Title: Into the Pit
Developer: Nullpointer Games
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: FPS Roguelike
The rogue-like and lite genre has become increasingly popular in the indie game market. However, the first-person shooter sub-genre within rogue-likes has been somewhat of a rare sight. So developer Nullpointer Games decided to make an effort to break through this underrepresented sub-genre with Into the Pit, a retro-inspired FPS rogue-like.
Into the Pit has you play as a member of a mystical family with occult magical powers summoned to a cursed village where they are tasked to save its citizens from demonic forces. Rogue-like games are defined by procedurally-generated environments, randomized items, and, most importantly, permanent death.
Dying is expected, and each new play-through should build on your knowledge of the previous run. However, while Into the Pit fulfills the general structure, it doesn’t attempt to build on the genre with any unique elements.
During gameplay, the cursed village acts as a central hub where you can talk to NPCs, purchase items, and open portals to dungeons. Before you go “into the pit,” you can slot gems and runes into the summoning table, where you can also equip various buffs and choose which dungeon to explore. Each level of a dungeon contains four sides with two symbols on each side. You have to complete all 4 sides to proceed but are given a choice to go into either of the two sub-dungeons on one side.
The symbols on each side pertain to which type of currency or “event” lies in the sub-dungeon. For example, some of these sub-dungeons contain no enemies to kill and currency to collect but instead have villagers to save, treasure chests to open, or healing ponds to step in.
Currency, called motes, includes a variety of beneficial tokens; renewal tokens to re-roll dungeon spell upgrades, blood tokens that allow you to cheat death, gold tokens to purchase runes back at the village, insight tokens that enable you to enchant runes and increase their power. These luck tokens increase your chance to find rarer upgrades. In addition, fire tokens must be used to forge keys to new “pits.” Only gold, insight, and fire motes stick with you after each successful run.
Each time you complete a sub-dungeon, you are awarded a passive spell upgrade, such as increased range on your left-hand weapon, the chance to heal after defeating enemies, or applying poison on your right-hand weapon. Though these upgrades undoubtedly make you stronger, they do not promote any unique build path. Unfortunately, the vanilla upgrade system makes each run duller than the last. After completing all four sides of a level, you can proceed to the next level or return to the village. If you die before returning to the village, you lose all your collected currency and upgrades.
Lack of variety is what hinders the experience the most. Your only weapons are the projectiles that you shoot out of your left and right hand. The game offers you a selection of short to long-range projectiles at the beginning of a run, but they end up being indistinguishable.
Given the questionable choice of short-range builds, you’re punished for fighting up close. Often, enemies spawn on top or right in front of you, causing you to take unexpected damage. Thus, the only viable playstyle is to keep your distance and dodge from afar. Long-range weapons work close range, but not the other way around, making it the better choice by default.
Sadly, every new dungeon boils down to a color re-skin of the previous ones. The first Pit you jump into is Obsidian Fort and resembles a hellish landscape with its red and orange color scheme. The next Pit you unlock is Fungal Hollows, and it looks more or less the same as Obsidian Fort, except with a turquoise coloration slapped on.
New enemy variety and environmental traps are added, but nothing stands out between maps. The layouts of each area are the same since you simply collect motes and destroy a set number of keystones. Enemies don’t drop any loot, and you aren’t awarded for collecting and killing all enemies during a level.
Paired with a thrilling soundtrack, quick map navigation, and eldritch creature shooting, Doom-style is cool at first, but Into the Pit misses its mark. The combat lacks any visual and audio impact other than the enemy’s health points dropping to zero. There are no signature bloody execution kills or signs that the enemies are being damaged. For the most part, combat ended up being some combination of spamming my left and right mouse buttons and jumping around to dodge incoming projectiles.
The fifth level of each map is a boss encounter that might seem exhilarating at first but soon becomes bland after repetition. In concept, fighting gigantic eldritch creatures should be a spectacle to see. However, these bosses are nothing more than damage sponges that become invulnerable and spawn enemy reinforcements when you bring their health down to halfway.
These encounters have you shooting them nonstop and occasionally dodging them to bring them down. While each creature might look different, they have unique move sets and spawn various minions that replicate the same formula, leading to inevitable redundancy and repetition.
Into the Pit’s gameplay loop revolves around multiple “pit” runs to rescue all 45 villagers. Because each dungeon is randomized, you may or may not encounter a villager to save during a run. Still, as you rescue more villagers, you can unlock more shops and purchase new dungeons to explore. Permanent progression comes in the form of passive runes that give you a small buff during the start of each run, such as more health or a higher chance to spawn a specific spell upgrade type during a run.
It’s no doubt that Into the Pit draws heavy influence from the Doom franchise, with its old-school graphics, fast-paced shooting, and rock and roll heavy background music, but the core gameplay loop makes it hard to recommend as a rogue-like. It’s fully functional and fluid with snippets of fun thanks to its brief runs, but its lack of variation for dungeons, weapons, and bosses makes it difficult to stand out from others in the genre.
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