The Best Roguelikes on iOS and Android04 Jun 2018 8
Roguelikes are a tricky genre to pin down, seeing as the name itself began popping up everywhere at once without much structural rigor once a certain type of game started to in win players over. Conspicuous features include turn-based gameplay, usually with exploration or combat, and limited-to-no persistent progress carried across different play sessions.
Not feeling Rogue enough? How about trying out some of the best puzzle games instead.
These constraints made for entertaining, thoughtful and compact games which acquit themselves well to on-the-go bursts of play. This list includes the most classic and favorite members of the roguelike genre on mobile, as well as some unusual hybrids, noteworthy and exciting in their own right.
Developer: Dinofarm Games
Auro is the result of Keith Burgen’s careful tinkering and experimentations with game design. He’s an outspoken creator with a definite vision which hinges on useful distinctions like the knowledge horizon (a player can’t know everything at once, the designer draws a line beyond which information is out of reach). The prince must save the kingdom by bumping enemies and judiciously using spells and skills across this hex-based battler. Speed, precision and efficiency are paramount; score-chasing the measure of success. Not praised enough, the game’s only drawback is its exclusive availability on android.
Road Not Taken (Review)
In Road Not Taken, the winter is harsh and full of children, lost and dearly missed by the village. You, a sackcloth-clad stranger, take your torch and use what precious energy you have to brave the elements, to find and rescue each child. Along the way, the stranger will fend off wolves and spiteful ghosts, scavenging for food and the materials to make campfires. Each step drains energy, more so if carrying items, so the whole game is turn-based but with a soft cap on the number of steps. ‘Soft’ because energy can be replenished by eating various foodstuffs. The procedural generation behind each run belies the handcrafted puzzle levels which recur. This hybrid game wears many hats, though it is primarily a puzzler with crafting elements and a dash of combat. The secrets are a delight to discover and add to your book of recipes, while the multiple play modes offer a softer means of approach for newcomers.
Developer: Subset Games
Faster Than Light is a quest to save one corner of the galaxy, powering your ship through sections whilst questing for a handy crew, a devastating array of weapons, and sometimes just a glug of fuel. Real-time with pause combat works around cooldowns, with each battle encounter ending once the enemy ship is destroyed or its crew incapacitated. Honestly, the ship is the real hero, suffering hull breaches and 1 HP scrapes while slowly updating its bells and whistles till it can slay the beast. The chiptune beats and graphics were neither wholly retro nor AAA trendy but instead creating their own cool aesthetic. An uncontested classic.
Dream Quest (Review)
Publisher: Peter M Whalen
Platforms: iOS Universal
The challenge in Dream Quest is always the same: proceed through three levels as a chosen class, building a deck strong enough to escape the realm of dreams at last. But like its namesake, the twists and turns this progression takes are strange and wonderful. Rogue-likes typically rely on stochastic events and imperfect knowledge, yet Dream Quest transforms these uncertainties into a must-try challenge for strategy buffs.
The total card-pool is modest and manageable but in total produces a surprising variety of synergies and unique challenges. Inscrutable sphinxes, malicious mimes, and immortal hydras all make an appearance as foes, giving show-stopping battles. The art is so bad it has become iconic; the theoretical possibilities it provides are captivating. Dream Quest’s endgame is supremely satisfying in of itself, but the arduous journey to meet the Master of Dreams is equally thoughtful and intense. A pleasure throughout.
Dungeon of the Endless
Developer: Amplitude Studios
One-part tower defense, one-part dungeon crawler with a party-squad dynamic and thoughtful exploration system, Dungeon of the Endless exists as a kind of in-universe spinoff for Endless Space and Legend, other offerings from Amplitude Studios and good games in their own right. Pick a ship to explore and a crew with various perks and stats and start carving a path through. The game is split into two phases: the initial exploration phase, where each room could reveal a trap, a merchant, an artefact or many other space oddities besides. The game should be Frankenstein of unlikely parts and genres, but its flow is seamless, its gameplay familiar yet inspired.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Dance like no one but the lord of death is watching. The rhythm-based gameplay calls back to Audiosurf, Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, but the skill-split here favors combat and planning over split-second reflexes and a perfect internal metronome. The dungeon pulses to the beat, with everyone’s movement on the grid bound by this universal time. Import your own playlist, pick a character and get questing for loot, boss battles and a jig to remember. The graphics are simple and the size of the maps, the variety of enemies are not colossal, but these actually work in the game’s favor. Entrancement: a simple compulsion to move to the beat. Fill the game with your own personal library of earworms and enjoy the groove.
Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Developer: Nicalis, Inc.
Binding of Isaac refuses to die. Lurching from platform to platform, from expansion to expansion, with an ever-multiplying list of secrets, mini-bosses and bonus-final-final-final zones. Conceived as part of a game jam, its inspiration is simply the biblical namesake, with a maternal twist. A child told to wait in the basement with pullulating horrors. The game’s enemies are filthy, rotten, grotesque, and the player’s weapons are literally mewling infant’s tears. If the setting is twisted, the mechanics are straightforward. Its real-time combat is frantic but not chaotic, the oodles of possible weapons and upgrades not to RNGesus-dependent. A good player acquires knowledge as well as skills with each run-through. Not as easy to play on the go, but besides that practical concern, a worthy and immortal, depraved challenge.
Crowntakers has a sense of scale, uniquely balancing tactical combat with long-term investments via the overworld. It needn’t even be played as a roguelike at all, strictly speaking, for one of its alternate play modes is a persistent RPG with unlockables. The emphasis on individual decisions in either case remains paramount, from the exploration phase to combat. Its limitations are in how carelessly it hides some information, about enemy abilities, for example, from the player. In short, an excellent refreshing roguelike-RPG-lite which might be outmatched by other roguelikes but remains a distinct favorite.
Hoplite might very well delight that wight who likes only the right sort of roguelike. The hoplites of history aren’t usually considered lone wolves or heroes, but this is exactly what the game casts you as: one nameless figure on a tight hexa-based on a quest to retrieve the golden fleece. Soldiering across levels of escalating difficulty, visiting temples to get incremental bonuses. The movement and decisions are simple, just a series of swipes along with the odd special ability. Small numbers and single turns are always decisive, and the ability effects are simple yet profound, little deus ex machinas bestowed each level. The skill synergies are tantalizing enough to draw you in, and the fiendishly difficult achievements (pacifist run, anyone?) will keep even veterans engaged. This one is a relic of the genre that is sterling.
Developer: Michael Brough
Of all the Roguelikes, 868-HACK ties reward to punishment most directly, scrambling the player’s usual risk-reward mindset. Thematically, a hacker scours the network for cash, energy and points while dodging hostile programs and warping across different nodes (i.e. levels). Mechanically, the poison and the cure are all the same stuff, because by hacking to gain a lead or even just catch your breath, the player spawns more foes. Resources are forever tight, and any attempt to siphon extra points or tools will aggravate the delicate game-state. As with many roguelikes, positioning is all-important, as is assembling an effective suite of programs to clear enemies and generate rewards. Across multiple successful runs, enemies gain random passive bonuses, and the prestige builds as the risks compound.
What would your list of the best roguelike games on iOS and Android look like? Let us know!