Indie developers, I’ve found, have started to throw themselves into predictable patterns a lot of the time. They take a nostalgic concept, throw in a few tweaks, add another traditional genre to the mix, and a game concept suddenly emerges. Even so, they tend to work within already existing categories, adding bits and pieces of traditional approaches that already work. Like mixing chocolate and peanut butter, or building your house on a rock rather than sand, it tends to work out better than the alternative.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
Still, if you combine Mega Man, our “Rockman” here, with “roguelikes”, you receive my attention almost immediately. I’ve talked in great detail about Mega Man, and I still love those games to death. I anticipate Mighty No. 9 with great glee. Even so, we need some new elements in this style. Cue Echoes of Eridu from Batterystaple Games, which I had the pleasure of playing at PAX East.
If I had to say one thing, I’m sure that they only describe it as a “roguelike” because that’s what people know in our era. The more direct inspiration (as directly cribbed from their website) seems to be a relatively obscure NES cult favorite called The Guardian Legend. Think of that game as a non-linear fusion of the shmup, action-adventure, and role-playing genres in 1988. In The Guardian Legend, you alternate between on-foot and spaceship sequences, almost like Zelda meets top-down shooters with shops which exchanges useful items and upgrades for currency. You will begin to see how Echoes of Eridu takes many cues from The Guardian Legend.
Of course, it’s obvious from a first glance that the developers adore Mega Man X with a passion. You get your traditional control set up, with the shoot/slash/jump commands at the ready with the dash button affixed to the shoulder. Don’t change what already works, right? I found myself diving right into the experience within thirty seconds, demolishing my way through unpredictable level changes. Apparently I picked the Zero-esque character of the bunch, although I don’t mind the close combat format of the Mega Man Zero games either. Even if derivative, the game’s got a tight and precise feel to the controls. Stages, enemies, and bosses alike require quick pattern recognition and strategy formation as you’d expect, without the benefit of multiple lives.
One complaint stems from the lack of a somersault slash attack – I am so used to this ability in any game where Zero appears that I kept getting hit for no reason when coming near an enemy; even if it turns out to be an upgrade, that would help immensely to preserving the sense of speed you get. The characters move quite fast and fluidly, and I never felt out of control. The wall-sliding also felt somewhat strange when I could kick up a diagonal wall, but these also aren’t intentional…probably!
However, Echoes of Eridu does not take the traditional line of Mega Man upgrades. Yes, there’s bosses which drop alternate weapons (handy and at the ready with the press of yet another button – nice use of the whole Xbox 360 controller!), and items appear throughout the level, but they merely consist of currency. When you start the game, you choose your equipment load-out, akin to an RPG. These range from super powerful swords with drastic side effects to speed increases to changes in your jumping abilities (think switching from dash jump to double jump, just as a hypothetical example). All of these will determine your optimal strategy through the levels, and everyone will find themselves with a slight preference towards one strange ability or the other.
I can imagine people taking the most damaging items which reduces your HP total to 1 just for speed-running and skill-based action platforming feats, as well as upping the challenge. Remember that we’re talking “permadeath” here, so one false jump or slip equals death. Well, at least this did not happen in the PAX demo, but I imagine that will change as they tighten the core rules and systems.
Completing a section/level/whatever it’s called presents a shop containing three items. Each of them cost a specific amount, and buying all three requires hunting through the level just to gather the money. I honestly don’t know what they were or how they helped me, but I imagine that this will become more specific in time.
Unfortunately, the game ended after two full “levels” (randomly generated, as you know), so my demo ended relatively quickly. Thank goodness, then, that I saw many, many hints of greatness within Echoes of Eridu. The foundation seems solid enough at the moment, and I had great fun even in its pre-alpha state. Games built on solid foundations with intuitive design and controls always astound me – how do you manufacture fun so quickly?
It’s all things I like in one condensed package. Hard to go wrong with that!