Still Not Dead
“Knocking On Death’s Door”
written by Matthew Adler
Procedurally-generated roguelite games seem to be all the rage these days, offering near infinite replayability to many popular games. The titles that really shine in this genre are the ones that have an addictive gameplay loop, designed to keep players’ attention and leaving you saying, “Just one more run!”
Still Not Dead is a roguelite game drawing inspiration from the original DOOM and many early days PC first person shooters. What makes this game special is the ‘pick up and play’ nature of it, allowing you to drop into a run in a matter of seconds and get straight to the action.
Each run includes six procedurally-generated levels with an array of enemies to defeat. Instead of traditional corridors and labyrinthian level design you may remember in games like DOOM, Still Not Dead features a somewhat open level with fully destructible environments that will remind you a bit of walking through Minecraft. Each level has you racing against the clock to eliminate enemies before the inevitable enemy, Death, begins seeking you out. As you race throughout each level, you will come across a variety of weapons that can be used as well as health and ammo packs.
Most items require the game’s currency to acquire them, which can be found scattered around the levels, or randomly dropped by enemies.
Once you’ve cleared the required number of enemies, a message will inform you that the exit doors are open, and your goal is to get through one of the exit doors before the imminent Death finds you and ends your run. It becomes a bit of a cat and mouse game as you scramble to find an exit, which often times is hidden inside of a building or just around another corner.
At the beginning of each run, you’ll have a chance to choose a Blessing—a sort of ‘buff’ that remains with you for the duration of your run. These can include: faster bullet travel, easier environmental destruction, delayed awareness of enemies and more. After you clear the first level, you are forced to select a Curse, which makes your run more difficult. You have the option to sacrifice some health to reroll one of the three options you’re given, or select none of them and have the game randomly select a new one for you. If you’re feeling lucky, you can have the game select one of the three options in exchange for some money, a resource you might be lacking on any given run.
With so many potential options to choose, each run will feel vastly different from the last. After each level cleared, the game alternates between having you choose a Blessing and a Curse.
The game is relatively challenging in the beginning as you learn how to navigate the different enemy attack patterns, and depending on your Blessings and Curses chosen, your run difficulty may vary. After clearing the final level, you are thrown back to the Main Menu and given the option to equip ‘Skulls’ for any subsequent runs, which effectively act as a permanent debuff that may include more enemies spawning, or all enemy types offered from the start. There isn’t much incentive to continue playing, other than unlocking more Skulls to make future runs more difficult. It’s a shame that after the initial excitement wore off, it’s hard to find a reason to return, unless you are a high score chaser.
One aspect of the game that is consistently good is the music, which includes a spooky synthwave soundtrack by Formless Voyager. The music changes throughout the level and seems to match the intensity of the action very well. At times, you’ll feel like you’re in an 80’s era slasher film as you are chased around by hordes of enemies.
There are some odd choices made in this game, however, like a Blessing that allows you to jump on top of the level and walk on top of the buildings. While this may seem useful to get you out of harm’s way, the inability to move your reticle up and down renders this useless. The game is built around only horizontal movement, a choice that seems baffling when compared to other contemporary first-person shooters. In addition to the bizarre movement choice, there were a number of small bugs encountered during gameplay, like the inability to pick up items, or exit doors spawning into walls.
Thankfully, the Developer Greg Sergeant (of Glove Games), is very active within the community and is constantly updating and patching the game. As of now, the game is still in Early Access, so some bugs are to be expected before the game’s final release.
Fast-paced gunplay and a variety of weapons to find coupled with procedurally-generated levels and hordes of enemies will keep you returning after each run has finished. The music fits well with the aesthetic and is a pleasure to listen to while you mow down demons. The game also supports an Xbox controller as well if you’re not keen on using a mouse and keyboard. Skulls can be unlocked after completing your first run to add another layer of difficulty for those seeking it.
Limited movement options while aiming makes gameplay very linear as you strafe around enemies. The lack of a true ‘endgame’ or goal to strive for will leave you desiring more. Minor bugs encountered during the game can be frustrating, as some of them can lead to a premature end to your run.
Still Not Dead is a great game that you can quickly pick up and play, providing adrenaline-fueled action and near-infinite combinations to continuously challenge you. A killer synthwave soundtrack will have you immersed as you take down a variety of different enemies, each with their own unique attack patterns, that will keep you on your toes for hours. The only real downside is the lack of a true goal to strive for, other than increased difficulties, which causes this title to fall short when considering some of the best roguelite games in the genre.