By Jason Quinn / May 31st, 2019
Metaverse Keeper is a rogue-lite developed and published by Sparks Games for the PC that’s currently in Early Access. Four heroes find themselves called to the Metaverse. Some massive ship called the Bastion is adrift here, and your goal is to explore it and uncover the secrets of the aforementioned Metaverse. As rogue-lites tend to go though, the story is largely not the focus here. If you’ve played Enter the Gungeon, you’ll probably find Metaverse Keeper’s structure quite familiar.
Metaverse Keeper starts you off in a hub, where you can choose your class, buy upgrades, and of course head into the dungeon proper. Each class starts off with different starting equipment and abilities. Though these choices tend to impact the early game more than the middle or end game. Once you start finding new equipment, your character can end up playing completely differently. You can only pick between two classes at the start, the others you have to unlock through various means. Also in the hub are some shops where you can purchase passive upgrades. These range from passive abilities to permanent increases to the amount of health and gold you start with. Then of course there’s a teleporter into the dungeon itself.
The dungeon progresses as one might expect if you’re familiar with rogue-lites. A series of interconnected, procedurally generated rooms. Rooms are populated with enemies, and similar to Enter the Gungeon, you’re often locked inside rooms until you defeat all of them. Unlike Gungeon though, this game has melee combat in addition to using guns. You also can only attack in four directions rather than aiming around a full 360 degrees. It makes combat quite a bit more straightforward, and also makes it a tad slower.
You can find additional weapons in the dungeon of course, usually through chests and occasionally stores. There’s also passive buffs you can acquire too that generally make you stronger or more capable. In terms of combat abilities, you have your main weapon. One starting class starts out with a pistol, the other with a sword. So if you prefer one or the other, you can choose between them. You have a defensive ability of some sort, usually a dodge. Then you have bombs, of which you have a limited quantity, but can acquire more. There’s also a lot for other types of items you can pick up in the dungeon.
An interesting part of the combat is you don’t take damage directly initially, you have a shield that will soak up damage first. Your shield replenishes when moving from one room to another. This means taking a few stray hits from minor enemies isn’t really a big deal. Bosses, which are encountered at the end of each floor of the dungeon, can usually chew through your armor very quickly though.
Unfortunately, I can’t say this game is very successful as a rogue-lite. For starters, the combat is just very slow paced, with weapons that just feel too weak. There is visual feedback when you attack and kill enemies, but it doesn’t do much to accentuate the action and make it more exciting. The music is also rather calm during encounters, and even boss fights. I think it’s important for rogue-lites to feel fun almost immediately, since you’re going to be repeating the game over and over again. The beginning of this game is just very boring. You have to hope to get some very strong weapon with good passive abilities if you want the combat to feel satisfying. But by that point, it’s satisfying primarily because you’re just cutting through enemies like butter.
Having a permanent progression system and upgrade trees in rogue-lites feels like a way to just make them easier. On the surface, it does. When you beat a boss, you gain cassette tapes that are used to purchase the permanent upgrades in the hub. So long as you can beat the first one, which isn’t too difficult, you’ll get some tapes, which you can feed into upgrades. This slowly but surely makes the game easier. The issue is that I can’t help but feel these upgrades are basically required to make any real progress into the dungeon. My first few runs, I would consistently run into a wall where I would just do pitiful damage, and enemies would cut me down with ease. So you don’t just die because it’s hard, you die because your stats just aren’t good enough. You haven’t gone through the first few floors enough to get enough tapes to buy enough upgrades. This game is very much a grind, and I can’t help but feel that that’s antithetical to the whole point of rogue-likes and rogue-lites. I should be doing runs to get to try to get to the end, not doing runs to collect some currency to buy upgrades.
Add on top of this that it’s dreadfully boring until you manage to get some abilities under your belt, and it’s a struggle to even do two runs at a time. I love rogue-likes and rogue-lites, a good one can see me doing repeated runs for hours. It’s really hard to recommend Metaverse Keeper when there are a plethora of others that do what this game does but better. That said, it is still in Early Access, so perhaps there’s still room for improvement. You can find the game here.
Metaverse KeeperPCrogue-liteSparks Games