In a recent surge of roguelike games, Sword of the Stars: The Pit is by a respectable margin my favourite.  A deep game which skillfully treads a line between usability and difficulty very well with fairly high production values for the genre.
Sword of the Stars: The Pit
Date published: Feb 9, 2014
2 / 3 stars

Editor's Note: This review was based on the Gold Edition of the game.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit is a traditional roguelike RPG developed by Kerberos Productions and set in the Sword of the Stars universe created by Arinn Dembo as the name may imply.  I seem to be on a glut of roguelike and roguelike inspired games lately. Sword of the Stars: The Pit is an exceedingly competent entry into the genre that is well executed. The graphics are a bit strange but familiar to those that have been with the series, and in the scope of it's own series are done fairly well if not extraordinarily. (The character animations definitely look to have been done on OpenCanvas or something similar and stand out against the rest of the game, though).

The roguelike elements are definitely the strength of the game. Combat is intuitive, fair, and reasonably balanced. The creature AI can be relied upon to act in a consistent manner which is fairly important for combat in roguelikes, and the different weapons actually add a variety of game mechanics rather than just being incrementally increased versions of the same guns, which is a pitfall of many roguelikes. The random nature of the game can make things in some runs much more difficult, but I never felt the randomness broke a game in the way it can in many roguelikes. If you got a bad roll on a level you can still have an entirely legitimate change of making it through the level if you play skillfully, such as utilising berserk mechanics to cause enemies to fight each other, luring enemies into environmental hazards, through grenades around corners, or placing traps. Which also leads into another of the games strengths - there are a lot of mechanics such as those I just mentioned and they're fairly intuitive for the most part. If you have any experience with roguelikes you likely don't need the tutorial or the manual, although both of those are actually quite well done. The one mechanic I do have a gripe with is the idea of the crafting recipes. It's supposed to be able to find recipes through some of the data panels but I have never done so. Most of them can't be found this way and it turns the game either into experimentation with blind luck, or consulting a wiki. There's some people that like their games like that however, and it's a subjective preference of mine that I don't. The voice acted parts - albeit fairly rare - are actually pretty well done, as well. The whole game just seems to be a game where a significant amount of time and effort has been taken on polishing the game, something sorely lacking from many releases big and small these days.

The biggest criticism I have about the game is that is very "safe". It takes no risks and as such is very generic in the truest sense of the word. However it's a well-executed implementation of the genre with an interesting background story and theme that offers a huge amount of replayability and a variety of different levels of challenge for someone to find their individual level of comfort. Definitely a game to pick up if you enjoy the roguelike genre.