Flame Keeper (Playtest) – This is not a roguelike.

From time to time, interesting titles pop up in my e-mail inbox and I get invited to playtests. Playtests are invaluable in terms of how much data and feedback they can generate. Players get a chance to actively help out developers ahead of a game’s release… meanwhile, developers learn a lot about players’ opinions and thoughts on the game, so that they can make some tweaks and changes where necessary.

This post is not a review but rather my report on the Flame Keeper playtest. I’m sharing my thoughts on a bunch of different things here and will talk about the game but I won’t judge it given that it’s not out yet. Just keep that in mind.

If you want to try out the game for yourself, there is a demo available on Steam, and you can wishlist the game there as well while you’re at it! The game’s developed by Kautki Cave and published by Untold Tales – I was invited by a PR person from PR Outreach to this playtest.

Flame Keeper is a dynamic, action “roguelite” (more on that later) that sees you restore the Eternal Flame which has been stolen by the children of the night, the creatures lurking in the shadows, and so on.

To bring back the fire and to protect the denizens that are defenceless in the dark, you step into the role of Ignis, a seemingly small burning ember that literally burns to fight against the servants of the dark!

Balance is key in Flame Keeper as you’ll need to use your own life force, your flame, to power up lanterns and progress through missions but you’ll also need that same flame to protect yourself against the hordes of enemies threatening to extinguish your very flame.

Right away, I wanna say that the game is gorgeous. It looks incredibly adorable with a unique art style that is quite unlike anything else. At least, nothing comes to mind when I look at Flame Keeper’s style. That’s a great thing!

But… I dislike the game.

It’s not a bad game by any means… but it gets stale quickly. Let me explain this:

You basically have a hub area where you upgrade stats and unlock features before embarking on missions. Missions themselves consist of three or more levels. In one of these, you defend a cauldron in the middle of the town against waves, tower defense style, whereas in the other missions, you fight monsters, scavenge for resources, and try to rekindle all the lanterns.

The game is an action game with objectives and, I believe, procedural generation. The maps appear to look different every time and that keeps it sort of interesting… but I can’t help but get bored of the core gameplay premise given that there isn’t really a challenge involved in the first hour and a half of the game. There is a boss that you’ll find later but it doesn’t change the underlying issue of this all.

The game gets stale quickly.

Part of the reason as to why this happens may just be the fact that you have to unlock combos and special attacks that the game should have from the beginning. Combat is simple with a melee attack and a spell. This spell can be changed for other spells that drop randomly in combat.

You use resources, some of which are somewhat scarce, to unlock a heavy attack or a ground slam or other features that really just should be in the core combat system for a title like this… and you unlock that stuff but I got some of the fun mechanics only unlocked after an hour of gameplay and at that point, I probably would have refunded the title already.

This kind of brings me to my biggest issue with the gamee – which also is referenced in the title of this post: This game isn’t a roguelike… that’s not an issue, really, but the developers (or the publisher or whoever is responsible for their Playtest, the Feedback Survey, and the Store Page) really want you to buy that it’s as a roguelike.

It’s false advertising!

The PR person that reached out to me via e-mail said: “It’s a rogue-lite game that will surely appeal to all avid fans of this genre.”

The store page mentions it multiple times that it’s a roguelite.

The feedback survey compares the game to other roguelite titles.

Some of you may know that I own a bit more than 200 roguelike/roguelite titles. I play a lot of roguelikes in my time as a gamer and I know a thing or two about the genre, believe it or not. It doesn’t matter whether this is “-like” or “-lite”. The game doesn’t have anything to do with the game “Rogue” nor any game that is “like Rogue”.

Flame Keeper plays like an action game with some tower-defence aspect to it. The reason why I mentioned the difficulty earlier in the post is because this game lacks any sort of difficulty or skill ceiling that any roguelike has or is supposed to have.

The developers looked at the genre and thought “yeah, if we make the game excessively grindy and add permanent upgrades, it will please the fans of the genre” – at least, that’s what it feels like to me.

I’m not actually sure what they had in mind but the big issue for me here is that the developers are promoting a roguelike but this isn’t one. It’s just wrong.

Curator Reviews are on how good a game is – in which case, this game is alright. It might be nice for children, possibly. I just personally found it to be really grindy already on top of getting stale so quickly but kids may enjoy it!

Steam/User Reviews are on the Store Page of a game and about the marketing. If you sell me a product and I don’t receive that product, I’ll leave a negative review. If this were to come out, I’d imagine that it would receive negative reviews since people go in expecting a roguelite (again, that’s what’s being sold here) but then they receive a repetitive, easy and boring mess of a game that just isn’t fun.

Changes I’d suggest:

  • Stop trying to sell this as a roguelike. It’s not a roguelike. Just call it what it is – an adventure game or an action-brawler with TD mechanics. Sounds more interesting anyhow!
  • Increase the difficulty or let me increase the difficulty.
  • Make changes to combat:
    • Give us, at minimum, a heavy attack and a light attack.
    • Don’t have these simple and very basic features of good combat locked behind some grind to squeeze out replayability.
    • Don’t do what Tunche did.
    • Add more enemy variety in early areas, maybe elites with modifiers or enchantments, see Tiny Rogue!
  • Maybe add stats/rarities to the actual spells. If that’s what you mean by “roguelike”, the spells don’t have any synergies and just replace each other. One spell does something else than another. That’s got nothing to do with roguelikes. If you want to do something with spells, take a look at Lone Ruin which is pretty good.
  • Maybe add more mushroom effects or similar mechanics.
  • Shake up the objectives and add variety to the mission objectives. It’s always the same thing. Instead of doing this, maybe take a look at Deep Rock Galactic or PERISH instead and the ways they try to make the game seem fun with every run.

Again, I’m not trying to hate on the title but false advertising and pandering like this just sort of pisses me off.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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