Ben Plays A New Type of Roguelike!
When you hear the phrase “Roguelike RPG” what do you think of? It’s probably a litany of games like Hades or Cult of the Lamb with action-based combat with some other mechanics built in. Now that roguelike RPGs have become a more prominent sub-genre within gaming, it’s hard to find something new and exciting. However, I got to play a preview of Spike Chunsoft’s newest game in the Shiren the Wanderer series. Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island (Shiren 6) is the newest roguelike RPG to toss its hat into the ring. After playing it for a good long while I feel that this one will leave a mark not just with fans of the series, but fans of roguelikes in general.
The best way to describe the gameplay while in the dungeon of Shiren 6 is “turn-based adventuring”. What I mean is, while you’re walking around on a dungeon floor, monsters move/attack with you. Some move in tandem with you, and others wait until you’ve taken a few steps before moving. If you’re used to a more fast-paced style of gameplay (like I am) then you may collapse and have to restart a few times before you get the hang of it. What I enjoyed about this gameplay style is that you get to strategize and plan your moves ahead of time. Standing perfectly still doesn’t mean you become a sitting duck and are open to attacks. The game gives you time to figure out what you want to do. Do you press onward with your attack and risk starting over? Or run to find a more strategic position to continue the fight? Running away from a fight may seem like a bad thing to do, but walking also regenerates HP so sometimes running might be the best answer when you’ve come across a swarm of monsters that hit hard.
Like any good roguelike RPG, the items, layout, and enemies within the dungeon are random every time you enter. This means you could go through 5 floors of the dungeon without getting a single weapon or get a super powerful sword on floor 3. Every time you start a run your character is at Level 1 and it’s up to you to explore and get stronger. Exploring each floor for treasures and items is key and even when I found the path to the next level, I found myself making sure the whole floor was explored before I ventured forward. Because of the randomness of the game, you never know if the rooms you haven’t seen yet contain valuable items or weapons to help you. The risk/reward factor is always there and even though there might not always be an item in that unexplored room, I was glad I checked because you never know what could be in there. Getting a strong sword early in the dungeon made me feel unstoppable and when I collapsed on floor 2 with no weapons I shrugged it off and tried again.
Losing to a monster in the game is harsh but it’s also not unfair. When you collapse you do lose all the items and equipment you’ve gained up till that point, but there are some saving graces the developers put in the game so you could get a chance to recover some of your stuff. NPCs do pop up in the dungeon every once in a while and one of them is a courier who can carry some items back to town for you. In the town you start with there’s a warehouse that the courier drops your stuff off in which (depending on what you give him) can make the early floors of the dungeon a breeze to get through. Sadly I never encountered the courier in my play-through but I met other NPCs who were able to give me other items that helped me along my journey. The most ingenious mechanic that I found in Shiren 6 is if you connect to the internet and collapse on a level with some great stuff, you can ask someone else playing the game to rescue you! If you aren’t connected to the internet, then the game gives you the option to rescue yourself so you can continue the run. The way it was explained was you get a certain amount of rescue requests per dungeon run, and if another player succeeds then they get a sweet bonus and you get to continue where you died with all your stuff. If you rescue yourself, you just get to start where you lost the first time with all your items intact. Rescuing other players also gives you Aid Points which can be spent to make future rescues easier. Rescuing other players always involves a swarm of monsters where they fell, but the reward is worth it.
As someone who has no prior knowledge of the Shiren series and has only played a small handful of roguelikes in the past, this one shows promise and is also a breath of fresh air. The combat is different where you could think and plan and I found it more relaxing than the action-filled entries that the genre is accustomed to. The preview was all about the gameplay of the game, so no story elements were revealed. I can only imagine the story would make the game even better and from what I was able to play, it was an incredibly fun experience where I’m legitimately excited for the game to come out. If you’re a fan of roguelike RPGs or want a more strategic experience, then keep your eyes peeled on February 27th, 2024 when the game is set to release in North America.