Roll the dice.
Roguelike as a genre has been around for decades now, and with the advent of the indie scene, its representation in the market has never been stronger with more releases coming out monthly.
However, I can’t say that I’m particularly a fan of the genre, as many of its core mechanics were not to my tastes- specifically the reliance on luck as such a huge factor to success.
Between that and procedurally generated content, I thought I would never find a game in the genre that I would enjoy, until I played Rogue Legacy.
It was a simple 2D hack and slash platformer in its core, but it also held many principles typical of a roguelike that ultimately made the experience feel more engaging thanks to their inclusion.
Since then, I’ve tried many other roguelike titles including The Darkest Dungeon, FTL, Binding of Isaac and more, but none have resonated with me like Rogue Legacy has.
With Shiren the Wanderer, I went in hoping that it would become the second example of a roguelike that I enjoyed, and came away with mixed feelings.
Space Required: 400MB
Voice Acting Selection: N/A
Played: 14~ hours
The story of Shiren the Wanderer is a bit of fluff, as a pair of traveling companions stumble upon someone in need and decide to help them by braving much more than they initially bargained for.
As for the gameplay, it reminds me of the JRPG “Guided Fate Paradox” on the PS3, with procedurally generated dungeons and combat/movement that is turn based, in sync with the actions of the player.
If the player moves one tile on the map, that’s considered one action taken, and the monsters can do the same.
While this initially seemed quite simple, there were many other factors that complicated matters, like speed which could increase the amount of actions allowed for every turn you or the monsters took.
There are many different types of monsters to contend with in the dungeons, which range in threat as a cute bunny rabbit and the creature from hell designed to make your life a living nightmare.
The dungeons themselves are no pleasant strolls through the park either, as they house some truly heinous traps.
One particular example was a combination where I was confused and when I couldn’t control the direction of my movement, I was tripped up making items fall out of me then shortly afterwards, I was teleported in between four enemies that just turned around and killed me in one fell swoop.
Given that all the traps are invisible until I step on them or I use limited items to expose them, every step I took in the tougher areas felt like they could be my last.
As is the case for roguelikes, dying carried the hefty price of all of my items, equipment, levels and money.
Those who think dying in a Souls title to be overly punishing need not apply here.
That is not to say that all is lost with a single death, as there are many items that can be used or carried around to prevent the worst case scenario, and there are storage/bank options to carry some things over after death, but losing an equipment set I spent over five hours upgrading due to one bad break was devastating to say the least.
Fortunately, to make the adventure a bit more feasible, there are companions that can be hired to provide some aid in the dungeons.
There’s also a rescue/aid system that allows the player to call for aid to try and have another player save them, but it’s a mechanic I never personally saw in action since I couldn’t quite get it to work in either direction.
The sheer amount of different mechanics I needed to be aware of to be successful was quite staggering, almost to the point of it being overwhelming, but it never quite got that far.
I can name a handful of moments during the course of my playtime where I was 1 hp away from death that I survived by playing smart and hoping for the best, and it was in these moments that the game felt most engrossing.
However, those moments were few and far between me having to re-upgrade equipment and re-stocking up on key items after a death, and after a while it started to feel like a chore.
Given the sheer number of mechanics in Shiren the Wanderer, there were bound to be a lot of tutorials to go through, but I felt they went a little far off the deep end with dozens of pages worth of exercises to complete.
Even though they were optional, I felt I needed to do them in order to get a grasp on what I would be facing in the tougher dungeons, and I wasn’t wrong in that assessment.
What I was hoping for when I booted up Shiren the Wanderer was another anomaly – a title in the roguelike genre that I would enjoy, and that wasn’t what I found.
Instead, what I got was a fairly standard entry in the genre- crafted well by a developer that’s been making these kinds of games for years, and even though I did not find the title to my tastes, I could easily see why someone else might.
Fun Tidbit – There’s a mechanic where you can (maybe) upgrade items by leaving them in a pot for a day in real time. I really wish games would stop tying game mechanics to real time in this way.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.