Title: [email protected]
Available On: PC, PS4
Publisher: Stormcloud Games
Developer: Stormcloud Games
Genre: Adventure, Roguelike
Official Site: [email protected]
Release Date: Feb 9, 2017 (PC)
Where To Buy It: Local Retailer, Playstation Network, Steam ($14.99)
At first glance, [email protected] looks like the love child of Dungeons & Dragons and Tron, hell it even has a shield that’s able to be thrown like a disc. Developed and published by Stormcloud Games, the roguelike is an homage to old school ASCII dungeon-crawlers like Rouge, Warez and .nf0. Learning to play the game doesn’t take all too much time, as most vital information can be found in the form of the field guide or help screen.
[email protected] provides the option to trek the campaign alone or with three other players in cooperative mode. In either situation, dungeons are procedurally generated through scripted rooms being placed throughout the map at random, so while a map may be laid out differently from before, there is a limited amount of design possible. The roguelike interesting take on permadeath also adds a unique element to gameplay, as the only way to make it through the 26 levels is with one life or by making an offering of loot to appease the gods, which, depending on the amount, will either insult them or grant your character one more life in the bank.
The game’s sense of style is certainly distinctive for the genre, as the dungeon crawler resembles Tron visually, with the characters and surrounds are illuminated by vibrant colors that contrast with each other pleasantly. Unfortunately, the style just didn’t seem to fit all that well, including the odd audio design and cues. Whether I was in combat or simply traversing the landscape, intense music cues would randomly initiate, prompting that I should get ready for a fight, even when no enemy was to be found. The letter system, while unique, also feels out of place in the game, as letters must be attained to craft items to explore the dungeons and improve weapon attributes. My guess is that the game is again referencing games from origins of the genre, but it just seems tacky and unnecessary, especially considering how important they are to advancing on later levels.
Combat was fun but wasn’t anything groundbreaking. Though there are four different characters to play as (Ranger, Mage, Warrior and Amazon), the gameplay mostly came down to either button mashing, outrunning or dodge the enemy, or shooting them from a distance. I enjoyed playing as the Warrior most, as though it was simplistic button mashing, attacking hordes of enemies with Gladiators Strike was immensely satisfying. The skill tree did add a bit of variety to the playstyles of each character, but aside from a few base elements of each character, each path was able to be chosen by any of the four heroes, but somewhat defeated the purpose when certain skills – like crafting – that were required to 100 percent explore each level. Playing on PC, the gameplay did suffer from some control issues, as combat was sloppy, characters felt floaty and targeting was a bit of a mess. It did recommend that a controller should be used for optimum enjoyment, but I don’t think it would have helped all that much.
One of the big issues I think [email protected] missed the boat on was the lack of story. While there are some bits of lore in the field guide, the goal was simply to find keys to unlock the dungeons, understandably simple. But if they had even a simple text based element to the narrative I really feel like it would have enhanced the gameplay a lot, making it feel like an actual D&D campaign. Taking it one step further, imagine if they had coupled the dungeon creator with the ability to create your own text as well – think of the story mode in WWE 2K games, nothing fancy – and it turns into a virtual, customizable D&D campaign. Obviously, that’s easier to say than to do, but it’s just one of the things about the roguelike that I feel like there is potential for that they just didn’t execute on.
Overall [email protected] is not a bad game at all, it’s a fun way to waste time, and has plenty of replayability hidden throughout each dungeon. Unfortunately, the game’s aesthetic take away from the atmosphere, with a lot of unexplained choices that aren’t helped by a lack of actual plot. I would definitely say the roguelike is worth veering through the game’s dungeons for a couple hours of fun, just do yourself a favor and wait for a Steam sale.
- Gameplay: Satisfying, but far too sloppy
- Graphics: Unique, yet feels out of place
- Sound: Poor sound cues and repetitive music
- Presentation: Plenty of replayability, but essentially just a time waster
- Roguelike fans will enjoy it
- Fun approach to life system
- Odd design and sound choices
- Wonky controls
- Letter upgrade system seems out of place