My first experience with Crypt of the Necrodancer was in a dark back room at the first Bit Bash Chicago event in September 2014. In a tiny, cramped room filled with Killer Queen arcade machines, on one wall Crypt of the Necrodancer was being projected. In front, two Dance Dance Revolution dance pads were sprawled out and hooked up to the game. It had one of the more reasonable lines compared to all the other games set up, so my friend and I decided to wait. He got a go first and I watched carefully in an attempt to figure out how to play before I got up there and embarrassed myself. Finally when it was my turn up, we managed to get through level 1 of Zone 1 and got to the first dragon mini boss before we both died. Along the way I haphazardly sliced at enemies and accidentally dug my way through walls, trying to move my feet to the beat.
After a few hours of playing Captain Forever Remix by Pixelsaurus Games, I have to wonder how the developers managed to crawl into my brain and make a game based on my memories of growing up so accurately. Playing this game is like going back to the slightly-sticky arcades full of neon lights, clicking buttons, fast food, and carpets with random vibrantly colored squiggles and triangles. My brother is even there, calling me a butthead again and challenging me to a videogame. To top off this giant pile of nostalgia, CFR features some of my favorite game mechanics: permadeath, customizability, and replayability. While simple in theory, the game has a lot of unique ways to keep you playing again and again. For an Early Access title, it’s pretty damn impressive.
“Travel by foot and by raft down a procedurally-generated river as you scrounge for resources, craft tools, remedy afflictions, evade the vicious wildlife, and most importantly, stay ahead of the coming rains.”
Roguelikes and survival games have been insanely popular the last few years. The Flame in the Flood, being developed by The Molasses Flood games studio, takes these two genres and blends them together with the expertise of some seasoned ex-AAA game developers. You play as a girl named Scout and her dog Aesop and your goal is to navigate the harsh river delta while staying ahead of the incoming rains.
Currently on Kickstarter with 17 days to go, The Flame in the Flood has already raised over $180,000 which is $30,000 more than its initial goal. I think this is the highest budget roguelike I have ever seen. To date there has not been a AAA roguelike or roguelite or procedural death labyrinth – even the most popular, modern roguelites like Binding of Isaac and Dungeons of Dredmor are independently developed titles.
And technically speaking, Flame in the Flood is also an indie game – the developers may have come from AAA studios, but they started their own studio and set out on their own. The developers and designers have experience working on series like BioShock, Halo, Rock Band and Guitar Hero. These developers definitely know what they’re doing in the game industry.
Obviously the project is still in its early stages. The game is not set to release until July 2015, so there’s still quite a bit of time before we see much more than the Kickstarter trailer. While I probably won’t personally contribute to this Kickstarter campaign, I will be keeping a close eye on the development and news surrounding this game. It looks and sounds gorgeous – which I definitely expect from something that is already so well-funded and has so many resources already dedicated to it. While technically indie, these resources and funding mean that The Flame in the Flood is the first roguelike/procedural death labyrinth anywhere near AAA game studio levels.
I’m interested in seeing how all of these resources will make The Flame in the Flood stand out. There’s already some obvious points – the soundtrack utilizes acclaimed musicians writing songs just for the game; even the concept art is very high quality. This increase in quality makes sense. What I’m really interested in seeing is how the game mechanics stack up against other, less-funded indie roguelikes. Will the balance be better right off the bat? Will there be heaps of updates to tweak items and add new game modes? Will the level design be more manageable (even though it will be randomly generated, of course)? Should we expect this game to be ‘better’ because it has more funding?
I’m not sure what the answer is. But that’s why I’ll be keeping my eye on this game, and you should too!