Typically, roguelikes are intended to be edge of your seat experiences fraught with the terror of the unknown and unpredictable. Players are given a set of tools to survive an often harsh environments that change after the player dies. Don’t Starve, The Binding of Isaac, and FTL are famed for their heartstopping victories and ragequit defeats. RymdResa is a completely different breed of game. Set in the isolated and infinite vastness of space, the purports an experience that is far more peaceful and slower paced than the rest. The twist of its design is a thoughtful break from the norm though it isn’t long before RymdResa provides its own challenges and annoyances.
The Earth has been destroyed and the only survivor is an unnamed astronaut who is set upon a course for a new home. The setting grants the astronaut all the time in the world to wax philosophically about their experiences in the void via monologues that grow increaseingly morose and despondent as gameplay progresses. At first, it’s a harrowing look at loneliness and the human condition when faced with the unfathomable trauma of Earth’s decimation. As the game goes on, however, these moments of poetic introspection come off like the depressed scribblings of a lonely teen listening to Linkin Park songs. After an hour, I had to turn off the speech lest I draw questionable glances from a wife wondering why I’m screaming “CHEER THE FUCK UP” to a computer monitor.
Just because developer Morgondag created a quiet space adventure devoid of overly aggressive enemies doesn’t mean RymdResa is an easy game. In fact, it’s just as hard as any roguelike. The randomness and unknown unknowns make the simple task of following coordinates and collecting resources easier said than done. A significant contributor to the stress of the game is the player’s ship that utilizes a floaty control scheme last seen in Asteroids and Lunar Lander. Moving the Mouse points the ship in a desired direction and holding down the Left button ignites its engines. Forward momentum prevents the ship from stopping on a dime and you’ll have to be very careful about navigating past obstacles such as asteroids, comets, and the myriad of random celestial objects (mines and strange pinball-like bumpers, for example).
Your ship’s lifeblood are Resources, a catch-all the strips away all of the concerns that govern spaceflight. Stripping away mechanics like fuel, control systems, and cargo management allows for a more comfortable and straightforward gameplay experience. All you have to worry about is keeping your ship’s Resources topped off as it slowly dwindles over time. Colliding into obstacles converts damage into lost Resources until it reaches zero and the ship explodes. And depending on the chapter you’re playing through, that may or may not mean having to start over. Fortunately, Spacepoints, equipment and experience points carry over to the next playthrough. You’ll also earn Legacy levels that make helpful perks accessible.
Exploring space, scavenging shipwrecks, and interacting with planets offers random rewards and punishments. There’s a chance that a decision to mine or investigate a planet will take away resources but more often than not, they’ll give up a hefty reward. Additionally, there is new tech to uncover that’ll boost ship stats, giving it better engines, cosmetic improvements, and shields. Other starships can be purchased before starting the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. In chapter one, where the punishment for getting killed is a bit unfair, it pays to stick with one ship. In chapter two, however, the game’s leniency towards death allows for comfortable ship experimentation.
Apart from lacking the urgency of most genre titles, RymdResa is packaged with a lo-fi aesthetic reminiscent of Apple IIe-era PCs. The scan lined artwork won’t find a place in an art gallery, nor does it make an impact on the game itself. The game would be just as effective if it used modern 3D graphics. What makes me scratch my head, however, are the strange sights that fills the void of space. Occupying the starry sea are bizarre and inexplicable objects like F-16s, a circular space station bolted onto a full set of octopus tentacles, and a floating mass of what look like discarded car brakes.
Space as it appears in RymdResa provides an atmosphere of calm and disquiet rarely seen in the genre. That is merely an illusion because the game can be very stressful. It can also be achingly dull. The game’s second chapter plays differently than the first, as it have you travelling out from a new home planet to collect a set number of materials from random objects scattered around the map. When it rains, it pours though I experienced my fair share of droughts where I simply couldn’t find anything to draw materials from. It’s an Easter egg hunt devoid of the helpful parent nudging you in the general direction. This makes progress slow to a nearly unbearable crawl. RymdResa eventually becomes a test of patience but its tone and the drama of Man’s desperate search for a new home is interesting and thought provoking.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.