'Roguelike’ or ‘Roguelite’ is a term that has been thrown around very often in the past few years, generally meaning that a game has a randomly generated world each time you play, and should you die, you start from the beginning. It is rare when you see a game that goes for the experience that Rogue gives-- not unheard of; Dungeons of Dredmor and Sword of the Stars: The Pit both try to encapsulate that experience while making an easier user interface for newcomers.
Bionic Dues - Give it a Twist
Bionic Dues is trying to do the same while adding a twist, and it does work if you are into the sort of rogue-like it offers. Bionic Dues, made by Arcen Games, is a strange beast in its own right. It is a post-apocalyptic game involving machines taking over the world and humans hiding to try and survive. You control an ‘EXO’ suit, which is essentially mechs to combat the machines.
Perhaps not that strange of a beast when it comes to its setting, but when you find out you are controlling four characters at once in a single square and simply switch between them, it becomes a bit more interesting. The gameplay is where this game shines, with a variety of checks and balances to try and keep the game itself interesting every time you play it.
When you first start the game, you choose a pilot--Axis, Emma, Meg, Tuck, Genji, or Rey-- afterward you choose four EXOs--Assault, Brawler, Sniper, Siege, Science, or Ninja. Obviously, the first time you play the game, you will have an entire team of Ninjas, as that seems like the best way to take care of every single thing you might have to deal with. While you can highlight your choices as you pick them for a bit of extra information, in general, it is vague and not very descriptive without already knowing the game a bit better.
You are promptly dropped into the game with barely any other information. While it isn’t the most friendly to new players, it does have helpful little tips that pop up to let you know how to customize, shop, and a basic idea of what you are doing. After 50 days, the final battle begins, and you see if you can hold off a seemingly endless barrage of robots to see if you can win. Every day is calculated by doing a mission aimed at either weakening the final army you fight or getting better parts for your EXOs.
Bionic Dues - Gameplay
That’s where the meat of the game comes in, as it is a Roguelike in a very traditional sense. The maps are randomly generated and filled with traps and explosives that can hurt both you and your enemies. You are outnumbered by an obscene degree but have a superpower that none can withstand! … That is no one moves until you do, giving you plenty of time to think of the best move for a situation, and this is the kind of game where you might have to use that. More often than not, an EXO will die in one or two shots. There are plenty of times when one can guess wrong on an explosion and end up with another dead robot or simply get one shot by an invisible enemy ninja with a shotgun.
The part that makes this very different from most Roguelikes is everything you find can not be equipped until you complete (or fail) the mission. What you have when you started is all you have, and often times ammo, traps, and stealth becomes scarce during a long mission. This game excels at making someone use every single weapon they have, just because the best weapon only has nine shots and you don’t really want to use it unless something is about to kill you.
If this sounds fun, chances are you like other Roguelikes that are the more traditional style. The twist it gives of having to use four characters and have a city-map to choose where to go, as well as only equipping outside of the dungeon do not change the basic core principles of the gameplay. Supplies are limited, but thinking before you leap will more often allow you to win in any situation.
That is until you hit the half way point where you are so absurdly equipped that an entire army can die in a mere instant of you glancing upon it, and the bosses you might find will be shot down before they can react. The upgrades tend to scale a bit too well, and perhaps the times I played it, I should have set higher than normal or hard but once the epic EXOs were gotten, and the rocket launcher was heavily upgraded, the game suddenly went from being careful to being Rambo.
Bionic Dues - Humor and Sound
It might be intentional, the game developers certainly have a sense of humor in the game. The jokes come often, and from everywhere. Rather it be the description of the pistol--which stuns enemies due to them being so shocked you even used it. In fact, the pistol is so shocked you used it that it can’t fire for three more turns. The robots tend to complain about their bad programming vocally, or get annoyed at being exploded. The game has a sense of humor, although the third time you hear the badbots say that they’ll turn it around does get a bit tiring.
The other notable thing about this game is the music. Produced by Pablo Vega, he does an excellent job of creating a post-apocalyptic soundtrack. It is largely filled with slower piano solos mixed in with techno. It’s hard to find a better opening title music to a game than The Home We Once Knew. While it is certainly not revolutionary, it gives an excellent ambient sound.
It is a well-put-together game that showcases that the old-school style of Roguelikes can be updated without turning it into a platformer or action game. While it is something that I personally found enjoyable, it is undeniably a niche title that uses almost exclusively small text boxes to explain complicated parts that are useful to know. It’s hard to suggest unless you already know that you enjoy turned-based strategies involving very carefully dismantling a much more powerful force.
TechRaptor reviewed Bionic Dues on PC via Steam with a copy purchased by the reviewer. This review was originally published on 01-18-2015. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions and for historical context.