Content of the article: "Spelunky 2, the sequel to my favorite indie game, is finally coming out tomorrow. I’d like to briefly share why I hold it in such high regard"
Spelunky is a game that from the outset looks so simple that you question what else it's hiding to garner so much praise. It doesn't have a progression system like several other rougelites, and every run regardless of your character starts the same, so what exactly is the draw and why is it so revered?
However that doesn't mean that it's easy, far from it. As a mechanics-driven game, its lack of progression and character builds means that it puts a greater emphasis on skill and self-improvement in order to succeed. There are no shortcuts… well technically there are shortcuts, however they're a double-edged sword as you still start with what you do on a normal run, have less time to accrue gold and items, and you're starting at a harder part of the game. The shortcuts are more so opportunities to practice at the harder levels without having to go through the earlier stages each time. It goes for that classic "easy to learn, hard to master" approach, and it does it extremely well because…
It has depth
But wait a minute, you've been repeating that it's simple several times now, so how exactly is there depth? Well, the reason why Spelunky is hard to master is because there are many minor details which can turn the tide greatly. The first and most obvious example is the whip, your standard attack. Spelunky controls really well, however when it comes to attacking, the timing and distance of your attack can make it feel stiff. This is no accident, as it makes your early encounters with enemies a lot more harrowing, since losing 1 of your 4 hearts is extemely costly. Mastering the timing of whipping a bat unscathed is probably the first sign of you improving at the game, and there are many more moments like that to come. The result is a game where failure feels like a lesson, and though that may sound like basic trial-and-error, there's an important aspect which helps it stay fresh.
It has RNG
As with pretty much all roguelites, there's an RNG aspect. In the case of Spelunky, the layout of each level is procedurally generated, so there are certain rules it follows when generating the available paths to the next level and how everything is placed. The RNG isn't really there to decide if you become overpowered or stay underpowered during your run, rather it's there to condition you into becoming better at dealing with the game, rather than becoming better at dealing with situations. It's predictable enough that it will almost never be a deciding factor in why you win or lose, and it's unpredictable enough that it avoids the repetitive trappings of trial-and-error. Ultimately…
It's about discovery
It's for this reason that Spelunky truly shines for me. It's not about investing in making your character stronger, or getting a lucky roll on a run, it's about learning and mastering the game. From really simple things such as realizing that it's safer to throw pots against the wall in case they contain an enemy, to ingenious things such as using the blowback from firing a shotgun to jump higher, to galaxy-brain things such as throwing a rock at a damsel that's too high to reach so that they start moving and fall down to you, rather than wasting a rope to climb up to them.
- One thing I really hope is changed for III: difficulty
- Spelunky 2 – Review Thread
- My issues with skill trees/upgrades affecting difficulty in non RPGs.
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