RYMDRESA Game Review: Journey Through A Poetic, Roguelike ASTEROIDS

A lovely trip through space in every way. This is why indie games matter.

In the beginning of RymdResa, I watched my world explode. Alone and adrift in a spaceship, I hurtled into the void, exploring new planets and looking in vain for companionship, life, anything. I zoomed past meteors, explored galaxies, collected stardust. I shot off into the distance… and flew right into a star. I exploded.

Oh yeah. For I moment I had forgotten RymdResa is a roguelike.

Roguelikes are all the rage right now, but this is undoubtedly the most peaceful one you’ve ever played, the necessity of a game spent floating around in space. It’s called space for a reason, the old adage goes, and most of your journey will be of travelling through nothingness. That’s not to say the universe is unpopulated - you’ll always be running into meteors, planets and various man- and alien-made ships on your journey. You’ll just be doing so while listening to a beautiful piano-driven soundtrack, occasionally hearing narration from your journal as you spend more and more years in the blackness of space.

As in Asteroids you will control a ship that’s little more than a white geometric shape that keeps floating in whichever direction you throttle. Turning around takes that much more energy, although you can activate a boost for a quick blast off into the distance. It makes for a speedier trip but a much more dangerous one, as you can’t see very far and things can sneak up on you very easily- like stars, which are circled in red to show how dangerous they are. The only thing you have to keep an eye on is your resources, which counts as both your energy supply and life. If it goes to 0 for any reason, whether from running out of gas or from smashing into space rocks, you die.

This is a roguelike, however, and death is only a pause in the game. But RymdResa is much more forgiving than most titles in the genre, as you will keep nearly everything you earn in the game. Your level and experience stays the same, and even the items you’ve collected will carry over to a new ship. The only thing that will be affected really is any materials you were carrying at the moment of death and the ship itself, which sometimes costs spacepoints, the game’s money. (No, the game doesn’t have time for clever names. The materials you pick up to fix your mothership in Chapter 2 are called “materials.”) There’s always a free ship available but for later levels you’ll really want to purchase a superior one. There’s a nice variety of ships all the way up to the massive Ragnarok, each of which offer unique abilities such as increased resources or speed, or even a larger pickup radius for nabbing all those little bits of stardust that act as xp. That last power comes bundled on an awesome UFO-shaped ship.

The art is pretty and understated, the various planets and galaxies you’ll explore featuring a wonderful 2D style. The white silhouettes of the ships bring the focus to the universe around you, although you can equip them with new styles to add little accents and color. Among the stars you’ll find equipment that can boost your stats or give you shields, as well as single-use items that can do everything from replenish your resources to warp you back home.

As of right now there are three chapters in the game, each of which offer different challenges. In the first chapter you are travelling the stars by yourself, trying to complete nine missions by following your little guide through the darkness. Chapter one needs to be completed in one go- the game will reset your progress if you die, even though you'll keep all the inventory items and points you've earned. Beat all the missions and you’ll unlock the next chapter.

Chapter 2 has you trying to gather Materials in order to build a mothership, and is a much different experience. Now that you have a home at the center of the galaxy (0,0 on the x/y coordinates that track your location) you'll start to get nervous the further away you get from safety. Teleport gates will shoot you far to the ends of the universe, the better to explore and find Materials, but all the more lonesome and scary for it.

Chapter 3 sees you bringing that newly created mothership into a new universe. Your goal this time will be to hunt down keys that unlock monoliths found floating around. As to how you will go about that and what happens then, well, that will be for you to find out.

This split into chapters and a loose story means that RymdResa isn’t as infinitely replayable as most roguelikes are, but it also means that you feel like you’re actually progressing, something roguelikes struggle with. A good 12-13 hours got me leveled up to the cap (40, as of this writing) and although I still had much more research to find and put funds into, the thought of searching a procedurally generated infinite universe for them doesn’t seem like something I’m going to attempt.

Still, the two-person team (Morgondag) promises updates to the game that add more content, so this will be one I return to time and time again, whenever I feel like drifting through the stars. Poetry is not something I generally appreciate in games, as it’s generally ham-fisted and inappropriate for the game (Braid, anyone?) but here it feels perfect. How else to explain the wonders of the universe?

A singular experience birthed from a singularity, RymdResa is poetic and beautiful, the perfect example of a game that would never have existed without indie developers.

-- RymdResa is now available on Steam. It will be ported to Xbox One, WiiU, iPad and Linux. For more check out Morgondag’s site