By WillieMcBride 14 Comments
I picked up Legend of Dungeon today because the Steam page said "local co-op" and it was only ten bucks. I wanted a quick co-op game to try out with Sammy, my brother. Much to my delight, the game turned out to be a roguelike and now I'm thinking about those. Let's talk.
Some time ago (two years? Three? I dunno.) I picked up a Humble Bundle with Binding of Isaac in it. I played two or three runs of the game because I like Edmund McMillen's art style and then put it down because I found it too difficult. Fast forward to last summer, when I finished my PC and I wanted to see if the game was easier with a controller. I died a few more times, repeating my last experience with it, but something was different. I found myself playing again and again, getting a tiny bit farther every time. The game wasn't too difficult anymore, i just wasn't skilled enough at it yet.
Now, I've never been good at games. I've been playing them ever since my aunt and uncle gave me a Gameboy and a Tetris cartridge, but I've never been the type of person to just pick up a game and be good at it. I mostly avoid things that frustrate me for this reason, and almost never touch competitive multiplayer bar a few Halo LAN parties. But the difficulty of a game like Spelunky or Rogue Legacy isn't frustrating to me, it's a learning experience. Every time I die, I know it's my fault. Every death is a learning experience, something that you can learn not to do next time (Don't throw the cat in the lava, Sam.) and when you reach the same challenge and sail past with your new knowledge, it's a satisfying experience that few other games can give you.
There's also something appealing to me about the idea that when you fail in a game, you have to restart the whole damn thing. I still haven't beaten Binding of Isaac, but every time I get a little closer, and I think I'll soon be at the end. I love the punishing, painful loss of having to restart from the Basement every time, but the reason I love it is because of the reward when you finally hit a new floor. You're not learning how to pass each section of the game, you're learning things that take you from the beginning to the end.
And that's the core reason that I enjoy roguelikes in the way I do: You acquire the skills to beat the entire game over the course of your many failures and few successes. It's the feeling of finally mastering a combo in a fighting game or figuring out how to take a particular corner in a driving game expanded all the way out to all of the mechanics, and the satisfaction when you finally nail it down and finish the game is unlike anything else you an get from this medium