EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
I always like it when a Rogue-like game lets you keep something after you die. Traditionally, when you die, you lose all of your progress, any items, abilities or levels you had, and you have to start all over again from scratch. Sunken is billed as a hardcore game, and when you die you do indeed have to start all over again. However, at least it lets you keep something.
Interestingly, it’s not your items or levels you get to keep, it’s your abilities. So, you might get pretty far in the game and unlock some powerful spells and skills, and you’ll get to keep them when you inevitably have to restart. The first few levels ease you in, with hack and slash gameplay against basic enemies, culminating with a boss battle. It isn’t long before the difficulty spikes and you’ll have to do more than simply running up to enemies and bashing them with your weapon.
Doing some crafting
Rather than picking a class, you’ll spend attribute points as you level up and become the character you want to be. Choosing between strength, agility, intelligence, and defense will determine how you’re going to be playing the game. Sunken is in Early Access on Steam right now, so everything is subject to change, but for the moment speccing towards a more melee combat oriented character seems to make things fairly boring. The better abilities cost more mana to use, and without intelligence to back them up, you won’t be using them very often. Without abilities, you’re just pointing and clicking to kill your foes.
The high mana costs of some of the abilities make keeping them when you die fairly meaningless. It’s all well and good having your ice lance ability right from the start, but with your lack of intelligence you’ll barely have a chance to use it before resorting to the old sword and board. One interesting factor is that abilities are “crafted” rather than acquired or learned. Why this is the case, I’m not sure, and it just seems like an unnecessary extra step you have to take before unlocking useful spells. In addition, you have to actually find the anvil in each level, and it’s usually in completely the opposite direction that you have to go.
Swing and a miss
As for the act of actually swinging a sword at the moment, it feels fine, although it lacks a sense of impact. This is in part due to the weird nature, or complete lack of sound effects in some places. Early on I picked up an axe and it sounded like I was just swinging at nothing while I was driving it into skeletons. Equally, the skeletons were hitting me but making no noise at all. A skeletal mage flinging fire at me eventually did give me some indication that I wasn’t in a vacuum. There is a bit of voice acting that you get to listen to when you find stone tablets and books throughout each level which add a little bit to the narrative. Right now though, it isn’t great.
The loot you receive is randomised, and the enemies are supposed to be as well, although I didn’t see a great deal of variation in my time with Sunken. The levels themselves are identical each time through, which in a modern Rogue-like seems like an oversight. If I’m going to die and see the same environments time after time, it’s going to get boring fairly quickly.
Sunken isn’t a finished product, yet, and there are some unique ideas in there so I’m not going to dismiss it too early. It’s got some odd design choices, and it’s missing a few features here and there, but for an early build of a game that’s only built by two people, it’s not bad. I wouldn’t advise spending money on it at the moment, but further down the road, it might be worth taking a look at Sunken to see if it improves. It probably won’t be beating out the likes of Diablo in terms of its gameplay, but it could be an interesting alternative.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.