May 19, 2015 10:30 AM | John Bridgman
Roguelites. Roguelikes. Whatever term you want to use, there's a lot of them. Procedural generation is all over gaming, and it's hard to find something new in the ever expanding genres that these games cover. Role playing games, action games, survival games, the spectrum is broad and extremely crowded. Releasing a new roguelite game in the current PC gaming environment requires a dynamic hook of some sort to draw in even the most jaded of players. Does Legends of Pixelia by SimaGames have that sort of hook?
Legends of Pixelia is a procedurally generated action RPG with low-res retro 2D pixel graphics. Nothing really new here, but it does blend some interesting elements together. Its combat is more skill based like you'd find in a brawler, and you have to combo moves together and learn to block in order to survive. It is heavily stat-driven like you'd expect from an RPG, but it removes things like regeneration to make sure that combat skill and hit avoidance is always important. It's a quality that takes some getting used to, and while I had a little trouble at first getting acclimated to the controls, eventually I found myself dispatching basic enemies quickly, though I had lots of trouble with the boss encounter. This difficulty didn't seem like it was because of unfairness, but my own lack of ability. An important point for a game focused on skill combat to make, and this one manages it well.
The low-res look isn't for everyone, but it is functional, and there is a surprisingly high level amount of detail in the animations. You see the attacks clearly as you land your combos, and both the enemies and your character can be knocked down to the ground. It's a clever way to justify having invincibility frames, as a downed character can't be hit by the attacks' hitboxes. Other than the character sprites, there is some decent detail in the dungeon in the form of crates and clutter, as well as torches which surprisingly act properly as a light source. It's a nice touch that adds to the aesthetic, especially when you accidentally destroy a torch and the screen gets notably darker, though it is somewhat at odds with the retro feel.
The soundtrack is about what you'd expect. Chiptunes that keep pace with the action, and while they are a little repetitive, the action itself is engaging enough that it's not really that distracting. The sound effects themselves are a little uninteresting; crashes of static for impacts and deaths, and nothing too impressive altogether, but they are at least passable for what the game is trying to convey, and it works for a bit of authenticity with the retro aesthetic.
The game is made with local co-op in mind, allowing up to four players to join in the fun together, each with their own character created with a choice of a few different classes focusing on different aspects of combat, all who will gain levels, find equipment, and unlock abilities as they make their way through the dungeons. As a roguelite, of course, permadeath can be present in the form of a Hardcore mode, but there is also the option to have a character be Softcore, making the only penalty on death be experience. This way you can keep your progressed character for later attempts at dungeons even if you slip up.
Progression is nice and meaningful too, as you accumulate gear and skill points through your playthrough(s). You feel your attacks being more effective and your character becoming more durable, as well as your obviously improving skills. It's a rewarding feeling and I think one that fans of skill-based combat may enjoy. There is a lot of room for customizing to fit your play style as you choose your build; focusing on improving your specific attacks, or your offense or defense stats.
In addition to the co-op, there's also a PvP arena-style mode. It has pre-generated heroes for balanced competition, which given the combat being focused on skill, could be very appealing with enough players around of equivalent skill, but I don't think it will be as engaging as the co-op would be.
For someone looking for roguelite to sink some time in, they could certainly do worse. Not spectacular, but with a combat system engaging enough to draw players in, Legends of Pixelia is familiar enough to be approachable to fans of the genre while still offering up something new. Fans of skill-based combat in games will want to give this a look, and for folks who like action RPGs I think there's enough progression to keep you compelled for a little while.