Indie developer, Jason Rohrer has just released his latest game Inside a Star Filled Sky, a game that he describes as “an infinite, recursive, tactical shooter for one player”. He is not lying – it definitely is all of those things and maybe more.
Apart from a small charge to cover servers the game is, for a limited time “pay what you want” so you have no excuse not to pick it up.
You can either buy the game here and now, or you can keep reading to see my first impressions before you take the plunge.
On the surface the game appears to be a simple top down shooter. You move with WASD, aim with the mouse and shoot with the spacebar. The twist is that the powers you collect on this level will be those that you use on the next.
This is because each level of the game is made up of your next character and as you complete levels you evolve and become bigger. One of the best things about this is that if you choose the wrong power-ups you can simply re-enter your previous self and select some better ones.
At some point you inevitably come across one of the little monsters who is obviously too powerful to defeat and impossible to sneak past. When this happens you have two choices – you can either enter yourself to improve your power-ups or enter your enemy.
Whilst inside an enemy you get to take control of him in a new level and you get to replace his power-ups with the worst you can find. So, when you return, that unstoppable beastie won’t be anywhere near as formidable as it was and will be much easier to deal with.
What if you come across an enemy that you cannot beat while controlling another? Easy – just take control of that one and change its powers. In fact you can enter enemies within enemies within enemies. Thanks to the game’s procedurally generated content the game is almost infinite. The rabbit hole truly is as deep as you want it to be.
However, even with this incredible amount of power the creatures can still become overwhelming.
While inside a power-up you can collect other power-ups and the power-up you are inside will take on all the elements of the power-ups you have collected when you leave. Confusing? It gets worse.
You can enter power-ups within power-ups and the deeper you go into different power-ups the more difficult the game becomes but at the same time the rewards become exponentially better. This creates an interesting risk/reward paradigm within the game; the only way to become stronger is to expose yourself to danger.
While the game does introduce its mechanics in a short introduction it is hesitant to reveal the true depth behind them. As a result it can be quite bewildering and many players will give up long before the game gets close to revealing its complexity. That is ok because in this game (as in life) only the strongest can survive.
The game is very intelligently designed both in metaphor and gameplay, sacrificing neither to its message or its value as entertainment and as a result it is easily Rohrer’s best and most accessible game to date.