By Angela Hinck / November 7th, 2014
|Release Date||October 24, 2014|
Sproggiwood, billed by developer Freehold Games as a “story-driven, turn-based roguelike,” was Greenlit for Steam in just two days earlier this year. Between the description and the attractive promo art, this game obviously had a lot of appeal for a lot of people, myself included. Did it live up to expectations? Read on to find out!
Sproggiwood‘s gameplay is all about strategy. The turn-based approach gives players plenty of time to plan their moves as they explore each procedurally-generated level of the dungeons. Several new classes are made available for the player character as the game progresses, each with its own unique abilities than can be unlocked and then powered up as the player defeats enemies and levels up (your level is reset every time you enter a dungeon, so you never end up over-powered for any particular area). Once you’ve defeated a dungeon’s boss you can progress to the next area; or if you’re a completionist, you can go back and replay past dungeons with a new class to get a little an extra gold payoff for their trouble. Each dungeon is more or less the same as far as the mechanics of the game go, so it’s the unique enemies in each area that really shake things up. Foes in each dungeon have unique abilities that can only be discovered by some trial-and-error on the player’s part. The game gives very little away in the way of instruction after the initial rundown–it’s up to players to explore and get a feel for things themselves.
The gameplay is pretty challenging at times, but the level of difficulty is never rage-inducing to the point where I was getting frustrated. It’s a good roguelike for newbies like myself, or for those who just don’t enjoy the punishing difficulty other games in the genre are known for. There’s a way around every challenge if you’re patient enough to plan ahead and thoughtful enough to choose the right class and equipment; but if you’re not willing to put some thought into it, you’re not getting anywhere. Different weapons and armor can be found in breakable jars scattered throughout any dungeon. While you lose all equipped items when you leave the dungeon, any found items can then be found in a store for purchase. Buy an item once and you have the option to take it with you into battle throughout the rest of the game. Other bonuses can also be purchased with the gold found in dungeons, giving you a little extra boost like boosting your HP or lowering the cost of items by a certain percentage. Overall, all of the dungeon-based gameplay was well done, fun, and really addicting.
Still, having said that, the part of Sproggiwood I thought had the most potential was the story. It’s based on Finnish mythology, and while I don’t know anything about the source material personally, I like seeing writers taking inspiration from unique sources. The main character–a simple farmer by trade that is dragged into things unwittingly–is put a position of questionable morality by a fairy-looking thing named Sproggi, a creature determined to build a successful civilization with you as its champion. If you have to destroy a few others along the way to do it… well, that’s just the cost of civilized living. Isn’t it? Unfortunately, the story and the characters are never fleshed out much farther than that. I would have liked to see it developed more so that some of the actions you’re forced into carrying out had more weight. Despite that though, the writing in this game excels at being really humorous and clever. There’s a lot of funny dialogue, and the tongue-in-cheek jokes were pretty enjoyable. It’s also worth taking the extra time to use the “examine” tool in a dungeon just to read the descriptions that were created for everything from the enemies to the piles of leaves on the ground. I was really just sad that there wasn’t more dialogue and character development to allow this aspect of the game to shine more.
Between trips to the dungeons, you have the ability to build and oversee your own small town. As the game progresses, your little slice of civilization gets populated with creatures from past dungeons that may or may not be enjoying their new surroundings (another clever little nod to the game’s overarching themes). This was a cute addition to the dungeon-crawling portion of the gameplay, but it was lacking in options and relevance to the game as a whole. The selection of roads, buildings, trees, and other things does not expand or change as you clear dungeons; what you start with is what you have for the rest of the game. They’re also free to build, so there’s no incentive to go collect money or supplies. The new villagers also don’t affect the town in any way.
While this portion of the game was cute, there was a lot more that could have been done with it. I’m sad to say that I didn’t really edit my town at all after seeing it for the first time just because there was no reason to. If I could have gotten something out of it, or if I had needed to build and innovate for the good of the civilization, I would have spent more time there.
I keep using the word ‘cute’ to describe Sproggiwood, but I just can’t help it, because just look at it. The graphics are polished, the character designs are adorable, and the entire world is rendered in a 2D cartoon-like way that is just really pleasant to look at. I really like the simple but unique design this entire game has. The music follows a similar route in that it’s simple but very effective. Each track lends a whimsical, adventurous feel to their respective area. One thing I did notice was that sometimes the music took a little time to kick in when I first entered a dungeon. I’d almost forget it should be there until the silence was broken by the start of a track, which was disappointing since I genuinely liked listening to it.
I finished Sproggiwood on normal mode in about 6 hours, and that was with some backtracking to see how the other classes played. That might not seem like a lot of gameplay when compared to the $14.99 price tag, but if you’re the kind of completionist that will go back and replay each level with each class to get the most of your Sproggiwood experience, you will be getting a lot more bang for your buck. Even if you’re not the completionist type, the addictive gameplay will have many roguelike fans coming back for more. Despite the fact that I didn’t think Sproggiwood lived up to its full potential in all respects, I still think it’s a solid, enjoyable game.
Review Copy Supplied by Publisher.