In a sense, I feel like I’ve matured into rogue-likes recently. I used to frown upon the idea of permadeath and starting from scratch over and over again; it seemed like a Sisyphean chore to grind your way through dozens of enemies only to be thrown back to the start because you miscalculated an enemy’s placement or even worse, you rolled the hard six and came out unlucky.
Yet I’ve grown to appreciate the genre far more recently and I think it has a lot to do with the versatility of what can be done with randomised elements and the high stakes that permadeath offers. What’s even better is the bite-sized structure of many rogue-likes, making them easy to squeeze in between meetings with a supervisor or random bouts of procrastination. It’s with this growth that I kindly have to ask ChaosForge to remove themselves from my subconscious because they’ve recently released the rogue-like I’ve been dreaming of: Jupiter Hell.
While I consider it lazy writing to compare games to one another in order to offer up some kind of tangible description, Jupiter Hell is unashamedly inspired by the first-person shooter Doom. Last week I wrote an article about how the game is the spiritual successor to DoomRL, a rogue-like version of Doom that was never made commercially available because it used work from the original two Doom games. Jupiter Hell is the evolution of DoomRL, and adds so much more to the stew that it’s almost impossible to take a spoonful and say, “Yum. I think I’ll have another.”
A grid-based rogue-like, you’re cast in the shoes of one of three classes: The spatially aware and resourceful Scout, the crafty and tech-savvy Technician and the battle-ready Marine and I don’t know why I mentioned the others because you’re going to play as the Marine. I know you better than you know yourself, peasant. Once you’ve selected the Marine, you’re tasked with trawling through the multiple levels of a research centre based on Jupiter, collecting randomised sets of gear such as armour, grenades, different weapons and a variety of ammunition.
And then putting it all to use as you slaughter dozens of demons.
Being set on a grid, the game is slower than maybe you’d initially expect from a rogue-like based on Doom, but that’s just because you’re bad. I’m sorry, I know that was harsh and I should choose my words better, but sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. As you become more familiar with the game’s controls and the cover system you’ll be whizzing through rooms, blasting undead soldiers and Hellish fiends away with your rapidly levelling shotgun, all the pile earning experience to let you select a series of class specific perks.
The three classes, while initially feeling very familiar at the start, very quickly develop their own playstyles which will appeal to a variety of players; More strategic players will plan ahead with the Scout’s ability to see further parts of the map, the Technician player will set traps with grenades and isolate targets with a highly upgraded weapon. If you’re like, that is to say “young, dumb and round like a plum”, you’ll just charge in with the Marine, soak up damage and inevitably be outmanoeuvred by two Arch-Fiends.
What really appeals to me is how Jupiter Hell effectively strikes the balance between the power trip that is Doom and the fragile high-stakes gameplay of rogue-like games. You’re a lone warrior, capable of slaying demons until your mother yells at you that it’s past your bedtime, but you’re not invincible. You’ll chew through then, throwing out quips all the while, but you’ll be taken out in a heartbeat if you make a wrong move, especially the deeper you venture into the halls of Jupiter.
While I wish speed was rewarded a bit more, it does seem to prove your chances of enemies missing their shots on you while you dart in-between cover; while RNG is certainly present one of the more appealing aspects of Jupiter Hell is the ability to minimise it with the perks you choose to level, your positioning and the weapons you collect. When you die it’s often very quick but it never feels unfair, a juggling act that many rogue-likes drop and refuse to refund your ticket.
Jupiter Hell is officially releasing into early access of Steam today and while I know early access makes many of you throw kitchen items with indiscriminate rage, I think it’s perhaps the best way to release a modern rogue-like. The genre requires so many tweaks and updates to balance existing items and add new items that offer up new playstyles entirely. Rogue-likes are meant to feel slightly different on every run and although Jupiter Hell can become a touch repetitive in this early build of the game there’s already enough variation in the weapons and levels to offer up unique runs, albeit with small differences. In early access, the developers have free reign to build on this established structure and build Jupiter Hell into a really special, exciting experience.
To quote a very good friend of mine when I showed him the Steam page for Jupiter Hell: “Play it tactically…OR FAST AS F*** is just my religion if I’m honest”. Here’s looking at you, Michael.
Last Updated: August 1, 2019