Hurray, permadeath mechanics! A subject I’m not too crazy about since it means permanently dying and losing all my progress. Sure, I’m from the school of hard knocks, but when it’s in a videogame it can be hit and miss. On the one hand I understand it’s to force me to play smarter, on the other it makes me hesitant to dedicate a few hours to a new title since one mistake could spell the end for all of my progress.
Enter in Pylon: Rogue, a roguelike RPG featuring said mechanics and with arcade hack-and-slash style thrown in to keep you on the edge of your seat. Honestly, roguelike games aren’t my favorite genre, but I certainly see the appeal. There’s an art about heading into battle, losing, and then learning from the mistakes made. Pylon makes use of mechanics that involve using timing and the abilities of the characters to your advantage while being aware of your surroundings. Slashing at flying bugs getting into my face and frantically shooting arrows at giant sandworms barfing toxic waste is one way to get the heart pumping in the morning.
Timing isn’t a skill I have in spades, but for people who like the arcade-style roguelike RPGs and building up their character will find enough to satisfy their itch here. There are three heroes to choose from right off the bat: a King Midas style knight, a rock golem who can roll, and an archer whose light and quick on her feet. Each of these characters can be upgraded after completing a level by purchasing items at the shop to increase their health, speed, or give them new abilities. Items can also be found during each level that can add an advantage like a chance to leave behind a trail of slime or to have a perpetual cloud following them around that zaps foes.
Pylon has me torn because it challenged me to think about how I play or to choose another character out of frustration after dying multiple times. Finding health during any level is difficult, so it’s necessary to learn how to use dodge skills effectively to avoid unnecessary damage. Special scrolls that can be picked up allow me to use my chosen character’s special ability that ranges from turning my surrounding enemies into gold to raining down arrows from the sky. Using these abilities was great when the fight got overwhelming and gave me a little breathing room to recoup. I’ve lost track of the amount of times a special ability helped me to thin out the herd a bit so I could take down stragglers to progress to the next area.
A major drawback with Pylon is there’s really only one character to realistically progress. Yes, three are available, but the only one who lasted more than thirty minutes and proved to be effective was the archer. The Midas warrior moved too slowly and got hit too often. The rock golem is a heavy hitter, but lacks the agility necessary to turn on a dime. Large AOE attacks like the ground being poisoned cause damage over time which eats away at health regardless of what I do. Toss in mobs that attack on sight like zombies, flying bugs, and Anubis-like creatures it’s a wonder just one character survives long enough to effectively kill off huge mobs of baddies.
Thus, I found myself using the archer more since she was able to cartwheel out of harm’s way, fire off a few shots, and repeat. Even after I got her upgraded with the more powerful items, each level felt like playing tag.
Also, what’s with the random framerate drops every time I enter a new area? My gaming PC is fairly powerful and – let’s be honest – Pylon’s cartoony visuals aren’t exactly cutting-edge. When monsters would spawn the screen would freeze completely and it took a few seconds for monsters to load in. This also happens when there are bunches of enemies on screen and constant fighting is going on or large area effects are activated. I’m no stranger to lag now and again, but not every ten minutes.
With all that said, the major drawbacks sadly doesn’t put Pylon: Rogue high on my list of small roguelike titles. Only being able to use one character to even play the game is a bummer since I liked the abilities and mechanics of the Midas warrior and the rock golem. They were fun to mess around with, but lacked the balance to work effectively in small spaces. The game isn’t terrible for anyone who’s a fan of archers, but its own mechanics work against it when applied to the other characters. With just a bit of tweaking and rebalancing it could’ve been an awesome time for fans new and old of this genre.