Epilogue – Review

Epilogue

developed by Kraflab

The Roguelike is a sub-genre of Role-Playing games that is distinctly separated by it’s brethren within the RPG genre by it’s distinguishing gameplay mechanics, features, and rules.  The ability to create a character, explore dungeons, engage in combat, use special abilities, and gather loot, are all staples of the Role-Playing game.  However, a Roguelike usually consists of randomly generated dungeons.  Turn-based movement and combat.  A steep difficulty level where “permadeath” (permanent death) is frequent and common.  The graphics are usually “low-fi” and are sometimes consisted of ASCII characters or simple yet effective tilesets, retro artwork, and simple character sprites.  The importance behind this approach to developing a game of this type is due to the fact that any good Roguelike worth playing demands that a gamer use his or her imagination and allow the player to immerse themselves within the fantasy setting, game world, and character they’ve created.

Epilogue does all of the things that any good Roguelike should, but it also takes some of those fundamental elements one step further by adding a few twists to the familiar style that players have become accustomed to.  I think it’s safe to say that while Epilogue may immediately appear like your average dungeon crawling roguelike, within a short amount of time spent playing the game, players will discover the unique quirks and variations in the characteristics that ultimately separates Epilogue from it’s peers.  These changes are more than cosmetic but are subtle enough to make the gameplay feel like a classic roguelike while adding new flavors to it’s formula, also turning it into a challenging, yet addictive entry to the sub-genre.

The story is somewhat reminiscent of your classic RPG’s.  This time, your character isn’t just some wandering hero though.  Instead, you were once a simple minion and slave to the demonic overlord named Slith.  Generations passed.  All the while, Slith held a firm grasp over the land and it’s inhabitants.  Until now that is.  You have broken free from Slith’s control and can clearly see his reign of tyranny and what it has done to your people.  Your quest is clear:  venture forth, into the deep dark dungeon, and defeat Slith once and for all!

The controls for Epilogue are quite simple.  Most movement can be handled by the mouse while the keyboard is used to perform a few advanced actions.  Some roguelikes would have you memorize dozens of keyboard keys in order to perform some of the simplest of actions.  Thankfully, Epilogue is very user friendly and only demands that players remember a small handful of keys that largely act as shortcuts for activating and manipulating your skills or surroundings.  It’s a straight forward setup that should be easily picked up by almost any type of gamer, regardless of gaming experience.

The real challenge, and the main reason to keep coming back to Epilogue, is in it’s character creation and gameplay execution.  Epilogue features skillsets and abilities that share some similarities to other roguelikes but also expand upon the usual types of abilities such as magic, stealth, active and passive combat abilities, and a variety of other skills that change the experience into a dungeon crawler that you haven’t quite experienced in other roguelikes.  Players will eventually experiment with alchemy, worship the gods at various shrines scattered throughout the dungeon, and will also find a need to camp when they become fatigued from combat and exploration.

Character creation is both interesting and fun.  A player could very well create a character that is proficient at melee combat but carries the abilities of a Spacetime Nomad, and one who has the trait of occasionally setting fire to all of the visible enemies within an area.  You could just as well create yourself a magic user who specializes in the abilities of the Barbarian utilizing your combat buffs, meanwhile enjoying the “gecko” trait which gives you the ability to grow back severely damaged and severed limbs.  There is a healthy dose of proficiency, ability and trait combinations which players can use to experiment and create their very own dream character.  The fun part is discovering which ones best suit your play style while figuring out the combinations that work to your advantage.Exploration, combat, and looting are all par for the course.  The main difference between Epilogue and some of the more common roguelikes is that it demands it’s players to be observant, vigilant, and think strategically before blindly diving into combat.  Speaking of which, status ailments received in combat or through contact with various traps, pose a huge threat to your character, especially when you’re ill-equipped or lacking in ability.  You’ll find yourself being blinded, poisoned, and crippled before you know it if you get too cocky or overconfident.  Luckily, most of the minions you’ll face carry loot that is salvageable and useful.  In fact, unlike other roguelikes, all of the weapons and armor you find will be equipped by your enemies.  Interestingly, there are no creatures that appear on any two floors of the dungeon.  This means that you’ll be facing new opponents each time you delve deeper into Slith’s lair.  Fortunately, adventurers will sometimes find treasure chests with rare and helpful items, but proper care must also be taken to avoid the many traps found within each level before a character can reap their hard earned rewards.

The art and graphics in Epilogue are definitely a throwback to the design and presentation found in the classic PC games of yesteryear.  This is both a blessing and a curse since the style and atmosphere is both excellent and suitable for a roguelike.  Unfortunately, newcomers to the genre, and casual gamers, might make the mistake of passing it up simply because it looks primitive or dated, and that would be a shame. The sound fx are pretty basic too, but the music is eerie and perfectly suits the overall atmosphere of surviving your way through a dark, dank, treacherous dungeon.

Conclusion:
I’ve played many different kinds of roguelikes and while the majority of them tend to be set in the fantasy realm of dungeons and dragons, there are a handful that seem to shine above the rest.  Epilogue is one such game, and it does a great job of making me want to come back and play, again and again.  It’s certainly not an easy game.  I must have died over three dozen times before I was actually experienced and confident enough to make it to the seventh floor of this ten-floor-deep dungeon.  Restarting and trying again all over is just part of the fun though, and each time you play, it turns out to be a slightly different experience.  Epilogue does just enough differently and in fun new ways, that it makes the gameplay feel fresh, even for a roguelike.  I really don’t have any complaints about Epilogue, but if I could make a wish for an additional feature, it would be to have an optional online “leaderboard” of sorts where players could compare their adventures, discoveries, rewards, overall stats, and progress through the dungeon.

With that said, if you’re a fan of roguelikes then you should definitely buy Epilogue.  This goes for fans of RPG’s in general as well.  Just in case though, if you’re still on the fence regarding whether this particular title is worth buying for yourself, you could also download the demo and take the game for the proverbial spin.  Casual gamers and newcomers might find the game a bit difficult, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying the demo out either since you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with this particularly creative, and imaginative roguelike.  There are a handful of difficulty levels and settings to choose from which further enhance the gameplay as well.  Just be prepared to die… a lot!

You can purchase Epilogue for the low, low price of $6.95 US through Desura, where you’ll also find the free playable Demo.  You can keep yourself up-to-date with more development details, Epilogue game info, and participate in the Kraflab forums as well, by going to the Kraflab website where you’ll also find a free stand-alone demo of Epilogue for both Windows and Linux users.


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