REVIEW: Straimium Immortaly

Mashing up multiple genres, it’s difficult to sum up just what this game is and how it plays.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Roguelike Dungeon Crawler
Developer: Anthony Case
Publisher: Caiysware
Release Date: 10 Oct, 2016

Having played so many different games in my time, it often seems like I’ve seen it all. Finding new games that are truly creative and unique is very, very rare these days, even though I buy and play so many games. And then I found Straimium Immortaly, a game that is easily one of the most unique (and one of the weirdest) games I’ve seen in a very long time. It combines the mechanics of a side-scrolling shmup with the rogue-lite concepts from The Binding of Isaac, but even that isn’t quite an accurate description. Let’s dive in and see just what makes this unique gem tick.

At it’s core, Straimium Immortaly has much in common with games such as The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon. Each given run sees you progressing though a giant labyrinth of interconnected rooms filled with all sorts of monsters, traps, characters, and special objects, all while gathering powerups in order to defeat the bosses found within the maze. Where it differs however is with pretty much everything else. As I said, Straimium is a unique game, and even when it’s doing things that other games have already done, it puts its own wild, bizarre spin on them. For instance, unlike most other games in the genre, you wont be crawling your way through multiple floors. Every run tasks you with navigating one giant labyrinth, with each of the four zones being a part of a single huge maze. In concept this is similar to the castle in Rogue Legacy, yet the structure of the maze is very different. Unlike Rogue Legacy, this is no platformer, and with you being able to move in any direction, the world generator can place doors and rooms anywhere it wants. However it will always arrange the overall dungeon into a single giant square, with every possible spot containing a room. There are no blank spaces here.

The game’s labyrinth, known as a Cubicus, is amazingly complex in both its layout and its contents. You’ll likely find yourself getting lost easily, and constantly referring to the in-game map on your status screen as you attempt to move from place to place. With such a huge number of rooms making up the maze, you’d think that the game might get a bit monotonous, but this is where we hit one of Straimium’s greatest strengths: the incredible variety that permeates every part of it, including the labyrinth itself.

I’ve never seen so many different types of special rooms in a game like this, each one represented by a different icon on the status screen. The contents of these rooms vary wildly. Some are basic concepts, such as shops, or portals to boss rooms, whereas others are much more bizarre, such as a giant mysterious monument, or a room where you play rock-paper-scissors against what looks like a tiny Cthulhu. There are tons of these rooms, and you wont go far from a special room before finding yet another one. Some of them can be very confusing to figure out.

One of the goals of the game is to “goldify” each room on the map. A room is goldified when its specific conditions are met. Normal combat rooms are completed simply by defeating everything in them. Something like a shop is completed by buying at least one item. And others, well, others can be considerably more bizarre in terms of what you’re supposed to do in them. This can lead to you going through a full run and not getting 100% of the rooms goldified simply because you couldn’t quite figure out the solutions to a few particular rooms, which can be frustrating.

Your end goal, though, is to defeat the bosses of each of the four major zones, gathering a key from each so that you can enter the door at the core of the labyrinth and take on the final boss.

Doing this is easier said than done. Your enemies are both powerful and numerous, with a huge array of different attacks and abilities to fling at you. Combat tends to play out a bit like a side-scrolling shmup, with enemies flinging bullets everywhere, and you doing your best to somehow dodge the unending barrage so that you can defeat them. Like one of those side-scrolling games though, your angles of attack are extremely limited. You can only fire directly to the left or right; you don’t even get the four directions of Isaac. This means that getting into position to properly attack your foes is crucial here, even more so than in other rogue-lites, and this is made difficult by the sheer number of bullets and traps with which the labyrinth is filled. Everything is out to kill you, and of course the game has permadeath. Die just once and that’s it; the run is over and you have to start from scratch. Being that a full run can take over an hour, death can be a bit frustrating when it happens, but this isn’t really much different from other games of this sort.

Fortunately, while the game is difficult, you have a variety of things available to tip the balance in your favor. You have a main gun, with which you’ll be dishing out the majority of your damage; a special weapon; and a unique activated ability. Special weapons are limited because they use up mana, so while they are powerful, you need to be careful in how you use them, as running out at a crucial time can spell your doom. Activated abilities, on the other hand, operate via cool downs. There’s no limit on how often you can use them, but once you’ve used one, you’ll be stuck waiting a while before you can use it again. As with your special weapons, learning when and where to activate these is very important

Activated abilities tend to be utility based, rather than being used to attack. They include an invincible dash, a teleport that freezes the screen while you choose where to move, invisibility, and a ton of others, each different from the last. Your main and special weapons also have a ton of variety, with each operating differently, many of them taking quite a bit of skill to use to their maximum potential. Not only will you find new weapons throughout the course of a given run, but each weapon also can be one of three tiers: green, blue, or gold, with gold being the strongest version. Early in the game you’ll likely be stuck with green weapons, but later on you’ll have the opportunity to go after the much stronger gold ones, useful for defeating the powerful foes that await you in the most dangerous areas.

