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Stellar Terminus (IN DEVELOPMENT)
[Preview] 2020-11-02 12:14:19

Of all the dungeon crawlers currently in development, the one I look forward to the most is Stellar Terminus. Here's the brief in the creator's own words, which I couldn't have summarized better: ST is a first-person, hard sci-fi dungeon crawler set at the heat death of the universe. You explore an endless sea of lifeless planets and abandoned megastructures, built and inhabited by various AI factions with their own style.

Now technically, it's not set at the heat death of the universe, as then nothing would be able to move anymore, but close to it, which the game's developer EntropyGameDev mentions when talking about the gestation of the game on his Tumblr.

This was the initial conception, but it was only after a couple of days did it click that I could have a really cool (in my opinion) setting, which is set close to the heat death of the universe. I’m passionate about science, and human psychology, and I think this would be a great way to explore the ultimate conclusion of both humanity and the universe (assuming heat death is the conclusion that nature has in store for us).

With regards to the setting, (as do most of my ideas) it stems from my heavy love of science; I love reading about the latest research, and space especially fascinates me. I also love robots and love learning about new hardware and AI/neural networks. I thought it was a logical step to only have robot enemies in the game as they would most likely outlive humanity if they get sufficiently advanced.

Though what initially captured my eye wasn't the setup, but a couple of pictures and gifs I saw on the creator's Twitter that showcased the unique visual style of the game. While born from EntropyGameDevs lack of artistic talent (his own words), his spartan style reminiscent of the earliest wireframe dungeon crawlers has clearly developed into something truly great looking, if you value unique visuals that do things nobody else is doing at the moment (the only comparable dungeon crawlers that have a somewhat similar visual approach are Das Geisterschiff and Der Geisterturm from developer Graverobber Foundation, incidentally also sci-fi dungeon crawlers).

Gameplay-wise, the game is closer to roguelikes with randomized dungeons (you have different types of dungeons, that influence the type of enemies, traps and other aspects you will encounter), though the developer also plans preset dungeons for a story-based campaign.

How the game handles your characters reminds me of classic sci-fi crawler Captive, where you use various parts and modules to augment and grow your characters (which were robots, unlike here), though the system in Stellar Terminus looks more complex and involved than what Captive had. Since your characters are supposed to be human (if I understood that part right), I'm not quite sure how that works together with the AI core implants, though I imagine maybe your characters are somewhat posthuman with slots for various cyber tech. Furthermore, it seems you can recruit various NPCs including enemies you have beaten.

One typical roguelike mainstay, the hunger mechanic, has been swapped with oxygen that is constantly depleting while you explore dungeons and once fully depleted will hurt your health. It's the usual risk versus reward logic, where you have to decide whether to go deeper or safely go back to your ship and refill your tanks.

Currently, the game allows you to travel between various star system (actually black hole systems, since all large enough stars should have evolved into black holes this close to the heat death of the universe), visit locations in each system and once entered you shift into dungeon crawling mode where you go around and explore each dungeon. Combat is based around random encounters, but the developer promises lots of different traps and lots of varied loot. You can also find various logs that function like lore dumps, and while I've never been too invested in lore dumps, I think I'll make an exception for something this heavily sci-fi based.

...one of the major features of the game - finding and reading logs that have been lost to the ages! These logs will take a variety of forms, and will detail everything from major historic events of a particular faction, to random musings, scientific discoveries, and will comprise the majority of the “lore” in the game.

Another cool feature of the game is research, though the specific mechanics are fixed yet. One idea is that you will collect data during exploration or even combat, which you can then explore later. Maybe exploring artifacts as well to discover new technologies.

Overall, while still in development and nothing is completely fixed, it sounds like an awesome mix of mechanics I haven't seen done that way in dungeon crawler ever. And together with the visuals, it sure makes for a game I'm really looking forward to.

So to cap it off here is a final quote from the developer about his game that I love for how it pins down what the game is about (or hopefully will be about).

I also like the idea of a really hostile setting when exploring, constantly applying stress to the player, and contrasting that with the relief that one feels upon entering your base. it also provides a great canvas on which to explore the notions of what it means to be human, what the fate of humanity will be, and what we will ultimately leave as our final legacy!

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