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Sublevel Zero mixes sci-fi space shooters with roguelike challenges

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One
of the great aspects of this reawakening of the roguelike sub-genre is
seeing the systems in place in genres that you’d least expect. For those
unaware, roguelike is a sub-genre that features hardcore-focused RPG
systems that offer deep challenges, and in most cases, permadeath. With Crypt of the Necrodancer incorporating
roguelike aspects into a rhythm action game, it definitely seems like
everything is fair game. And now, we’ve got another peculiar title
coming from the folks at Sigtrag Games that aims to rethink
space-shooters.
During PAX Prime 2015, I got the chance to experience some quality time with Sublevel Zero,
a space shooter that blends high-octane action with the deep systems in
place from classic RPG games. Made from developers that have formerly
worked on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, they decided to break away
from research on a massive and incredibly complicated piece of
engineering and physics into game development and follow their true
passions. And the result of that is a super fun, unique shooter with its
roots in the RPG genre.

Set in a facility in outer space that’s slowly falling apart, you’re
tasked with flying your spacecraft through the tight corridors filled
with rogue A.I. and other obstacles that seek to take you out. As you
travel through the crumbling facility, you’ll find new power-ups and
other upgrades to your ship, which will give you the edge to make it
through the ever-changing and increasingly difficult labyrinth.

Much like many other roguelike titles, the plot is largely light and
only seeks to set the scene. You’re a lone space pilot in hostile
territory, and you’ll have to use all your skills in order to survive.
The true meat of the game lies within the deep and intricate systems in
place. The sub-genre is notorious for its difficulty and uncompromising
challenges, so it’s surprising to see a twitch-based shooter that allows
you to travel in six degrees of movement to structure it within the
system of an RPG title.

With the procedurally generated world, along with randomly placed
enemies and treasure locations, each run will be unique. As you travel
around the facility, you’ll find loot from downed enemies and space
caches filled with new upgrade and abilities for your ship. Starting
out, you’ll have the basic energy cannons, but over time, you’ll acquire
missiles, long-range lasers, and high-powered rail guns to take on the
ever-growing threats. I was pretty impressed with how well both styles
of gameplay work together. Initially, I believed the fast-paced nature
of this space-shooter and the roguelike systems wouldn’t work too well
together, but it all clicked for me quickly, and I was very much into it
after going a few runs.

By far, my favorite aspect of Sublevel Zero is its rich
visual style. Channeling the retro feel with bright colors and a
distinct visual palette, along with the claustrophobic design and layout
— I found myself quickly immersed with this title. With its release
coming in October, this compelling hybrid of both fast-paced action with
deep-strategic gameplay is very much unlike anything I’ve played in a
roguelike, and its approach to the action-RPG is one you’ll want to take
notice of.

Sublevel Zero [Steam]

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