Of course, in this sort of game, it’s never about weapons alone. As you continue progressing, you’ll come across all sorts of loopy items that you can grab, which will determine your overall character build. Just like every other part of the game, there is a huge variety of different items to find, each doing something different. There are passive items and active ones, which have a limited number of uses but tend to have strong effects that can change the flow of battle. Every item has three tiers of power, sometimes gaining additional effects with higher tiers. For example, a jetpack can improve the dodge move that you always have available, changing it from a four-way move into an eight-way move. At a higher tier, however, it also changes that dodge into an instant short-range teleport, allowing you to effectively plow right through walls of bullets.

Items in the game are creative, interesting, and generally satisfying to use. Considering all of the different room types in the game, there are many different ways of acquiring these things, and exploration is the key to becoming as strong as you can be. However, they can be a bit confusing at times, and sometimes you wont be quite sure just what a given item does. Your status screen can give you a brief description of each item, however, the screwball way that your character (and everyone else in the game) speaks can sometimes make these descriptions confusing enough that you still don’t quite know what it does. The unique way that the characters speak is an endearing part of the game and can be quite amusing, but the fact that it effectively obscures item descriptions can be annoying.

The game is absolutely gorgeous, not quite like anything else I’ve seen. Incredibly colorful, creative, and strange designs permeate every tiny part of the labyrinth. The characters, monsters, bosses, items, and every square inch of the dungeon itself just adds to the visual wonder and alien atmosphere. It gives off a great sense of being in a world that is truly alien; something that very few games seem to ever manage, in my opinion. I personally love it, and find it to be some of the best pixel art in a game that I’ve seen in quite a while.

However, this comes with a small cost: every now and then, you may find that certain things can be a bit hard to see amidst the colorful lunacy of everything else. Bullets, for the most part, are easy to pick out, being very bright and tending to contrast nicely with the background. This is good, as they are the main source of pain you will encounter. Other threats, however, may blend in a bit more, and taking damage from something that is unintentionally hard to spot can be frustrating. There is no part of the game that is ever truly unfair or cheap; however, taking damage in that way can certainly feel like it’s being cheap. Fortunately, in my experience, this really doesn’t happen very often at all, and in my opinion at least, it doesn’t detract from the experience as a whole.

The main problem that I need to mention is the game’s difficulty curve. Games such as this are notorious for one specific thing: having a difficulty curve that can sometimes be backwards. In this game, often you’ll find that the earliest part of the game is the hardest. You’ll have very little health, weak weapons, and few items to help you out. When you get to the late game though, you’ll have high maximum HP, and if you’ve been exploring enough, a boatload of items to help you out. Despite the fact that enemies get progressively more ridiculous and aggressive, you’ll often outdo them in power to the point where they may become trivial if your build is strong enough. Of course, this can vary quite a bit from one run to the next, but the issue persists more often than I’d like. Fortunately, though, it’s less of a problem than in some other games. It’s rare that you’ll be on such a total rampage that you wont have to worry about dying at all, and bosses in particular are still capable of tearing you to shreds if you’re not careful.

Also, with the sheer bloated size of the labyrinth and the slow movement of your character, backtracking can be a bit of a pain. The maze contains four portals, one in each area, that can be used as shortcuts, but considering the size of the maze and the number of rooms, they tend not to really help all that much. Certain abilities and items can help you get around quicker, but traversing cleared areas can still be a bit tedious. Again though, this is one of those issues that tends to be quite common in games of this type. That doesn’t make it any less annoying though.

While the game does have a few issues, if you’re familiar with games like this, chances are you’ll be used to them already. And the game as a whole is mostly bug free. I haven’t encountered any glitches or crashes that I can remember. What’s more, the developer has been constantly updating and improving the game. The amount of updates the game has received since launch is very impressive, and not just in terms of tweaks, but also actual content. There has been enough additional stuff added since release that it’s almost as if the game received a full expansion. Having a developer this dedicated towards constantly improving the game they’ve made is always a good thing, and it means that this can only get better.

As the game is right now though, I’d absolutely recommend it. It’s fun, challenging, creative, unique, and incredibly bizarre in its own special way, with an otherworldly ambiance and general feel to it that isn’t like anything else out there. I consider it a great shame that a gem like this has become buried so deep in the unending deluge of games farted out daily by the Steam store. As of right now, there are only 50 Steam reviews for it, which is a very low number. Hopefully, this review can convince some more people to grab this one and give it a go. You don’t see games like this often, and it’s definitely worth the time and money.

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June 2017

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