Roguelikes along with platformers, have become a genre of choice for your average indie developer. This focus on categories abandoned by the AAA industry allows smaller developers to carve a niche for themselves without having to directly compete with larger studios. With that said, some would claim an abundance of new rogue-like entries could result in staleness. In this regard, RymdResa distances itself in both theme and structure, choosing immersion over action resulting in a mostly non-violent experience.
Earth is gone, our blue planet exploded for reasons unknown leaving a survivor to wander the vastness of space in search of a new home. Unfortunately, the cosmos is far-reaching and procedurally generated in RymdResa which often serves as a double-edged sword. Whilst it’s true no two maps are the same, this often creates ample expanses of space where time goes by and nothing happens. Ironically, this is done on purpose being used as a vehicle to further the aforementioned immersion.
Yet, what sounds good in theory doesn’t always translate properly into a final product. RymdResa creates a broad, universe to explore but it’s limiting in many forms. Resources are both your fuel and health, every time a ship fires its thrusters it consumes them, so we’re often left with using these sparingly and letting momentum propel us. But asteroids, suns and other hazards come at you so suddenly you’re given precious little time to react. This wouldn’t be an issue if most perils didn’t take out nearly a third of the starting ship’s max resources. Worse still, the fact you’re often staring at your craft navigate vast expenses of nothingness serve to dull your senses, decreasing an already short time-frame to react.
Luckily resources can be found in the form of planets, moons, abandoned ships and stations. These can be explored by a simple press of a button and will often yield spacepoints which serve as currency or refill your resources. Sometimes you’re prompted with one of two choices with no idea as to what the end result will be. Unfortunately, taking the wrong decision can cost resources leaving the players worse for wear.
Experience points can also be collected in the form of stars or simply gained automatically through the passage of time. Whenever an in-game year passes our self-defeatist hero comes that much closer to levelling up while chanting melancholic poetry. It’s clear our character is on the verge depression and how this is handled will likely turn off some, his verses relate to loneliness, anger and a sense of loss with subjects being vague enough to where it isn’t clear if he misses those he once knew or just the Earth itself. It’s an interesting prospect and why large empty areas work on a narrative level but not on a gameplay one. Simply put, the visuals, sound and sparse dialog paint a disheartening picture of loss and loneliness but comes at the cost of gameplay; dying from an abruptly appearing sun is nothing more than a needlessly frustrating endeavor.
At least some of the more punishing elements often found in roguelikes have been somewhat subdued. Even after dying, players still retain previously gathered experience points, spacepoints and completed objectives. Spacepoints work as a form currency before starting each game, these can be used towards acquiring new vessels which feature higher resource caps, better speeds, turning rates and more. With that said, no matter what craft is picked, none of them possess offensive capabilities, your only means of defense is evasion. While delving into the great unknown, players may come across equipable items in the form of engines, auras, sentries and other components which strengthen your stats though yet again, no weapons are ever provided. Research bonuses may also be found, these work much in the same way as gear with the exception they become persistent bonuses.
RymdResa’s campaign is divided in three acts, the first being undoubtedly more difficult than its two other counterparts. This chapter essentially boils down to a succession of fetch quests, but provides the least amount of gear and items thereby needlessly increasing the difficulty. The final chapter while being perhaps the most accessible is prone to an over-abundance of backtracking, a mechanic which does not combine well with large, open areas with nothing to see or engage in.
Ironically, it was the middle portion that achieved a sweet spot between storytelling and gameplay. This section provided enough gear and new abilities to keep the difficulty fair without becoming boring while still introducing a satisfactory level of immersion.
It’s highly unlikely RymdResa will appeal to most gamers, as an emphasis on a slow, intangible offering, especially one that borders on the depression may turn off many. Even worse, this title struggles to properly balance gameplay narrative flow with narrative mechanics. Despite that, RymdResa is a uniquely immersive game that will either enthrall or bore you.
RymdResa was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Release date: August 20th, 2015
Price at release: $10.79 available via Steam