With your shield or on it: Hoplite for iOS & Android

By Owen Faraday 02 Jan 2014 0
Bubble, bubble. Bubble, bubble.

We've been off for a week, performing the various year-end incantations that keep us shrouded beneath the notice of the hungry elder gods for one more year. Now I'm not pointing fingers or anything but I noticed that a lot of you weren't performing the rituals -- instead you were playing Hoplite.

I've gotten emails, tweets, and ravens about Hoplite. I haven't seen an indie game catch fire like this since 10000000, and Hoplite (available for both iOS and Android) lives up to the hype.

Mechanically, Hoplite seems to be a lot like Empire designer Keith Burgun's forthcoming Auro -- a completely deterministic roguelike with few dice rolls and puzzle-like combat. If you judge this one by the graphics, you will have missed out on one of the most clever games of the new year.

It is better to be a slave on Earth, Odysseus, than to rule over the underworld. It is better to be a slave on Earth, Odysseus, than to rule over the underworld.

I had an uncle Jorge who had one and only one parenting lesson in his arsenal: don't be stupid. This was Uncle Jorge's Hammurabic Code and he could dole it out in different modes, from stern ("If you fall off the roof and kill yourself it'll be 'cause you were stupid") to sympathetic ("Aw, did you skin your knee? Where you doing something stupid?"). Hoplite is just like this.

What some of our resident game mechanic fetishists are going to love about Hoplite is its deterministic combat. This means, basically, that the enemies always behave in predictable ways. The game is a turn-based dungeon crawl, and every level your goal is to get through the randomly-placed enemies to the level's exit. Each enemy (you can long-press on them for details) has an established pattern of behaviour, and after a while you know exactly what they're going to do each turn. If you die surprised in Hoplite, it's because you weren't paying attention.

This almost makes the game absolutely infuriating -- in the best way. Did the fox-wizard kill you while you were trying to corner the bomb-throwing llama priest? Well, were you doing something stupid? I think we both know the answer to that.

Hoplite is two bucks on iOS and free on Android with a $1.99 in-app unlock. Creator Douglas Cowley previously made Android skiing game Vector Ski.

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