets to break down that wall? Do I want to craft an RPG with this now or wait till something better comes along?” The lack of music and eerie visual effects create an atmosphere that makes every encounter feel like life or death and, if you’re not paying attention, you will most certainly die quite a lot. Fortunately, the game is not entirely cruel; crafting recipes are available the instant you have the required materials, and you can unlock the ability to start a new game further into the dungeon than before (for example, starting at floor 3 instead of floor 1). However, for players who desire a classic roguelike experience, you can always start at the beginning. It’s a fun game that can be played even on the limpest of laptops, and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre that want something a little different than the usual sword-and-sandals fantasy setting.


Paranautical Activity (Early Access)

Release Date: Unreleased (Early Access since February 14th, 2013)
Played on: PC, Mac OS
Publisher: Self-Published
Developer: Code Avarice
Price: $9.99

[Heads Up: this game is still in early access, and is therefore an unfinished product. I can only give my first impressions with this beta.]

Paranautical Activity is certainly not the only first-person roguelike, and at this moment certainly not the best, but it still shows some promise, even in this early stage of development. The game apes The Binding of Isaac’s level format to a tee: interconnected rooms with specific enemy scenarios; a shop on every floor; bosses and mini-bosses on every floor that give power-ups, etcetera. However, the game is far more punishing than Isaac, and I found myself dying much more often (usually to enemies I couldn’t see due to the low lighting). This brings us to the problems inherent to Paranautical Activity, a broad category that includes enemies that walk into walls, unbalanced classes, multiple power-ups with the exact same effect, and two classes that are totally useless (I’m looking at you, machine gun guy and crossbow guy). These issues will probably be patched in future updates, but at the moment you can find better first-person roguelikes than Paranautical Activity. Pass on this early access game and pick up Eldritch instead.

Final Thoughts

All in all, [this was] a pretty satisfying bundle. There are games here for roguelike veterans as well as newcomers, as well as games that cross genres to create fairly unique experiences. The sale might be over now, but the games can all be found on Steam and are just waiting to consume every minute of free time in your life.

  1. Gig says:

    Oh this gonn be good.
    Waiting for GYP’s writer Adamkiewicz to flip over the first table.

    “However, I should warn you that [Dungeons Of Dredmor] is hard. Very, very hard.”
    I actually found it incredibly easy. Taking the mushroom, observer and pyromancy skills is downright cheating, and the game is hardly balanced as some of the other trees can also have extremely overpowered skills.

    Teleglitch is a weird beast; it’s not a roguelike as it’s not turn-based, and you’re often relying heavily on instinct and fast-paced decision making (backpadling and shooting at a wave of enemies), but it gives the same sense of dread as you explore the level. Then you realize that it’s not procedurally generated, just randomly generated, and some of the fun is gone as you’ve seen this room many times before.

  2. “Then you realize that it’s not procedurally generated, just randomly generated, and some of the fun is gone as you’ve seen this room many times before.”

    It doesn’t even have the decency to randomize the secret areas, that breakable wall is always in the same place in the same segment. afaik it also contains the same loot/enemies.
    Once you’ve run the game once/twice you know exactly where what is and what will be a waste of your time, like blowing up a wall with explosives and get 1 explosive inside.

    PS: No tables were flipped.

    • Gig says:

      Awwww man… :(
      At least throw a chair or something.

    • Kevin Grant says:

      I was starting to notice that by the end of my playthroughs, and I probably would have put it in there had I played for just a few more hours. While it bugs me a little, it’s not a deal-breaker, and I still had/have fun with Teleglitch.

      PS: Thank you for leaving my table where it is.

  3. Cameo says:

    was this delayed intentionally so we can’t accuse you of advertising?

  4. cameo says:

    I somehow got the game tales of Maj’Eyal, which has captured my attention for a while, was it in a previous bundle? because it would fit in very well.

    • Michael Talley says:

      I actually did a review and an interview with the creator about a year ago. Genuinely nice guy and great designer.

      As far as the game goes, Tales of Maj’Eyal is up there with Dota and Mount and Blade for me in terms of time sunk in. Once you get your footing and start unlocking classes, the game really opens up. My personal game of the year for 2013 (though it had been in development and “beta” for awhile before then).

  5. Jack R says:

    They are roguelites! RogueLITES! AAARGH!

    Now seriously though: all games in this bundle are way easier than some “real” roguelikes (like DCSS, or Cataclysm), maybe with the exception of the lower levels in The Pit. Dredmor in particular can be incredibly easy just by picking the “Archeology” skill (seriously, who thought THAT was a good idea?). Personally, I found The Pit to be the most enjoyable of all, although the Ranger also makes most of the dungeons trivial.
    Overall, they are all pretty fun, but don’t require as much thinking as classic roguelikes, which may make them boring if you are looking for something more challenging.

  6. Gig says:

    I must have missed the Global Committee of Roguelike Players where this was officially decided.

    There’s nothing “official” about this; It’s a bullshit marketing tactic meant to attract the casual audience into games that aren’t roguelikes, in the hopes that roguelikes’ fearsome reputation as being complex and unforgiving (as well as having great replayability and good value for money) to rub off on their own product by supposed similarity and glorify them. It’s a lie meant to give the players of these (relatively) easy and casual games a false sense of pride in something they haven’t done, to make them feel like they’re super-hardcore “roguelike players” when in fact they’re just playing a poor castlevenia clone or a poorly-made FPS. It’s a marketing scheme and false categorization, nothing more.

  7. Jack Ragasa says:

    I’ve actually beaten Dredmor 4 times on “Going Rogue” permadeth mode. 500 hours in that game.

    Help me. I have a problem.

  8. Some guy says:

    “classic roguelikes like Rogue” Mate, what? Also Roguelike-likes, etc.

    I missed the bundle, but I’m definitely gonna pick some of these.

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