Sword of The Stars:The Pit, is a roguelike, a sub-genre of RPG that is constituted by perma-death and randomisation title, that allows the players to take control of one of three characters, that are in the simplest of terms, tasked with getting through this alien infested ship alive. With comparisons to games like The Binding Of Isaac and FTL: Faster Than Light, fans of the previous games are in for a system shock.
The plot behind The Pit tells the tale of Arbuda IV, a planet where retired soldiers spend the rest of their days, without disturbance. However, a virus breaks out on the planet and turns these soldiers into crazed humans, aliens and so on; very DOOM and System Shock 2 like. As is with most rogue like games though, the story is very secondary when taken into account the ease of death.
Gameplay starts with the player choosing one of three classes: A marine, scout or an engineer. All of the classes play incredibly differently; with the marine class being able to sponge a lot of damage and use a multitude of different weapons, the scout specialising with finesse, good shots and lock-picking and the engineer being able to use computers, but has low strength, so carries less equipment. With class systems, The Pit calls back to much more traditional rogue likes, but with a fresh setting.
After picking a character, the player is thrust to planet Arbuda IV, a deeply hostile environment where everything wants to tear you limb from limb. Despite the game looking much like a real time game when you start, you soon learn that it is, in fact, a turn-based RPG. When you get close to an enemy they can move and attack your character, depending on the monster.
With the quaint, high-quality, pixel-art being used for the game’s look and feel, it has a fairly cutesy aspect to it. Even the daunting security bots look rather adorable when taken out of complex. The environments themselves, change ever five floors or so, giving you a change of scenery, so you don’t get bored, but odds are, you will spend most of your time on the first ten floors…
In the tutorial for The Pit, you’re introduced to the many mechanics of the game, but you’re left in the dark about a few of the more complex elements of gameplay. The game leaves out crafting weapons and various other resources, but what it does help explain, is the very important hunger system. You have two bars to keep full during your exploits on Arbuda IV: hunger and health. The hunger bar diminishes slowly over time and can be filled with eating whatever you find, keeping in mind that some food can have some very negative effects, such as poison.
For the most part, the gameplay is limited to this format of battle, looting, and exploring the levels of Arbuda IV. Monsters get stronger and resources get thinner as you descend deeper into the planet, making it a real pain to get to grips with. The Pit has four levels of difficulty, only two of which I tried. Normal is a challenge, but Easy is painfully easy and makes you feel as if you’re taking advantage of the forgiving enemies and numerous resources. The higher difficulties are only for people with some real chest hair.
There are a mass of items to find during your searches from new weapons, better armour, bits to help you craft better equipment and ingredients to cook. Because what’s a survival mission without some decent cooking? You can also pick up upgrades for your guns, but with no indication as to whether or not they’ll help or hinder you, you have to take a chance; which is similar to the tid-bits you can pick up to upgrade your character, sometimes you just have to take a chance.
The difficulty curve is something to mention, as it goes from rather lax, to something fierce in just a single floor. With the stronger enemies literally all pouring on you, almost as soon as you jump into the level and unless you’re prepared, you will get destroyed. You need to be sure that you’re levelling up and using stats; so using foraging and computers can be very useful for all classes. The levelling system itself is very simple, allocating points to certain stats and abilities; it doesn’t really get much deeper, but it doesn’t really need to, because of the simple and effective gameplay style.
And with the perma-death being a strong incentive to not die, you eventually find yourself slowly moving up, manually reloading your weapons and checking your six at all times.
With the fog of war mechanic being incorporated into plenty of RTS and RPG games, it’s interesting to see it executed in The Pit; with your character’s sight only covering a certain distance and, of course, not being able to see around corners, you have to always be prepared for the worse.
I remember there being one scenario where I forgot to reload my weapons, picked the lock to a room, the door opened and three extremely hostile robots opened fire and tore me apart; all my own fault! If only I had healed first, if only I had saved an EMP grenade for just such an occasion! So, as you can tell, the game is extremely unforgiving, when it comes to the player’s ignorance and the player’s lack of concern for what’s going on around him or her.
Sword of The Stars: The Pit, is a difficult game that will keep you saying “Just one more go” and has already had me playing for more than ten hours in the short space of time that I’ve been playing. It has a simple levelling system, fun inventory management and enough fun to be had for all. Sword of The Stars: The Pit with have you playing for days and nights, just hoping and praying that you can get just one level deeper.