Rogue-like games have been increasing in popularity lately, mainly thanks to The Binding of Isaac and its DLC updates. There’s quite a bit of diversity within the genre, too, with titles including Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, and Temple of Yog. Trying to bring something new to the table is Clever Plays’ Leap of Fate with its cyberpunk themed world, magical skills and card-based luck system.
The game is about four rather special characters living in an alternate-future New York City. This is the type of special that equates to them being a Shadow Mage, Cyborg Technomancer, Spirit Channeler and Occultist. The story of each character is actually rather intriguing, giving enough incentive to want to learn more about their motivations and futures. Other than an introduction and a few cinematic moments, however, the story will leave you alone.
After the initial cutscene, the core rogue-like elements become clear. The game’s six chapters are laid out in a pyramid of randomized cards. Only the top card is face-up until cleared, which reveals the cards it’s connected to. This process continues down the pyramid until the Guardian has been found and defeated. Not knowing which cards are going to appear keeps you on your toes, and combines with the strategy of which path of cards to go down.
This is encompassed within the Combat cards, which make up the majority of the deck. They use a risk reward system with 1-3 skulls representing the amount of enemy waves, while the size of the chest underneath dictates how big the reward will be. So, will you risk death for the bigger reward, or play it safe but get less for your troubles?
The most common reward is Mana, which can be used to purchase extra items from the Shop card, or unlock news skills with the Upgrade card. There are three skill trees that represent Passive, Attack, and Mobility abilities, which provide a range of different upgrades, from additional health and attack power, to having a ring around the character that slows enemies. Not only are each of the skill trees tailored for the specific characters, but the order of unlocks is randomized for every run, keeping the game fresh by stopping you from repeatedly utilizing the same skills.
After selecting a Combat card, you will be sent to a top-down shooter environment and faced with a wave, or three, of enemies. There are three different attacks that includes the standard fire, a special ability (called a Glyph), and Shadow Walk.
These attacks all change depending on which character is in use and affect how you approach the combat. For standard attacks, Aeon has a constant spread fire, Big Mo has a laser that overheats, Mukai is all about short distant melee attacks, and Rasimov mixes a charged ranged attack and close combat. I quickly found Mukai to be my favourite as despite the short range, her ability to knock enemy fire back towards its owner was both fun and invaluable.
The two other attacks in each character’s arsenal are a Glyph, and Shadow Walk. The Glyphs work outside of the skill trees, with new ones and upgrades being rare to obtain. There are a range of different Glyphs that vary both in power and usefulness. For example, Homonculus summons a giant golem to take out groups of enemies, while Arcane Revolver gives the player a moment to aim then shoot three projectiles towards a target. How powerful they are affects how many uses are allowed per battle, so it’s important to time them wisely.
The Shadow Walk also has a limited amount of uses. It essentially allows the player to warp to another point of the map, without taking damage from enemies – which helps you get out of sticky situations. Shadow Walk can also harbour some really useful effects such as damaging all enemies you pass through (which Aeon starts with), or leaving behind a dummy that attracts enemies (that Big Mo has). The upgrades can be gained for all characters using the skill tree, although progressing through the game will eventually award them as permanent additions to every character.
Progressing through chapters shows off new environments with new traps and barriers, and different enemies which have unique attacks. They make for a welcome change, with new areas forcing the player to be very aware of the location and of the monsters hurtling towards them. The slight downside is that the layout of each map does start looking rather similar, mainly due to how small the maps are. In fact players, must be careful as they move to avoid enemies, as there is a constant risk of being stuck in a corner while enemies swarm from all sides, giving no chance of escape – even with the Shadow Walk.
The graphics are a mixed bag. On the one hand there is something standard about the overall look of the game, with the early levels in particular being rather flat and uninspiring. That being said, the later levels stand out much more, with chapter 4’s unsettling environment particularly coming to mind. A closer inspection also leads to an appreciation of small details. The gritty world certainly comes across within the design of the locations and protagonists.
Similar notions can be said about the game’s soundtrack. It’s suitably badass, with some great tracks, but players will have to make an effort to stop and listen, as they stay in the background at all times. This resulted in being unable to recall any of the tracks after exiting the game.
There is a decent challenge to the difficulty level, with multiple enemies surrounding the player at every corner. Health doesn’t regenerate either, and must be found or bought. That being the case, it will take most players quite a while to see the later chapters. Death means it’s back to the start, at the cost of all progress, but luckily it’s easy to hop back into the game, or make use of the once per run continue.
Not absolutely everything is lost upon death, as clearing challenge missions is both how you unlock each new character, and can also lead to permanent upgrades. For those looking for a bit more challenge, unlocking hard mode gives even more enemy variation, elite versions, and a new set of challenge missions to complete.
So, does Leap of Fate really bring anything new to the rogue-lite genre? Not exactly, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth playing. The combat is fast-paced, and it’s great fun to wipe the floor with enemies with all the different attacks. No playthrough is exactly the same, either, as the clever randomization of the cards, level designs and upgrade trees provide fresh content in each run. There is also plenty of replay value due to the challenge missions, different play styles from the characters and their multiple endings.
Again, it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel or bring anything completely new to the table, but if you’re a fan of the genre, you can’t go wrong with checking this one out.
This review is based off a PC copy of the game, which we were provided with.
Leap of Fate is a rogue-lite title that brings together a lot of separate elements to create a very fun experience.