I naively thought that now that I know every stage in the game I would be able to get them all down pretty well and get back to the end boss with a large amount of health without much trouble. Nah. I played a bunch of rounds and finally got back to the boss after like an hour or two, with 1 health and no money to buy anything new, and then died even faster than last time.
JESUS CHRIST THIS GAME.
Really you need to play well the ENTIRE time and build yourself up so that you get to the boss with a decent amount of health. The thing is, it is deceptive in that you can get into a really good streak for a long time... in fact at this point I'm good enough that I usually build myself up pretty well after the first few stages. But it will definitely nail you a bunch at once and bring you right back down.
I was thinking about why and it is like... you generally don't want to leave anything above you that will come down from above and cause you a lot of trouble, because there is no way to shoot up (outside of some special powers, and they won't just let you consistently shoot up.) So when things are going ok, you're moving at a decent pace, clearing things out well, MAYBE you get hit once by something but as long as you clear as you go it's not too bad.
But when things get bad is when because of a mistake or the layout of stuff you fall too fast (often getting hit in the process) and now there are a bunch of enemies above you coming down fast. So you start panicking and try to get down really fast, but then you can get nailed that way a bunch of times trying to move too quickly. Or you don't move down fast enough, and the ones above you nail you a bunch. I often get really deep into the game barely losing any health then lose 4-5 or more health within a single stage, often a bunch within the span of like 5 or 10 seconds, because once you get into a bad situation you really can't do much else beyond just keep moving down, faster than you should, which leaves even MORE enemies up above you, and this is your life now.
Least favorite enemies? Definitely those fucking skeletons that throw bones. Fuck those guys forever.
@Zero Yeah, you should bounce on their heads. Otherwise, they take forever to kill.
I've been trying to beef up my combo game, after recently realizing that you can freeze the combo meter at each cave AND at the bottom of the stage, thereby opening up the possibility of comboing the whole freakin' game. Why didn't you guys tell me?!
It's funny that you're so focused on beating the game. I just play recklessly, going for combos. It does fall apart like a house of cards, though. That's why that pause upon hit powerup is valuable, even though it never seems like the most fun choice.
Wow, didn't know you could get health through combos, though a 25 combo seems... out of my league. And I'd probably lose health trying.
Also, the balloon is apparently good? The way it is described in the game sounds worthless, so I never get it!??!?! WHYYYYY.
The Heart Balloon is an upgrade gives you a heart-shaped balloon that floats above you. As long as you hold the balloon, your fall rate is reduced. If an enemy touches the balloon, it will explode, killing anything in the blast radius. If the balloon pops, it will reappear on the next floor. It's in-game description is "pretty balloon"
I don't know if I will stop playing once I beat it. When I beat Into the Breach I always intended to go back and try again on harder modes and such but there are so many games out there so I just kind of ended up playing new stuff instead. And I don't think Downwell has difficulty modes (though the "styles" definitely have different levels of challenge associated to them) so mostly it would just be playing for score and / or mastery?
It is a very interesting game from a design perspective though. I should review it at some point. But I mostly just want to talk about how it manages to take a very basic concept and with just a few smart design decisions create the ultimate moment to moment risk / reward gameplay. This same concept could have turned into a much less interesting game with a few tiny differences in how the gameplay / design works.
Something to think about as a designer. I tend to just throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks but I should probably be thinking more about how to create something really tight under specific limitations.
Speaking of the RNG Gods no one was speaking of this, I was actually doing pretty good on a run yesterday EXCEPT... the apple (+4 health) never showed up, nor did the member's card (guaranteed shop at the start of every level + 10% discount in shops.) Those are two of the most key items in my eyes and not getting either can really screw you.
Not to mention like every shop I did run didn't have the good health upgrades, it just had the single ones for 700 or so gems. BAH. So I would try to hold out for something better.
So I died on 4-3 with like 1500 still left in gems. An apple + better access to shops would have gotten me 6-8 more health at that point. I could have come into the end boss in a decent spot for once! Maybe! But the RNG Gods screwed me!
Shit, I didn't know how the balloon worked, either! That'll definitely help with the combos...
Combos are pretty easy to understand: Do as much stuff as you can without touching the ground. So keep bouncing on enemies and destructible objects and destroying the destructible blocks in your way. It gets dangerous with non-stompable red enemies, though. Risk and rewarddd.
But then I run out of shots and a bone hits me! I'm getting better at not getting totally... BONED... by the skeletons though.
Also, woah, GAME CHANGER. I used to avoid the "Knife and Fork" power-up which says something like "eat corpses to regain health" because it didn't seem like it was doing anything. But man was I wrong. It doesn't show any indication that it is doing anything until you "eat" (basically just run into) 10 enemy bodies, and then it says "nom nom nom" and you get back 1 health.
