This year, we have the top three games fundamentally different experience and the first type of game from the respective developers. My #2 game is one that surprised a lot of people when it was first released thanks to the brilliant concept. I felt this game was just like Slay the Spire when I tried it for the first time: something that’s going to be big and is a great example of further iterating on roguelike design.
#2 Gunfire Reborn
Gunfire Reborn is the latest game to attempt the idea of a “role-playing shooter”, but with the added inclusion of roguelike elements. While it’s not as impactful in its gunplay compared to the likes of Doom and Ultrakill, what Gunfire Reborn does well is present well-designed weapons at the base level.
One of the problems with Borderlands’ formula is that the guns themselves are entirely procedurally generated, leading to an abundance of loot and confusion about what gun is the best for you. Here, every gun has a preset design and functionality — the illusion works the same every time, just as the scalpel. Modifiers come into play with further refining the guns and trying to match them to your build.
What the game does right is that while drops are random, the player is always in control as to what they’re picking up and trying to make a build work. At the end of every stage, they can choose one of three class-specific perks that let them refine their build. The beauty of the design is that while runs can come together with getting the perfect weapons, modifiers, perks, and ancient scrolls, you can still make do in any number of ways. I’ve had runs where all my perks didn’t work, but I found amazing scrolls, or no scrolls, but a really good weapon that carried me to the end.
When I think about games like Gunfire Reborn, what I like about them from a roguelike design point of view is that while adaptation is still important, the player can still tilt the RNG towards focusing on a specific weapon, perk strategy, etc. Outside of talking about the highest difficulty, it’s rare for a run in the game to completely fall apart because of not finding anything that will help you win.
For this year, there is not anything Gunfire Reborn did incorrectly that stops it from being #1 for me, it’s really just a difference between a 98 and a 99 out of 100. If you have any love of FPS or action roguelikes, this is an easy must play.