Watch our review of the brand new roguelike title – Gone Viral…
It feels like a week doesn’t pass in which the games industry is buzzing from the release of another roguelike title. The genre’s popularity has soared in the last decade as gamers have demanded bigger challenges, and more bang for their buck. There’s a roguelike for everyone, with an enormous multitude of titles expressing so many little variations and tweaks on the formula that it’s almost impossible to not find one you’ll like. Stepping up into the foray to contend for your time now is Skullbot Games’ first title, Gone Viral.
Dropped into what feels like a Running Man style ‘fight-for-your-right-to-live’ gameshow, Gone Viral offers a small roster of characters for you to choose from in order to try and kill your way to freedom. As part of the setup, you’re playing to appease the viewers and fans alike, and killing enemies in a certain way will eventually grant you loot boxes filled with mutations (upgrades), equipment, or potentially just misfortune if you’re unlucky. The game will be instantly familiar to anyone that’s played a roguelike in the last handful of years, which isn’t to say it’s unoriginal, but as far as gameplay it can feel a little uninspired at times.
The biggest difference between this game and incredibly popular titles like The Binding of Isaac is in their dimensions – Gone Viral’s 3D environment and physics do set it apart, offering something quite unique. Some of the best parts of the game lie within the physics engine, letting you play environmental hazards against your enemies. Pushing barrels into a group of foes and watching them scatter after the explosion is satisfying, as is simply knocking them into pitfall traps and spike walls to send them to their end. This little addition adds another layer of dynamic gameplay to what could otherwise be a fairly standard roguelike.
You occasionally encounter ‘room events’, voted for by the AI viewers, in which a room will have a certain set of rules which mix up how you approach the fight. For example, a room event titled ‘Rush!’ speeds up the movement of everyone in the room, in theory allowing you to play faster and more aggressive, at the expense of taking more damage if you’re careless. The addition of Twitch integration will no doubt make for a lot of interesting runs as your own viewers can vote to make your life easier or harder on a whim.
Reward drops for gaining a certain amount of fans are also a great way to incentivise players to think about how they play. It’s easy to get caught up playing this just like any other game but if you want to maximise the amount of mutations and equipment you can grab you really have to play to the viewers tastes by dispatching enemies in specific ways.
There are a few shortcomings, unsurprisingly. The AI quite often displays a complete lack of self-preservation, particularly the lowly orc enemies. A handful of times in a single level they would flail blindly toward fire traps hellbent on self-immolation, or swing their way through an explosive barrel and detonate themselves and all their friends around them. Quite honestly it’s fun to watch, though it happens often enough for you to question whether this is intentional or something that needs to be fixed.
Hitmarkers for things like bombs also can at times feel incredibly unforgiving. Boss battles suffer from this the most, where you’re more likely to encounter these kinds of projectiles. Despite feeling like I should’ve been out of harm’s way, I’d often still take damage. This is probably meant to be mitigated by using the invulnerability period granted by the dodge, but it still feels off at times.
And sometimes, as can be common with these kinds of games, there’s just a bit too much happening on the screen! This is likely to vary from player to player, but people unfamiliar with these types of titles might be easily overwhelmed by the amount of projectiles floating around on screen. No doubt this is probably something you can overcome by spending more time with the game, but it would be helpful to have something that set enemies apart from the environment in some instances.
It’s hard to say what the latter stages of the game will offer right now – so far only two characters are available and only three levels playable in the closed beta, but I’m cautiously optimistic that Gone Viral is going to be a great addition to the current roster of roguelikes available. Further down the line this is likely to be one to check out, and for what it’s worth it does seem quite promising so far! More than anything, what you’re going to get out of this game is likely to come down to whether you’re tired of other games like this, or if you’ve got room in your life for another roguelike. Although Gone Viral doesn’t add anything hugely different to the genre, it’ll certainly satiate fans looking for something familiar to sink their teeth into.
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