And it's like... super easy to eat bodies! Especially ones like the ghosts where you can just stand in a nice spot and they come right to you! I usually get back at LEAST 1 health per level, sometimes more! And of course when I'm maxed out it helps me build my health up. Check it out, I got all the way up to 11 by the start of world 4-3!
And then totally choked harder than I ever have before and was down to like 4 again by the boss.
EASILY the best power-up in the game. Almost overpowered. Well, assuming you get it early on, which of course, you can't control. It's so OP though that I almost wonder if it is worth moving forward in a run where I DON'T get it early on.
As for combos, it's way too hard for me to even think about getting a 25 combo in the earlier stages to get the 1 HP back, and anything less seems not worth it, so I don't really bother trying. But in world 4 it's almost like... hard NOT to combo, since there is almost no real ground to land on. So I usually get some health back there too. Incidentally you probably already know this but you can go in caves without losing your combo, outside of a cave you are allowed to touch the ground inside the slowdown circle thingy and inside of the cave you can touch anything you want.
Another tiny but helpful thing I noticed is that when you jump on an enemy's head and they die you automatically collect any gems they drop, whereas if you shoot them and they die the gems go flying everywhere.
So yeah with all of this knowledge (ESPECIALLY the knife and fork) I have been able to get to the end boss a few more times now. I still choke a lot, usually in world 4 (which with knife and fork I can usually come into with at least 8 or 9 health, but I think the most I have gotten to the boss with is around 5) but if I can figure out the boss' patterns MAYBE that would be enough?! I'm kind of figuring it out and I got to the 2nd of 4, basically 1 for each world parts of the boss, it feels doable?!
BTW, apparently there IS a hard mode that unlocks when you beat normal. Oh no.
I couldn't have done it without that knife and fork. EASILY THE BEST POWER-UP. EASILY.
With that said I really felt like overall I was just nailing the run this time. A lot of things "clicked" and it all came together nicely. A few silly mistakes but overall I played pretty consistently, and I was able to get to the end boss with 12 HP (and get up to 13 early on in the boss by eating before it started rocking me.)
The end boss isn't that hard once you know what you are doing, though it still got me down to 4 HP. Close one!
Not sure if I will play hard mode. We'll see. Either way I think this is like... one of my favorite indie games... ever? It's the perfect length and so tight and well designed! Even if knife and fork kind of breaks it a bit.
Woah, hard mode is NO JOKE. A lot of games are like here is hard mode but it's not really that different. This is... different.
First, there are enemies EVERYWHERE.
Second, this new? enemy now comes down from the top of the screen (trying to figure out what triggers this, I think any time you jump up at all? So you basically just need to keep moving down to avoid this?) and it is a fairly fast enemy you can't jump on, has to be shot to be killed.
Third, there are some new, harder enemies.
Fourth, traps work differently now... for instance those red traps in the dungeon that used to set off after you stepped on them are now just always in a constant loop of being set off, so you basically just need to avoid them completely.
Fifth, everything costs more.
My first try I died on 1-2. After that I got to 2-3 but yeah, very tough and very different. Would have to totally re-evaluate my play style to succeed in this.
But I did actually like that one somewhat, it was definitely the one that made me realize procedural generation could be interesting. I think my problem with these games though is eventually I get to the point where I feel like, despite the procedural generation I'm just doing the same stuff over and over and over, especially at the start of each new run.
Downwell is pretty tight though. Like, the game is short enough (a full run, when you know what you're doing, only takes about 20 minutes) and I became familiar enough with everything that I more or less always felt like I was making more progress and then I beat the game. Difficultywise it just felt like it flowed nicely, no huge brick walls to overcome really. And I think the fact that it is pretty much constant action meant that replays were still pretty fun, while with some other roguelikes I just start at the beginning like HERE WE GO AGAIN.
With that said if I didn't discover how great knife & fork were I might have hit that wall.
But yeah Into the Breach and Downwell are the only two roguelikes I have ever finished and I loved both of them so maybe I am a changed man. I wonder if I should give Spelunky another chance...
With THAT said I still feel like I'm not super big on this trend. I still prefer tight, specifically designed games where I don't have to start from the beginning every time in general. I'm not going to run out and play a bunch of roguelikes now.
I liked Rogue Legacy! Kind of! Until I got bored of starting over every time I died!
I keep using the word "tight" to describe Downwell but I think it is pretty apt. It doesn't even use like half the screen (unless you play handheld with the screen turned or whatever.) It's just this skinny area and you're kind of falling more often than not. I think if I really tried to understand why the "repetition" doesn't bother me as much in this game it is probably in large part because there isn't like ANY running to get back to where you were. Just falling, which is easy! I hate dying and being like oh boy now I have to do a bunch of running to get back to where I was.