When it comes to replayability, nothing beats a good old fashioned rogue-like. Games like FTL pack a whole lot of content and wrap it up in a procedurally generated world full of random quests and events that may be so rare that you’d witness them once in playtime of 20 hours.
FTL or Faster Than Light is an RTS rogue-like made by Subset Games and was released in 2012. The game features a top-down camera that reveals the inside of your ship; from here, you can control various spacecraft’s systems, repair them and assign personnel to them.
The game is unforgivable if players go in headstrong thinking every battle will be fair, and the difficulty will scale according to their equipment. No, this will lead only to failure. As players travel through space, outrunning a galactic space armada to deliver a message in true Rogue One fashion, they must consider that the path ahead of them is a lot of things but not fair.
Like many rogue-likes, the critical factor here is replayability. As players learn more about the mechanics of the game, they will be able to get better by assigning their crew better and prioritizing repairs in the proper order and most importantly, they will pick their battles carefully. Gradually they will reach the end game, but there is still a lot of fun and ships to unlock.
Rogue-likes, due to their nature, are games that can never truly be beaten. Sure, you can accomplish reaching the last stage and beating the boss and that by no means is a small feat. However, the gameplay loop is so polished and well done that once you’ve become that good at the game, you don’t want to let go of it, striving to get better with each run till you’ve reached perfection.
Rogue-likes are generally passion projects by small studios or even a single person and can give more hours of entertainment than your average $60 AAA title. Here’s a list of some of the games that are similar to FTL
Convoy is a tactical rogue-like developed by Convoy Games released in 2015. It claims to be a Mad Max inspired FTL game, and I won’t argue with that, and I entirely agree with the assessment.
The game features pixel art style and a post-apocalyptic setting; the player controls a convoy or defensively geared vehicles as they search a desolate wasteland for parts of their spaceship.
The gameplay loop is very similar to FTL; as players journey on ahead, they will meet strangers of all kinds; some might just need some help, others want to rob you blind. As the convoy leader, it is the player’s job to keep its cargo and crew safe.
Even though it features top-down view and pixel art, the game manages to engage me when it comes to combat in a way that FTL hasn’t been able to. Now I don’t mean to say FTL’s combat is not exciting, but there’s just something about the setting of the road with trucks rolling down at high speeds while their passengers’ fight for their lives that’s more immersive than a space battle.
Unseasoned players might be overwhelmed by the difficulty and mechanics of Convoy, but FTL players will feel right at home here.
2. Shortest Trip to Earth
Shortest Trip to Earth cannot avoid being compared to FTL; it’s of the same genre of rogue-like featuring RTS mechanics and is all about upgrading and maintaining your spaceship while exploring the formidable unknown that is outer space. The game was formerly known as Rogue Ambassador and was released with its new name in 2019.
The game features a top-down camera focusing on the ship, very much like FTL and offers the same gameplay of keeping the mothership safe from hostile forces in space while trying to collect upgrades and survive. Still, where the game alters, it is the difficulty.
This game is far more brutal than FTL; the combat is messy and in a good way because you are mostly always outnumbered in a battle. The times when you felt a mix of being lucky and skilful when you won a fight in FTL without so much as a scratch are nowhere to be found in Shortest Trip to Earth.
There is a massive world to explore and ships to collect, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, the art style is pleasing to the eyes, and there’s a variety of events in space, keeping the game from ever becoming dull or tedious. I’d recommend this game to anyone who didn’t have a tough enough time in FTL.
3. Sunless Sea
So much for strategy games in space and on the road, let’s go for a dive. Sunless Sea is a survival exploration-based rogue-like that was released in 2015, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign.
You might’ve guessed by the name Sunless Sea gives the player control of a submarine and are let free to explore this aquatic labyrinth beneath a Victorian-era London only before the player has chosen their end goal.
So yes, surprisingly, the game allows players to select their game-ending objective from select parameters, none of which are easy to achieve. Still, allowing players to choose their ambition, as it were, gives the game a feel of RPG and adds a lot of replayability.
