Developer: Studios Illogika
Publisher: Studios Illogika
The roguelite genre has become formulaic and predictable by now with procedurally generated levels and rooms consisting of different enemies to destroy in order to move on. I love a good roguelite, but with the abundance of games coming out under this moniker, it’s hard to sift through the standouts. Developer Studios Illogika is hoping to provide a fresh take in the genre with their action title Subaeria.
Violence: In order to overthrow the government in charge of your parent’s deaths, you will hack into a variety of different robots to destroy other enemy robots. Since fighting is only done against other robots, there is no blood or gore—not even if your main human character gets attacked.
The opening cinematic displays your family sprawled across the floor with a minimal amount of blood on the scene. The game doesn’t actually show how they died.
Language/crude humor: Styx remarks, “what the shell?” in one of her cinematics, and there are a few other times where a swear word is removed and a regular word is placed, such as “Holy crab!”
Other negative themes: Styx, the main character, is known for hacking illegally into other programs in order to draw out credits (money), even when knowing the repercussions of her actions. It seems foolish to me that she seems to know her family, including herself, will be put to death for her stealing, but she seems not to care. There is also a strong sense of revenge and getting back at those who do evil instead of forgiveness and finding a common ground.
In Subaeria you play as Styx, a young girl who decides that she’ll hack her way into more credits after playing on what appears to be a VR headset. Unfortunately for Styx, the system figures out what she’s doing, and the Overlord sends out these robots called ‘Cleaners’ in order to “cleanse” Styx and her family, with cleanse meaning death. She returns home only to discover that her family was murdered by the Overlord of Subaeria by these Cleaners. Now, she vows to fight her way through the myriad of dangerous robots in order to avenge her family’s death.
At the start of Subaeria, you start out playing as Styx, but eventually get to choose between three different characters with the same goal of trying to overthrow the Overlord. Don Dorf is a stronger, but slower type of hero, while Antonio has more of a stealth aspect for himself and his drone, and it’s fun to experiment with the different characters. The gameplay consists of action and puzzle sections where you turn your robot enemies against one another in order make it through each level. For each character, your main ally is a drone which you control with the right analog stick; it is able to hack into other robots allowing you to control them. Each level is randomly generated, so every playthrough will be different.
Subaeria sets itself apart from other roguelite titles by incorporating its story into the gameplay in meaningful ways. Each character’s abilities, perks, and motivations are directly tied to their backstory, and much of the dialogue and lore is expressed through NPCs scattered across the world. Subaeria places great emphasis on its story and setting throughout to create a more immersive experience. NPCs are vital to the gameplay experience, as there are occasional factory workers who set certain requirements for you in exchange for boosts in perks and stats.
With the gameplay, you basically run and jump through 3D rooms in a top-down perspective while trying to lure enemy robots called cleaners into killing each other. As soon as all the machines in a room go down, you can move on to the next one. However, robots with the same color can’t kill each other, so you have to guide different colored ones to a different areas in order for them to be destroyed. You can equip two apps simultaneously that can help you deal with the robots by allowing you to control them, push them away, or fool them with a decoy. There are many apps to find, so experimenting with each one can be fun and you can find kiosks that allow you to exchange credits for boosters that increase stats such as drone maximum distance, health, or speed.
You will encounter bosses and they are one of the more static elements, in that you will always be facing the same bosses between a given pair of levels only increasing in difficulty, instead of having many different types of bosses to face. Boss fights are fought just like how you clear a room in any other level, and will focus on you trying to use other enemies spawned during the fight to somehow deal damage. Boss attacks can be hard to dodge, and there’s generally nowhere to hide, so you will definitely die few times.
Some types of apps also can be pretty useless against bosses while others can make a huge difference, so the difficulty of any given boss can increase or decrease depending on just what you’ve brought with you. These fights are pretty well designed and generally fun. However, considering that exact same small set of bosses are repeated in the exact same order, they might become dull after a while. Even so, they serve their function of providing accomplishment for clearing a floor, and providing a bit of a break in the game’s usual pacing while never straying from Subaeria’s main gameplay loop.
Graphically, Subaeria looks fine, but doesn’t really establish its own identity. Most levels consists of random boxes just lying around; this seems like a filler for each level due to the procedural generation. The repetition of the environments make playing through later levels a chore. Everything is fairly dark and subdued, much like the setting and tone of the narrative. The camera is top-down and items in the environments highlight the elevation of certain objects in order to help you strategize a successful route.
One major complaint I have with Subaeria is that there just isn’t enough content compared compared to the stalwarts of the genre. Room variety is a large issue since I found myself repeating the same exact room layouts as early as my third play through. This makes me fear for the longevity of Subaeria, as it could become stale rather quickly. Each floor also has the same boss, as opposed to other games that typically have two to four bosses per floor. The top-down perspective also makes it difficult to platform at times, since it can be hard to judge which objects you can jump on. Luckily, each app is different from the next, and each type of cleaner has a different behavior and attack pattern for you to learn and manipulate, although the appearances remain the same.
Overall, Subaeria is a unique take on the roguelite genre with multiple characters and endings. Unfortunately, the content, enemy, and stage variety are sorely lacking and I can see how it can become repetitive fast. The gameplay is fun for the most part and I did enjoy the the dystopian narrative present.
Review code generously provided by Homerun PR
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