I honestly didn’t know what to expect with Sproggiwood. Fairly inexperienced with the roguelike genre, I can admit that I’m gaining interest with what it has to offer, but the idea of permadeath has never settled well with my gaming preferences. As much as I enjoy Diablo III, the idea of playing Hardcore has never been a priority and while I see how it appeals to certain gamers, it’s just never been my thing. Now, not all roguelikes feature permadeath, but as an avid MMORPG player, I like to feel satisfied that time invested equates to progress, meaning I can pick up where I left off, even if I make some sort of idiotic mistake that results in death.
And that’s where the beauty of Sproggiwood really shines. It’s not as punishing as other roguelikes, but at the same time, it carries roguelike elements in a way that’s not only meaningful, but acceptable to those that are inexperienced with the genre. As I journeyed my way through the magical world of Sproggiwood, I found myself comparing it more and more to Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone – a gateway game to a new genre that’s easy to learn, but difficult to master.
Sproggiwood’s unique art style is simply charming
So what’s someone with little experience with roguelikes reviewing a roguelike game? Simple — it’s the ultimate test to see if Freehold Games’ ambition of appealing to a larger audience succeeds. Can Sproggiwood introduce new gamers to the genre in an interesting manner much like Hearthstone has to millions of gamers? The short answer is a definitive yes and even for those that don’t find any of the roguelike mechanics appealing might be in for a surprise with Sproggiwood.
As I noted in my first impressions story on Sproggiwood, the game features colorful art that’s adorable, but fitting for the theme and style of the game. In a way, Sproggiwood is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: a game that embraces you with open arms but offers layers of depth and difficulty as you progress through the story. You start off as a cloghead in a brief tutorial that does a little bit of hand-holding to teach you the basics of the game, but after that you’re on your own. It’s not as drastic as Don’t Starve, which drops you into the game world without a single hint as to what to do, but don’t expect pop-up notifications to warn you how a certain enemy reacts to your actions or what special attacks they hold. Like many other roguelikes, those are learning experiences so that with each subsequent return to a dungeon in Sproggiwood, you and not your character, gain the experience needed to help make the game easier bit by bit.
There’s plenty of reasons to replay each randomly-generated dungeon with a different class
Each time you zone into a randomly-generated dungeon in Sproggiwood, your character starts off at level 1 along with the benefits from any Civic Boosts that you purchased in town as well as the equipment you’ve bought and equipped. Civic Boosts range from extra experience gained to a larger health pool but also have other benefits like additional chests and special vase spawns. As you journey through each dungeon in Sproggiwood, gold and loot will pour out from enemies, chests and vases and each time you obtain an item in a dungeon, you’ll have the ability to purchase it for permanent use. Naturally you’ll be able to equip it during that dungeon run, but you’ll lose it upon completion or death. It’s a mechanic that I thoroughly enjoyed when it was first presented to me and leaves a lasting impression throughout the game as you look for more and more items to unlock for all the different character classes.
The game offers six classes in total: Farmer, Warrior, Archer, Thief, Vampire and Wizard. Each class plays quite differently with Freehold Games’ admitting that they were designed to vary in difficulty level. For example, the Archer class may seem more powerful and simpler to play compared to the Vampire class, but that was an intentional design decision by the team in order to accommodate a broader group of gamers. In other words, both experienced and inexperienced players of the roguelike genre will find something to appreciate in Sproggiwood as well as satisfying those with different playstyles. The game also entices you to try out each class to see which you like best, awarding you an additional 1,000 gold each time you complete a dungeon with a different class. There’s also two difficulty modes in Sproggiwood as a way to ease novices into the game – easy and normal. Again, the game gives an extra perk for completing each dungeon on normal difficulty, which will inspire you to clear it once you get a hang of the mechanics – if you didn’t choose to play the game on normal out of the gate.
Items are plentiful but you’ll have to strategically choose what you use
At its core, Sproggiwood carries simple turn-based mechanics like a true roguelike should, but strategy plays a vital role in clearing each dungeon without suffering a death. Don’t think you can simply spam certain skills and navigate the map to each boss, as the game’s monsters get more and more complex as you progress through the story and ultimately require you to think before you act. But unlike other games in the genre or games that are “roguelike-like” or “rogue-lite” you’ll be able to keep the gold you earned if you do die, allowing you to either unlock additional Civic Boosts to aid your character or purchase items to equip prior to entering a dungeon. It’s a fine balance between too punishing and not punishing enough, but neither the Civic Boosts or equipment will give you a big enough advantage to simply breeze through the game.
There’s a bit of charm to the world Sproggiwood presents and its main character Sproggi is a likable and memorable one. You won’t feel as if you’re blindly going down a journey with no meaning (cough cough Destiny cough cough) as Sproggi keeps you up-to-date without being overbearing or annoying, but at the same time, there’s still a mystery behind the little guy that you’ll want to see to the end.
It’s a real shame there isn’t more to Sproggiwood’s city builder
While overall the game is a bit on the short side with only 10 dungeons, it does offer a plenty of reasons to replay it in trying to conquer each dungeon with a different character class and on a harder difficulty. Best of all, nothing feels repetitive with the procedurally-generated dungeons and the variety in class choices and skills. Sproggiwood does a fantastic job in terms of progression as you slowly learn what each different monster holds as you encounter new ones with every dungeon. While loot is plentiful, we do wish the weapons and armors had more variety to them. Luckily, Freehold Games assures us that’s in the works for a future patch. In addition, more challenges would benefit the game well, such as logging how many turns it took to complete a certain dungeon and how much damage was taken during that dungeon run. In fact, we’d argue that Sproggiwood could be a “light” competitive game with leaderboards, as certain gamers would love to conquer each dungeon in the shortest amount of turns with the least amount of damage taken with each class. Sure, the randomness plays a factor with each dungeon’s tileset, but that hasn’t stopped Diablo III and its Greater Rifts. Finally, we’d love to see Sproggiwood progress towards an infinite dungeon mode that increases in complexity with each floor conquered. Shower the players with gold and items to make it meaningful, but present a challenge that even the most hardcore could appreciate.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Sproggiwood is its half-baked town simulator, if you even want to call it that. In an interview with Freehold Games, the company revealed that Sproggiwood was originally planned with a more in-depth city-builder component, but the team decided against it, focusing its efforts on building a more polished, story-driven roguelike. Unfortunately, the town map is still a component of the game but it’s purely cosmetic now. In a way, we can only imagine how it could have affected Sproggiwood for the better, but we also have to respect the decision Freehold Games made as a small indie developer with limited time and resources. Perhaps with some support from the community, the team can further develop its original plans, giving Sproggiwood more depth and an entertaining side game.
Each new dungeon in Sproggiwood presents unique challenges and monsters
Overall, Sproggiwood is a solid recommendation for those that are interested in certain aspects of the roguelike genre, but has never taken the plunge or has never found the right game to introduce them to the genre’s mechanics. You might find yourself walking away with such an enjoyable experience that you’ll start exploring other games in the genre, much like I did.
As a way of supporting the launch of Sproggiwood on October 24, Fullcleared.com will be giving away 10 keys on October 23, ahead of the game’s official launch. Follow us on Twitter @Fullcleared for more information on the giveaway keys.