April 23, 2014 10:15 AM | Lena LeRay
Roguelikes and other procedural death labyrinths are generally about balancing the need to explore and find new resources and equipment with the need to avoid conflict as much as possible in the name of survival. Though only in alpha, MidBoss already does something different: the enemies that can kill you also are the resources and equipment you need to progress.
In MidBoss, you play a lowly imp. The imp is the weakest of all the creatures in the dungeon, its only ability being that it can possess other creatures. To do so, you must cast your possession skill on the creature and then defeat it. You then take on that creature's form, healing to full health, gaining stat bonuses, and becoming able to use the abilities of the creature possessed. The more you possess a given creature, the more abilities you can unlock, and if you master that form, your base imp form becomes stronger.
As you go through the dungeon, you encounter a greater variety of creatures, each with strengths and weaknesses, but gradually increasing in strength overall. You must therefore hop from creature to creature, possessing increasingly stronger creatures with the goal of eventually conquering the dungeon's final boss. This can be a dangerous proposition; after all, you are by nature attacking something stronger than you in the hopes you can defeat it, and as you progress through the dungeon you have to deal with other creatures seeing you and coming over to join the fray.
To balance out the difference in strength, though, you can equip abilities learned in one form while using another form, making you tougher than the average whatever-you're-possessing-right-now. You can also take advantage of narrow passageways and other features of the environment to help keep yourself alive. Combined with the fact that your imp levels up and its stats increase, the task is not impossible. You do have to be careful, though, and since the only way to restore health is to possess a new creature, you have to learn when to try for the harder creature and when to take out a weaker creature and work your way back up.
Midboss's coolest feature, hands down, is its graphical filters. There are a variety of different color schemes designed to make the game look like it's being played on older gaming systems, computer and console. A couple of them are downright hideous, but that's how games used to look and nostalgia makes it work. The actual quality of MidBoss's graphics are unchanged, but all of the colors are redone to imitate the days of yore. The GameBoy-inspired filter can be seen below.
MidBoss in its current state is free to download, but it is also in alpha, which means it is not yet feature complete and some things are unbalanced. There's an inventory window where you can manage equipment that never materializes, for example, and the first floor of the dungeon is too big for the lack of creature variety. The core of the game is solid, though, and it already communicates gameplay with great potential. There's a lot of information available in tooltips, and the game is very playable.
Among the features planned for MidBoss's future are ports for Mac, Linux, and possibly (eventually) other platforms; more creatures and abilities; and a few more graphical filters designed to increase accessibility for the colorblind, make MidBoss look like an old-school text-graphical roguelike, and possibly one to make it look like the Ludum Dare original. Support for modding is planned for the future as well. According to developer Emma Maassen, the save files have been designed as plain text and the game's custom-built engine was designed with modding in mind.