The core gameplay loop of Sunless Seas is exploring the vast water world for islands. Each island has set objectives, and accomplishing them grants rewards to the player aiding them in their future ventures.
The game is reasonably well-polished and even has a sequel that was similarly crowdfunded titled Sunless Skies. The game is a tad bit on the slower side in the beginning but makes up for it with beautiful artwork and immersive environments.
4. Crying Suns
Released in 2019, Crying Suns garnered great reception and, like Shortest Trip to Earth, could not avoid being compared to FTL. And how could it have? The game has a carbon copy of the gameplay loop, with the player commanding a ship in the unknown territory while they try to outrun the enemy and pass each sector as a checkpoint.
The game differs in combat; while being pausable like FTL’s, the game applies a more modern approach to action, with spacecraft being balanced and countering different kinds of ships.
There also may be hazards on the battlefield that can make maneuverability an issue, but ultimately follows the same suit of targeting different sections of the ship in an attempt to disable its support systems, very much like FTL.
The game is enjoyable and offers enough content to warrant its price.
5. Darkest Dungeon
Darkest Dungeon doesn’t follow the same mechanics as FTL. Instead, it’s a deck-building RPG first and foremost, with the player forming a team and venturing into Dungeons for loot that will allow them to afford better gear for future adventures, a pretty standard affair for an RPG.
Where similarities lie are in the strategic mechanics and crew management. In addition, each character in the player’s party has a specific skill set and progression of their own.
Once the player is done buying gear at the central hub, they can proceed to go into a procedurally generated dungeon and here is where the rogue-like mechanics come in; although failure doesn’t equate to a game over, players will lose their crew members permanently along with any investments they have made in them.
Exploring dungeons is a tense task as the layout is discovered as the player progresses. Backtracking generally results in flanks; the turn-based combat features nice animations and a beautiful overall art style. The game indeed has a personality, albeit a grim one.
6. Nowhere Prophet
Nowhere Prophet is the most underrated title on this list. Like Darkest Dungeon, it’s a deck-building game with rogue-like elements.
Nowhere Prophet features a procedurally generated world with the game taking heavy influence from Indian culture. The players take control of a leader of outcastes, and it is their duty to guide them to the Crypt, a magical place wherein lies their salvation.
The game features tactical turn-based combat and similar recruitment of companions as seen in Darkest Dungeon. Nowhere Prophet also features content that can be unlocked through multiple playthroughs. In that sense, it’s more rogue-lite than rogue-like, but honestly, it’s a thin line.
7. Slay the Spire
Speaking of rogue-like games with deck-building elements, Slay the Spire is an obvious choice in that niche. The game remained an early access title for two years before seeing a full release in 2019. Nevertheless, many attribute this title to the creation of the genre.
The core gameplay loop is straightforward; the player must ascend a spire one floor at a time while battling it out with bosses or regular enemies through card-based combat. Cards are collected via battles or chest, and the goal of the player is to build the most efficient deck they can with the cards they have.
Additionally, players might find shopkeepers in the spire from whom they can purchase cards and other items.
Like Darkest Dungeon, the combat is turn-based and works very similar to it, except Slay the Spire does not have a party system making the battle much more aggressive since our protagonist is mostly always outnumbered.
The game also features branching paths and random events akin to FTL’s, and in my opinion, it feels like the developers were inspired by FTL when they were creating the traversal aspect of the game.
Rogue-likes are my favourite genre of video games. Although they might not feature big budget Hollywood-esque set pieces or the resources of AAA titles, they make for a very challenging and rewarding experience for the most part.
In addition, they offer the same replayability as many modern online games do, the appeal being the same. Players are going into a similar situation every time, but every moment is unique to that game.
This ability to play the same game with a different experience every time is perfectly encapsulated by the rogue-like genre, and with games like Hades and FTL garnering more and more attention, fans of the genre are surely in for a treat.