Subaeria – Robotic Capitalist Hellscape
Reviewed on: Windows (exclusive)
“Roguelike” is a label that gets tossed around a lot in the indie game circuit, and a majority of the time what it means is “procedurally generated game with optional permadeath and a few RPG elements.” This holds true for Subaeria, a top-down action-puzzler that marks mobile app developer Illogika’s first foray into the realm of games meant for a larger screen. It’s not a roguelike, but it is an enjoyable experience that stands in its own little niche. The game is currently in the Early Access stage on Steam, and the developer’s projected release for the final product is still six months out. Like most early titles, the game suffers from a lack of content that will hopefully be rectified upon completion, with only one of the multiple playable characters available at the moment. Gameplay areas consist of a tutorial and a single procedural dungeon.
The story is minimal, but it doesn’t hinder the experience. Your player character has made the mistake of winding up bankrupt in a futuristic dystopia run by killer robots called Cleaners, and spends the game trying to escape. There are multiple endings planned for each character, but since there’s only one available right now, I can only speculate as to how things will end up for the others.
Gameplay is where the game shows its creative spark. Your options for self-defense are limited, so the only real way to get rid of your metallic pursuers is to use your surroundings in creative ways to get them to off themselves. Learning how each enemy type behaves is key to survival. Some will make a beeline towards you, others will use projectiles that push them back with each shot. You also have a little drone that you can outfit with various power-ups (though the drone can only hold two at a time), the effects of which you’ll find out with a lot of experimentation.
Subaeria wants you to take your time learning how everything in its world operates, and apart from the tutorial there’s almost no handholding of any kind. The presentation is absolutely gorgeous, reminding me of titles like Transistor and Bastion with its vibrant color palettes and highly stylized character portraits. The environment evokes a beautiful sense of dystopia, especially when paired with its robotic enforcers. Sound design is equally good, with some fantastic tracks in the mix. Like with most titles in this vein, I found myself playing round after round, letting each defeat be another lesson into how to progress.
I’m torn on whether or not to give Subaeria a full recommendation, though. Early Access titles are always something of an oddity since by the time most of them make it to a final release any buzz surrounding them has long since died down. Subaeria is good, there’s just not enough of it right now. I wanted more room variety, more environments, more enemies to mess with and more ways to mess with them.
With any luck Illogika will push for their final release sooner rather than later. If that’s the case, then pick up Subaeria for a unique title that scratches the sci-fi puzzler itch. If not, well, make your own call on whether or not you want to sink thirteen dollars into a product that only has one of its four characters available at present.