Into the Pit Review

If ever a game was going to get me into the Roguelike genre, an old school FPS-style one was always going to be the best bet. Even then, my resistance to the genre initially put me off Into the Pit. With vague information on the best way to proceed, and a feeling that no matter how much I played I wasn’t getting anywhere, I figured this would be another title to add to the pile of ‘Not For Me’ along with almost every other roguelike. But then, something clicked, and the gameplay and systems suddenly had me hooked.

As the term Roguelike implies, there’s a lot of repetition in Into the Pit. We begin in a desolate viallge with a few different vendors who all tell us we need to descend further into the pit to unlock their wares, done so by rescuing villagers. The counter at the top tells us we’ve 0/45, and so I guessed we’d get them at a fairly regular pace – I was wrong. By the time we’ve beaten the first set of dungeons we’ve a grand total of three villagers; enough to unlock the bare minimum.

Of course, that statement belies the time spent playing. In all, I spent around 4 hours trying to beat the first Pit across what must have been over a dozen runs. As a relative Roguelike noob this is perhaps on the slower side, but Into the Pit doesn’t muck about when it comes to difficulty. Individually, enemies are easy enough. Once we get a group thought it’s far too easy to suffer a sneaky swipe or shot while we focus on the enemies right in front of us, forgetting about those to the side. As you’d expect, healing is almost non-existent outside of the odd randomly dropped power or room, and so we must descend through five levels, each with four rooms, on one meagre health bar.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Before we head down to the pit we can take a handful of boosts with us, from extra starting health to the chance to gain more motes, the game’s various forms of currency. Once in, we’re presented with a solitary, random base power, and equally random selections of firepower for our left and right hands. Once selected, we’re stuck with these until our next run so it pays to pick wisely here. Weapons range from short but powerful, to long range but weaker, or any combo in between. Handily, rather than being traditional guns needing ammo, they are instead almost magical powers, meaning ammo is unlimited but we need to be mindful of a cooldown on each. Feathering the triggers to shoot is the way forward, but holding down for sustained bursts is possible with the right choice.

After this, we’re presented with eight rooms to choose from divided into groups of two attached to a totem. All four totems need activating to descend to the next lower level, but we’re free to choose which of the two rooms per totem to tackle. Each one is denoted by a symbol letting us know which motes or perks we’ll find within. Learning what these are for is initially confusing, but once we’ve returned to the surface a few times it starts to become clearer what to look out for. Some, such as the Gold or Flame motes are carried over between runs and used in the main hubs shop area for new runes or upgrades. Others such as the Luck or Blood motes are kept only for the current run. The blood ones are particularly important, as collecting these lets us charge a revive meter. Initially costing 10 motes, each time we die this cost goes up. It’s a tough but fair way of giving us an option to survive as the going gets tough. Each room contains around 10 motes to collect, and it’s luck of the draw whether one will appear that could be useful to our current run.

Some levels will host a recharge or respite room. These either offer up a large healing pool, or simply an empty room save for a box of motes to open before exiting. Welcome as they are, it pays to use them tactically so as to save health, though often at the cost of entering the other room attached to that totem that could have more useful motes in it. Keep an eye out for the villager symbol too, as this is how we unlock more options back at the hub world, and they are so rare it pays to not miss an opportunity to save one when it comes up. Thankfully once saved they remain back up top, so future runs won’t see us needing to miss out on a room in order to save them again.

After each successful room clearance we get to choose one of three randomly given upgrades to help along the way. These can be refreshed if we have enough motes, but generally there is at least one useful option in there as it is. These include things such as making enemies bleed over time, increasing fire rates, lessening damage taken, and many more. By the time we reach the Heart of the Dungeon we’re usually rocking some serious upgrades or abilities, which is handy as the bosses found down there don’t fuck about.

Actually clearing the rooms or beating the bosses involves gameplay that harkens back to old school Doom or Quake vibes. Movement is super fluid and fast, almost like we’re skating along ice, with an ultra-floaty jump and twitchy combat. Enemies come is all sorts of grotesque forms, again usually in groups so as to catch us out. Each room has between 1 and 4 keystones that need destroying in order to escape, with the levels and enemy placement randomly generated each time. There are some fairly obviously repeated building blocks in play here, but on the whole the levels are fun to play and navigate, and even the longest ones generally only take around 4 minutes to clear.

In terms of presentation, Into the Pit is a mixed bag. On the one hand I really like the faux-retro visuals, all 32-bit pixelated but with enough sheen and detail to give it an appealing look. Monster design is fairly basic but each are easily identifiable and unique from one another, while the level segments that are randomly plopped together blend well in all configurations. Less enjoyable is the dull, bass ridden music that accompanies the gameplay. I ended up turning this off in favour of Spotify or podcasts fairly quickly.

Conclusion

Old school FPS fans will be right at home here, brought in by the fast movement, impactful weaponry and the constant back-peddling and side-strafing attack methods emblematic of classic shooters. Even though I’m not generally a fan of Roguelikes by the very nature of the repetitive loop, I found myself getting very caught up in the grind here. Each run felt new and exciting, and when I was dropped a power or weapon that I liked it really got me hyped to get into the next room to use it. I think I finally get why the genre has been so popular, and I can see myself playing this for quite some time yet.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • A lot to play and learn
  • Combat is fast and fluid
  • Runs are short enough to not feel like too much of a drag to replay
Bad
  • Audio is underwhelming
  • The RNG of runs can make some less fun than others
7.9
Good
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 8
Audio - 6
Longevity - 9
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

1 Comment

  1. Oh man, I think this is one of the first Roguelike games that has not ticked any box for me.

    The shooting feels like it was based around Key Board and Mouse and it lacks some of the auto-targeting I would expect on a console so it immediately felt finicky.

    The hub world just felt bad to navigate and there were way too many text boxes that were supposed to provide flavour but I just skipped them all.

    I did not understand the currency system at all and with the hub being so unappealing I just didn’t bother investigating.

    Finally, the levels felt very samey, in my first 6-7 runs I could already recognise templates which is a bad look for a game that is going to expect you to rerun them so frequently.

    Glad you enjoyed it but this was, sadly, one of the first in this genre that was definitely ‘not for me’

    Reply

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