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Sword of the Stars the Pit is Not the Pits

Sword of the Stars the Pit, developed by Kerberos Productions, is a spin off title to the Sword of the Stars series of 4X strategy games. Sword of the Stars the Pit takes a much different form from the main games, offering up a roguelike set in a facility on an alien planet.

In Sword of the Stars the Pit you are tasked with delving into a lost laboratory hidden in perilous peaks from where no one has returned. Your character starts in the caverns marking the entrances and must make their way down to the final floor. You must search each level for the ladder leading down while exploring ruined facilities and fighting off infestations and rogue robots alike.

You can choose between three classes, the hard hitting, rifle armed marine, the swift and accurate scout, or the brainy engineer. Each class has different strengths and weaknesses at the start. As you fight aliens and interact with objects in the pit you gain experience and level up. You can level up three attributes, might, finesse, and brains. Below these you can enhance various skills including, pistol, rifle, lock-picking, and foraging.

Sword of the Stars the Pit is a roguelike, and of course features to the two staples of this genre. Once your character is dead you have to start from the very beginning. The semi-randomised content also means that each run will be different from the last, so you must always be on your toes when exploring. The layout of each floor will change, and the items and positions of enemies will also be altered. Unfortunately, this means Sword of the Stars the Pit must compete with a glut of recent roguelikes, including the highly acclaimed FTL.

Combat in Sword of the Stars the Pit is turned based. You attack enemies with either melee weapons, guns, and grenades. In any difficulty level above easy ammo is scarce and this helped add a sense of tension and strategy to the combat. Against weaker enemies you might prefer to go melee and safe your ammo for when you encounter the big bad security robots. Weapons also degrade as you use them, reducing their effectiveness. Fortunately, ways of repairing them can be found in various forms. Enemy types seem rather boring for the first few floors, consisting of bats and rats, but eventually you will start to run into trickier foes, including blobs that divide and robots who damage your armour.

You will have a limited field of view, being unable to see around corners or whatever is behind your character. However, the game enters its turned based mode whenever an enemy moves nearby, which means that sneak attacks are unlikely to happen unless you are not paying attention. The somewhat repetitive nature of the combat also hampers the tension of battles. It certainly does not match up the likes of FTL when it comes to turning up the heat. Beyond hiding around a corner, there seems to be no way of ducking for cover when you run into nasties, which can particularly annoying when you run into a mob as soon as you enter each level.

As you explore the floors you will come across bio-mods that can be used to upgrade your weapons. However, these do not always have positive effects and can in fact weaken your weapons. At the start of each play through you have no way of telling whether you should use a mod or not. The game uses a colour code for the mods, so as you pick more up you will hopefully be able to work out whether it will work wonders or blunders. Colour codes are also used for traps you will encounter upon walking through various doors. Much like mods, traps are not always negative and can have positive effects. While this is rather interesting, it also bumps up the randomness factor to a degree that some might not enjoy. Since you cannot tell whether you should use a mod or not until you try this can result in you getting screwed over early through no fault of your own. This can be the biggest frustration of Sword of the Stars the Pit.

Sword of the Stars the Pit also offers a survival aspect to the game play in the form of food which your character must eat. As you move through the game your blue hunger bar starts to go down, and if hits the bottom your character becomes weaker. You can find food from enemies and containers and use cookers lying around to craft nutritious meals. Once again however the element of chance is the elephant in the room. You might find yourself running in plentiful supplies, but other times you might clear out an entire level without finding a worthy scrap of eat.

Chance also plays a bit role in how you interact with equipment in the Pit. Often you will run across storage containers, computers, and med-bays which all need to be pried open, hacked, or even repaired before you can make use of them. The chance of succeeding in these various tasks is dependant on your skills. If you succeed you are given access to all sorts of helpful items, healing, or even encrypted information.

Perhaps the best asset of Sword of the Stars the Pit is the fact that it feels much more accessible than most roguelikes. Where as other roguelikes tend to feel clunky and hard to understand, Sword of the Stars the Pit is relatively easy to get into. Whilst outside of combat you move smooth as though the game where not turn based. The controls are easy to get the hang of, and the simple point and click style of combat will not hinder you. While the visuals might not be stunning in any respect, they help make enemies and items in the game world clear to see and helps give the game an adventurous feel to it. Enemies all have movement and attack animations, and have some decent designs, though a lot of them are just re-skinned variants of each other. Most notably, the appearance of the levels gradually changes the further you descend. It gives a visible sense of progress as you move through the game and you move out of the different themed areas.

Sword of the Stars the Pit is an enjoyable sci-fi roguelike. However, the dependence on luck at almost every stage might be very off-putting. While the visual are clean and colourful, they perhaps do not offer the tone of atmosphere some may be looking for in a game that is both sci-fi and a roguelike.

Sword of the Stars the Pit can be purchased from gog.com, Gamersgate, and Steam for around the price of $9.99. Check out the game's website for extra information.
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About Shuudaone of us since 5:34 PM on 03.27.2012

Online I go by the alias of Shuuda. I am currently living North Yorkshire, England. In 2011 I graduated from the University of Hull with a first class degree in Design for Digital Media, where I studied both the creative and theoretical sides of the digital technology and the internet.

As someone who is passionate about about video games than the fantasy genre, I am highly interested in how stories can be told through interactive media. I concern myself with how the genre is portrayed within the medium and its implications. I give it both criticism and praise, but mostly criticism. Writing fiction has been my hobby for many years, and I feel that video games have influenced and inspired the content of my work in recent times.


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