Review: Teleglitch: Die More Edition
Did you ever wonder how Doom would play if it was released on the Atari 2600? Ever wondered how scarce resources and randomized levels would affect the flow of its gameplay? Don’t fret, my dear people, because Teleglitch seeks to answer both of those questions, for better or worse.
The game kicks off with a little story, revealing that you are a scientist on a planet called “Medusa.” You work for Militech, which might as well be the Armacham Corporation, but in space. The company is responsible for the production of war machines, mutants and other weapons, which all inevitably lead to chaos when a teleportation experiment goes wrong and the station’s AI goes awry. The company then decides to call the planet a lost cause and abandons all surviving members of their staff, which sadly includes you.
The actual game plays out as a rogue-like, which is a term used to describe games that use randomized content and permanent death. Unlike most other rogue-like games, including the Sword of the Stars series, which most closely resembles this title, Teleglitch is not turn-based. Instead, the game is a fast-paced real-time shooter from a top-down perspective in which enemies come at you in increasingly difficult swarms. Your goal is then to make it to the teleporter room of each area with as much of yourself intact as possible.
It may sound pretty easy on the surface: fight off some demons and make it to the end of levels. This is where the game starts to alter the mechanics of Doom, though, as it makes ammo and weapons very scarce. You’ll have to explore the facility to find all kinds of pistols, rifles and explosives, as well as ammunition and health-items. If you don’t have anything to shoot with, then you are left with a meager knife, which will have you dance with your enemy while the two of you try to get a hit in. The AI is actually pretty amazing during the many fights too, as they zigzag around to avoid your bullets and run around you once they are close. Since each shot consumes one of your valuable bullets, this makes the combat very tactical, which I actually liked. I don’t usually enjoy games with scarce resources, but if you explore enough, then you shouldn’t have a problem.
While exploring levels, you’ll also find a lot of items, such as tubes, empty cans, and nails. These can all be used in a very neat crafting mechanic, which is both surprisingly easy to use and still very engaging. All you have to do is hit the C-key on your keyboard and it will show you all the items you can combine and what they will create, as well as a brief explanation of what each item does. I prefer this straightforward approach, and you can actually build some pretty rad items with this mechanic. I ended up with a gun that fired an explosive with nail shrapnel. This was the first time in years that a fictional video game weapon made me say “wow.” It would be nice, though, if the game warned you when a certain upgrade will change the type of ammo a weapon consumes, as I frequently upgraded a weapon into something else, only to find out I didn’t have ammo for it and the game wasn’t going to drop it for a while yet.
As for the level randomization, it’s pretty impressive, but it also has some glaring weak-points. I went out of my way to explore the entire first level and discovered that, disregarding hallways, the game had generated a total of 26 rooms. That’s a pretty good number and they all varied from small storages to gigantic open spaces. However, the rooms often suffer from one of two problems; they either have no content in them or they are copy & pasted. A lot of chambers that I found were entirely empty, which means no enemies, no items and no paths that lead anywhere else. I would then also find that room three times in the entirety of a level, and then twice more in the next.
The progression between stages is not entirely randomized either, as you always go from the first level to either the Plankton Farm or the Military Biology sector, the latter of which has a specific task you need to complete to unlock the route to the exit, which is always the same. Some rooms in each level were also always the same and, after a while, I started to recognize some recurring rooms and this helped me determine where I could find certain items, as well as predict when enemies would ambush me. Also, pro tip: always go to the Plankton Farm, there is little reason to go to the other level, as it has less resources and more enemies.
The game is also rather challenging, especially now that the AI is better at moving around and will actively patrol areas, whereas in the original version they’d get stuck very often and never actually moved between rooms. Challenge and exploration go hand-in-hand in these kind of games, though, as you’ll always be debating with yourself over whether or not to explore further or head for the nearest exit; the former may yield treasure, but it may also be a waste of resources. I do, however, feel that the game gets slightly too difficult once you reach level 4. At that point, the game starts sending armed guards at you in groups, which all use powerful firearms with unmatched accuracy. These bastards wither your health away incredibly fast and drain your ammo significantly, which makes for a very abrupt difficulty spike and a lot of instant-kills.
I am also not too big a fan of the graphics, especially since I’ve never been fond off the deliberately shoddy “retro” style. The character sprite for the player-character is literally just three big pixels if you’re not holding a weapon and most of the enemies don’t look particularly great either. Area-design is equally horrible, so this results in a lot of sprites blending in with the background. I’ve been in situations where an enemy was able to chop away 60 HP, simply because I had no sound on and couldn’t see him, which is just unacceptable.
Overall, Teleglitch is a very challenging and well-designed rogue-like ; it encourages explorations and the crafting mechanics adds a nice layer of depth to the game. However, it might be a little too challenging for the average player, so a recommendation can only go out to those who wish to test their skill. If that’s not your thing, then, well… the regular Doom still exists.