June 12, 2015 8:15 AM | Lena LeRay
Dinofarm Games's Auro is definitely a roguelike in the classic, turn-based, strategic style, but it's quite different from the norm. The player can't actually damage enemies. Instead, they can bump them one space at a time, trying to knock the enemies off of the edge of the playing field without getting killed or knocked off themselves. This task is made more interesting by the fact that the game is played on a hex grid.
The premise of the game is that a spoiled prince named Auro stole the head wizard's magic staff and ran off into the depths below the castle to have fun doing things to monsters. While down there, he accidentally released another spoiled prince from magical confinement. That other spoiled prince then unleashed a flood of monsters that Auro must now defeat.
The game is designed for short sessions that should always be at a good challenge level for the player. The goal of each session is to obtain a certain number of points by bumping monsters off the map. The faster a monster is defeated, the more points it is worth. If a given stage doesn't have enough monsters or the situation is too dicey, the player can make for the edge of the map opposite the start point to have a new stage generated, with the monsters therein counting towards the current point goal.
A session is failed if the player runs out of barrier points and takes an unprotected hit. Some monsters attack directly and others knock the player back, according to their type. If the player falls into the water, they take damage and, if any barrier points remain, are teleported back to the map's start point. Session difficulty is determined by player rank, which changes in accordance with player skill and can be adjusted via a "placement test" if the player feels like it's too hard or too easy.
Enemy variety is very good. Some of the more interesting enemies feel like they wouldn't make much sense or be as fun in any other game. A good example is jellies, which flatten for a few turns after being bumped by the player. They turn into a jump pad, bouncing anything that walks on them two extra spaces in the direction they were moving. The most obvious use for this is to run away from a sticky situation, but enemies can be lured onto them and subsequently bounce themselves off the map.
The player also gets a set of non-lethal spells to use. Which spells are available vary from session to session, but the player gets up to four. These include a spell that freezes the first enemy it hits in a direct line away from the player, a spell that creates fire in a straight line that enemies can be bumped into (but which also sends the player backwards one space when used), and a spell that moves all enemies within two hexes of the player one hex in a chosen direction. Each spell is on a cooldown which is refreshed by picking up special items on the ground which do not respawn. Sometimes the player will also find spell candies, single-shot uses of spells that they can hold in addition to their regular spells.
Overall, Auro is a great roguelike that any fan of the genre should grab. Right now it's $4.99 and only available on iOS and Android, but a PC version (Windows, Mac, and Linux) with appropriate UI changes is currently in the works.