There’s been no shortage of survival horror themes and crafting mechanics in gaming lately. In the midst of vast open worlds and hundreds of items to craft and keep track of, sometimes its nice to see a simpler approach taken to these popular genres. Skyhill shows that it can simplify those mechanics and still make for an enjoyable experience.
Developed by Mandragora and being published by Daedalic Entertainment—of Deponia and Blackguards fame—Skyhill puts your character in the 100th floor VIP suite of the Skyhill Hotel when the world goes to hell and vicious mutants run amok. Instead of waiting and starving to death, your character decides to venture out and fight for survival in a procedurally generated hotel world.
Looking through a 2D cutaway into the hotel, you begin venturing down the stairwell from your VIP suite. Each floor consists of a stairwell with elevator access, as well as a room on each side you can enter—unless its locked by a key or key-card—by clicking the desired room. Undiscovered rooms are blacked out, and the subdued lighting adds to the atmospheric creepiness of the hotel. Every now and then, a light bulb might pop or a bird might come crashing through a window, giving you a decent jump scare. While on the topic of jump scares, just wait until you happen upon an unnervingly realistic vibrating cell phone in the middle of a dark stairwell.
You’ll need to keep a close eye on your hunger level, as venturing into each room or stairwell uses a hunger point. You’ll want to explore as many rooms as you can, since this is the only way to come across food, weapons, and items for crafting medical kits and other useful stuff. However, if your hunger manages to drain to zero, then each room explored will eat up two health points until you eat something. Your character will express distress as you scramble around rooms looking and hoping for a decent meal.
Combat in the game is very simple and dungeon crawler-like; however, there are two ways to approach combat. You can either simply click on the monster and launch a standard attack, or you can turn on a targeted attacking option and a screen will come up indicating for you to choose a body extremity to target, with a chance of success and the range of damage possible for each target option. You get XP and gain levels, acquiring skill points for each level to increase various stats. Weapons in the game have stat requirements, so don’t get too excited when you find a new powerful weapon as you may not even be able to wield it until you reach a higher level.
Skyhill is very much a roguelike, therefore your health does not regenerate on its own, and once you’re dead, it’s over. You will begin again at the top of the hotel with a newly generated hotel world to play through. However, depending on how far you’ve made it down the building in previous ventures, you unlock various perks you can begin with, such as starting with a medkit or guaranteeing initiative for first action when encountering a monster. There are also many notes, journals and newspaper clippings that reveal more detail as to how the world ended up the way it did. These mercifully also stay with you between sessions, so as to not have to read them again and again.
Crafting in the game is also a simple affair. Select a craftable item, and it will show you the necessary items needed to craft it. This comes in handy especially for food and medical items. Two food items that can be crafted together into a meal will substantially fill your hunger more than the ingredients would alone, and the same applies to medical items in regards to health restoration. You can also use materials to upgrade parts of your VIP suite, which acts as your base and can be reached instantly through the elevator on each floor as long as you have the VIP key-card, without climbing floors and eating up hunger points. Being in your VIP suite also allows you to craft better food items and weapons as long as you’ve upgraded your kitchen and workbench accordingly.
Skyhill also has a speed selector option that can be changed from the main gameplay screen at any time, allowing you to speed up movement and combat. It’s a minor detail, but it’s nice to have if you’re just looking to play a quicker session.
Skyhill has a lot of potential to be a fun, simple and accessible game for people who prefer not to invest large amounts of time into a massive, open-world survival game. It has been greenlit by Steam, and the most recent developer announcement has a release date listed as October 6th of this year.