Delving into The Pit

I was bummed when GoG’s Fall Sale ended, and I hadn’t gotten in on the action. I don’t know all of the games that were on sale, but the ones that popped up weren’t ones on my wishlist. I actually was waiting while the last game ticked down, and then the message “promotion has ended” appeared. While it was still running, I would do a lot of browsing while I waited on the next game, and as a result I discovered a game I had never heard about. Scratch that, a whole game series and development company that I had no idea existed. The game in question, is Sword of the Stars: The Pit. Kerberos Productions created the Sword of the Stars universe years ago, starting with a Sci-Fi RTS. Several expansions later, a sequel was also produced (these games aren’t available through GoG at this time), and finally we come to The Pit, which is nothing like its predecessors from what I’ve seen. If I had to pick one “good old game” to compare it to, I’d say Angband, which is one of the granddaddies of modern day roguelikes (along with Moria, NetHack and many others). I spent many hours playing Angband, but never managed to beat it. That game had 100 levels though; this game, even with the expansions, is only 40. But that’s not to say it’s easy, it has been challenging and perma-death is no joke.

On my first run, I didn’t read the manual. I didn’t read any web sites. I just jumped into the game figuring that I’d be able to figure it all out on my own. I started the game on normal. Since I got the Gold package there were more than just the standard three characters to pick from, and I settled on the Ranger because the class sounded cool.

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Green Ninjas? Fuck yeah!

This class ended up being pretty well balanced, and came with some skills that came in handy, but I didn’t really understand what all of the skills would do for me in game, and after having played for a while I realized that I probably shouldn’t have put all of those points into skills I wouldn’t use as often as others. Basically, I wasn’t properly informed/prepared to get going in the game. But being a roguelike, I assumed death would come fairly quickly for me, and it surely did. The game is a top-down view with fog of war and line-of-sight making for highly tactical combat. This isn’t as evident when you’re just starting out against rats and bats, but when you have to start positioning yourself appropriately to avoid gun fire, you’ll need all of the tools provided to you.

Line of sight example
Line of sight example

One of the most important parts of the game is inventory management. I really don’t remember it being such an issue when I played Angband, but perhaps that was because I never really made it all that far, or used up items faster. I don’t recall. Drops are abundant to begin with, and you’re always carrying around multiple weapons plus tool kits and portable crafting stations, and all of the ingredients. Pretty soon you’re having to play the inventory juggle, and that get’s old pretty fast. Protip: every ten points in the might stat gives an extra column of inventory space. Invest those points early!

Inventory + Stats
Inventory + Stats

Stats are pretty straightforward, you will earn two points per level, along with six skill points. Some skills will take one point to level, and others will take two. Sometimes when you skill up, it will give you multiple points, but I haven’t figured out if this is random or level specific. Many of the skills are important for combat, as you don’t want to waste ammo being inaccurate, or be missing all of the time with your melee weapons. The other skills are related to scavenging what you can from the dungeon. You’ll have to play to really understand what everything does. My adventure with the Ranger was cut short, when I walked into the wrong room a little too fast and was mowed down by security bots.

She will be missed
She will be missed

This happened on level 9, during a single game session. The early levels move pretty quickly, but the difficulty can ramp up pretty quickly. After my first death, I took the time to look into more information about the game. The obvious answer is the game’s wiki, but it is a little impersonal (though the wiki does have a fantastic recipe list) and sometimes forums and blog posts or videos can help put things into perspective. Everything I read advised starting the game on Easy, because the difficulty is a little more forgiving for a little while longer. It was also advised to play the Engineer, as he has higher skills aimed at decoding messages that are important for finding recipes. I ended up following this advice, and rolled up an Engineer:

Go Team Nerd!
Go Team Nerd!

The Engineer is definitely squishy. He’s the nerdy guy that has high intellect and wants to hack computer terminals. And fix things. And make sandwiches. The easy run started off fair enough, and it seemed like more improved weapons and items were dropping regularly. Ingredients were more plentiful, but I did seem to have an early shortage of food, but not enough of a shortage to be a problem. I also discovered the rest function on this run, which takes quite a while to execute, but is well worth it when you are low on health items. Here’s some cool items/augments I found on my run:

Stuff
Stuff

As I said I was basically doing this as a run to get as many messages deciphered as possible to make recipes easier later on when I go on to the higher difficulties. Apparently you can have the ingredients to make an item, but it can still fail if you haven’t discovered the recipe in-game on your own. This seems to be a form of cheating prevention by the devs, as they know how quickly the Internet is updated with that type of information. Good on them, but it’s kind of annoying. As such, I wasted quite a bit of ingredients trying to make food, and starved to death as a result. I had many many medkits and tons of ammunition, I could have made it much farther than level eleven, but I starved to death. Oh the irony.

I'm hungry.
I’m hungry.

I have yet to make my third run. I’m debating whether or not to stay on easy difficulty and try the engineer again, for the sake of farming, or if I’ll try a different character. Apparently the saves are independent, so I could have multiple games running at once. Also the achievements and recipes (everything in the sotsdex) carry over into other playthroughs. I guess we will see. I can’t recommend this game enough to strategy/rpg fans, or players of the roguelikes that I mentioned earlier. It’s only $12 for the gold edition, and GoG always includes extras. Check it out.