The Appeal of Roguelikes
The division between indie games and AAA games widens further with every passing year. One example is the fact that roguelikes are universally associated with indie games. Roguelikes mostly consist of generated levels and the permanent death of a player’s character. It seems that just about every other indie game is a roguelike and this trend will undoubtedly continue for years to come. This is mainly due to the genre utilizing the interactivity that games provide in order to allow players to have their own unique experiences.
Though each roguelike is different in its own way, they often follow a few rules. These rules are that the game’s levels and/or weapons are procedurally generated and that the character suffers from “permadeath” where all progress made is lost when the player dies. The constant threat of losing all of your progress is what forces players to learn every single detail about how the game functions. Another appeal is that roguelikes are a sub-genre and therefore can be applied to numerous different types of games. The core gameplay of a roguelike can vary drastically with anything from platformers like Spelunky and Rogue Legacy to twin-stick shooters like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon.
However, the most prominent draw of these games is based on luck. With levels and enemy placement changing every single run of a game, the player experience is almost never the same. One ludicrously difficult run could be followed by a run that feels like a cakewalk. The weapons featured in these games also tend to follow a similar pattern with games like Enter the Gungeon having their main appeal be the incredible arsenal of weapons at the player’s disposal. The structure of the levels in these games lets players form their own unique method of completing the game with them choosing between safer, less profitable rewards or taking huge risks for larger reward possibilities.
The structure of roguelikes allows for players to create personalized stories of how certain runs played out. One player may speak of how they got the worst weapon in the game but persevered until the end of the game while another may speak of how they used a laser cannon that steamrolled the first half of the game, causing them to die after becoming overconfident. Even with all the luck involved, roguelikes often require a high amount of skill to get the best experience since overpowered weapons alone can’t get the player out of a bad situation.
As with any subgenre, roguelikes thrive due to the unique components that developers weave into their games. Crypt of the Necrodancer is a roguelike that forces everything inside of its dungeons to move in sync with a beat that changes every level. Dead Cells mixes roguelike elements with traditional metroidvania levels resulting a unique “roguevania” style that encourages exploration throughout levels and finding hidden pathways to new areas. Rogue Legacy allows players to pick unique descendants of characters that have their own classes and quirky attributes. The addicting “one more run” nature of these games along with their utilization of luck to make runs unique leaves much room for roguelikes to thrive in the future of indie games.