Attack of the Fanboy

The Roguelike: Difficulty Makes a Comeback

by William Schwartz


One genre making a comeback is the roguelike thanks to the hard work of indie developers. In 2013 it seems like almost every week developers are putting a new and exciting spin on the genre.

What makes the roguelike so exciting is the risk/reward structure involved in the games. Mistakes are punished with permanent and irreversible death. Risks are rewarded with riches and power beyond your wildest. But death is always a square away, just waiting for you to walk into it’s trap and then it pulls your choker chain as if you are an insolent animal. Reminding you that the game is in control – not you – and nobody is going to hold your hand except the Grim Reaper as he carries you back to square one and laughs at your naivete on the way.


Traditional roguelikes still often use ASCII text presentation like the popular Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. Although with the popularity of visually exciting titles this is beginning to change and the genre is being opened up to new audiences.

At the core of the experience is constant iteration until perfection. Gamers are repeatedly returned to the start until they learn their lesson which is often harsh but fair. In recent history we have seen the likes of SpelunkyRogue LegacyTeleglitchFTL and many others staking their claim in the roguelike arena. These titles combine brutal difficulty with procedural level generation to create complex and unique environments for play where success is never assured.

Even blockbuster retail games are incorporating aspects of this genre to great success. The recent success of the Dark Souls franchise is owed to it’s refreshing and oppressive difficulty which creates moments of incredible elation when success is finally achieved. Gamers are letting it be known that while hundreds of checkpoints and regenerating health are alright for some, difficult experiences can have a far more rewarding effect. After all there few indicators of a gamer’s talent as impressive as a Dark Souls platinum trophy – or ascending at the end of Nethack.

A First Person Roguelike?

Even the first person shooter, a rather static genre by most standards is now being embraced by roguelike developers. Tower of Guns by Terrible Posture Games twists the normal first person formula on it’s head by introducing elements of character progression, inevitable permadeath and procedural generation.

Do you enjoy roguelikes or does the brutal difficultly and simplistic graphics turn you off? Let us know in the comments below! 

You May Like