Steam Early Access can be a crapshoot, with emphasis on the “crap.” Cryptark bucks the trend.
The derelict space ship invader roguelike just hit Steam Early Access, but I don’t think I’d have guessed it was early without the disclaimer. The game’s campaign and presentation are slick as hell—fully voice acted and backed by a soundtrack that reminds me of the original StarCraft—and everything feels weighty, tangible, and terrifying. You’re piloting a mechanical goddamn hulk. You’re the biggest badass in the ‘verse—aside from literally everything else.
Here’s how it works: your goal is to infiltrate and disarm a series of (increasingly difficult) randomized space ships. First you select your loadout and point of entry, like so:
Then you set about finding and destroying key defense systems, which are still active despite the fact that who or whatever flew these things is long gone. Alien cyborg monstrosities roam ships’ menacing halls, and they’re vicious but manageable—unless you idiotically bumble into an alarm, like your good ol’ role model and life coach, Nathan:
It’s in your best interest, then, to first methodically work your way through a ship, taking out cores that control alarm, shield, repair, and drone manufacturing systems. It all comes together like so:
With those out of the way, you can destroy the main core and, boom, the ship’s yours to send to the chop shop. Then you collect a wad of space bucks and move onto the next one.
It’s a satisfying loop that leaves ample room for surprises, not to mention combat that sees you float like a butterfly and sting like a Big Daddy from BioShock. You accumulate random upgrades from tech stations on ships too, which incentivizes you to try out different weapon/item combos. Right now I’m all about the shotgun and shield for more, shall we say, intimate encounters, but I’d like to see if I can become not-terrible with the rail gun. There are also flamethrowers. And nukes.
In short, Cryptark already feels like a nicely polished game—campaign progression, world-building, and all. Admittedly, roguelikes are more adaptable to Early Access than most genres (see also: Darkest Dungeon, Nuclear Throne, etc), but it’s still great to see one get it this right. I encountered one glitch (a sequence break that caused an early dialogue to not trigger, forcing me to restart), and the timer—which causes you to miss out on some of your reward money if you disarm ships too slowly—is a little annoying, but otherwise I can wholeheartedly recommend checking it out right now.
Given that the main framework is already in place, the developers plan to spend 6-12 months adding more. In their words, they want to expand Cryptark with “more weapons, more enemies, more ships, more narrative to explore, challenges to overcome and tactics to create.” Consider me on board for the ride.
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