March 31, 2015 6:00 AM | Joel Couture
You may have heard Anthony talking about its premise before, but if you don't know, Robot Loves Kitty's Upsilon Circuit is the roguelikest of roguelikes. You die once in this game, and in all likelihood, you will never, ever get another chance to play it. Running on a single server where only a handful of people are allowed to play at any one time, you will join a group of strangers fighting for their lives. Should you die, you're off the team, and someone from the Twitch audience watching the game will be brought in to replace you. Which means the audience wants to see your blood, which is a shame for you considering they're the ones in charge of sending monsters your way. Will the odds ever be in your favor? NOPE.
I got a chance to put my hands on Upsilon Circuit at PAX East, and the gameplay itself is simple. You've got melee weapons, ranged, and a little dash to keep yourself going in the isometric combat. You're not just battling monsters in an arena in this game, either, but working with a handful of strangers to finish a story-driven experience. That was an important distinction for me, as I don't have that much interest in seeing people just fighting monsters for nothing until they run out of health. I want to see drama. I want to see teams fall apart. I want to see their stories reach heady heights, only to fall again.
The combat was not earth-shattering, but the pressure of knowing I would never play again made my run a very tense one. I really didn't want to die, which made my play style border on paranoia. I used ranged whenever I could, but the enemies are designed to make that impossible. Some are just too fast, so you're forced to make decisions quickly and just stay fluid. The combat really pushed me, and that threat of death made me play well. You ever reach those moments in a game where you have almost no health left, and all of a sudden you play better than ever before? That is every second of Upsilon Circuit.
As the players in the game fight through the story, the audience is in charge of dumping monsters on them. The build I played had a rolling coin counter that added up, and you had a stable of available monsters with their own costs that you could spend the coins on. Only two people were dumping creatures into the game here, but the way I gleefully threw challenges in the way of the other players had me wondering how long anyone would be able to survive a bunch of people doing this. Bringing a Twitch audience in on torturing the players is brilliant, and something I was more than happy to oblige with. It really taps into that innate urge to be a jerk that exists in all of us, especially when killing a player means I might be able to take their place.
Ronny Raygon wasn't in place at this moment, although the devs promise some delightful commentary from the digital host during the gameshow-like spectacle. Set to play at a specific time each week upon release, the devs are looking to make it feel really special to be selected to play the game. The game already has some decent, quick-to-learn combat so that those dropped in can figure out the game fast. Adding in the fun of ruining the game for others with monsters should keep that audience busy as they fight for a turn, creating a great experience for players and viewers alike. It's an extremely interesting concept for a gameplay experience you can both watch and play, one that was easily the most interesting thing I saw at PAX East.