Exploring Ennui and Endless Space With RymdResa

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RymdResa is a game that combines ideas or mechanics from the resource collection minigame of Mass Effect 2, the flight of Star Control II, and the roguelike elements from…Rogue. This particular game tries to enthrall the player with the solitude of space and endless platitudes uttered by the player character, typically of him yearning for a time long past. The atmosphere of RymdResa is actually quite impressive, given its very minimalist nature and utilization of similes and metaphors to establish the spaceship pilot’s state of mind.

Progression in RymdResa is broken up into three separate missions that all have some form of minor difference. The first mission, for example, must be completed in one life as you fly from one location to the next, scanning them to complete the goal.

This reminds me of the first ones from Babylon 5 somehow.
This reminds me of the first ones from Babylon 5 somehow.

This teaches the player the importance of managing Resources, which is used as the ship’s propulsion as well as health gauge- boosting from one location to another uses a significant amount of Resources, but being struck across the bow by an asteroid will similarly reduce your gauge and quickly lead to a game over screen. The first mission is somewhat difficult to complete on the very first run as your starting ship has a very low Resource limit and your low pilot level means the majority of locations you scan to get more Resources will give you an, “Exploration failed” prompt, so colliding with a fast-moving stray meteor may very well end the game as quickly as it began.

Players can improve their chances of successful exploration, finding items, survival and more by leveling up the pilot character. This is where the roguelike nature of the game comes in to play, as the pilot’s level will persist through subsequent playthroughs, making it easier to accomplish the simple objectives of, “Fly to the place indicated by the onscreen arrow and scan the thing.” Players can also collect aptly named Spacepoints, which despite having a very plain name is very important since it can help you get better ships to more adequately finish the game since the starting ship, with a Resource capacity of only 300, pales in comparison to the ones later with 1,200 and higher.

The second mission of the game involves flying around and gathering green squares called Materials (the nomenclature is stunning), then returning them to the starting point. In addition to the player level, for this particular mission, returning enough Materials grants additional bonuses that can further make progression of the mission easier. The second mission, unlike the first, doesn’t have to be completed in only one life which makes sudden asteroids off the side of the screen much less frustrating. Upon collecting enough to increase the level of the starting hub to a certain value, the game moves on to the third mission which is largely a mixture of the first and second missions. Players will travel tremendous distances to collect keys which they will then in turn travel huge distances to unlock monoliths. There are still Materials to collect to upgrade a Mothership (just like in mission 2), so it’s really new names attached to goals with which players are already familiar, by this point.

The pilot in the game likes to wax poetic about things in the game which adds a nice twist to the normal space exploration genre.
The pilot in the game likes to wax poetic about things he experiences and feels, which adds a nice twist to the normal space exploration genre.

So, progression is extremely simple. Go to the thing, right click on the thing, move to the next thing. Flying through space in search of planets, space stations, and stars that yield experience composes what players will do between A and B, with sometimes needing to avoid fast-moving asteroids or hostile space ships. Leveling up your character or mothership has a fairly addictive quality, as dumping a lot of points into exploration and finally getting multiple successes in a row on Resource gathering is a great feeling.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a roguelike if there weren’t caveats: Sometimes when exploring a location, players can be subjected to a binary choice rather than just collect Resources or Spacepoints and be on your merry way. An example of this may be, “There’s damage to the hull. Do you let the autonomous robots take care of it, or do you go out and take care of it yourself?” Which answer is correct depends on the random number generator, not on the players, themselves, which can make it very frustrating. For example, you’re using a ship with a Resource capacity of 1,200, with which you’ve been playing for a while so you’re at about half your maximum Resources. You stop at a planet to search it and are presented with a choice scenario that populated in a prior run of the game. You select the same answer you picked last time this scenario popped up and get slapped with -1,000 Spacepoints and -1,000 Resources penalty, giving you a game over immediately because of a factor you couldn’t control. That type of mechanic, where doing something the game tells you to do can result in an instantaneous game over, isn’t rewarding in the slightest.

Some of the artwork you will find in space is really cool to see.
Some of the artwork you will find in space is really cool to see.

The aforementioned penalties get obviously larger as you progress in the game- detrimental searches may take away 20 Resources or 200 or so Spacepoints at the beginning, but by the third mission players may view the search pop-ups with chagrin since which answer is correct is seemingly randomized, and clicking the wrong choice may very well send you back to the game over screen. Sometimes players will be all but forced to click on the planets they come across in a desperate attempt to keep your Resources at a decent level- since the environment is procedurally generated, you may go entire runs without seeing a single refueling station, thereby making planets or stars your only way to recover spent Resources. Some people may like the variety- that the game can end at practically any time, while others may very well abhor such an inclusion and stop playing altogether.

Space is vast, perhaps almost a little too vast with all the randomness that RymdResa offers.
Space is vast, perhaps almost a little too vast with all the randomness that RymdResa offers.

RymdResa is a very amusing, addictive game at the beginning. While flying through space, your pilot will regale you with pretentious similes or speak of how he misses a loved one. Combine these little notes with the addictive quality that leveling up provides and you have something that will occupy you for a few hours. Oddly enough, reaching max pilot level may occur very quickly, happening before even being halfway finished with the third mission. Normally upon reaching that point the game needs to grab the player enough to give the drive to finish it, which wasn’t exactly the case here since finishing involved doing variations of goals already done multiple times for the first and second missions. There are three things at the very end that add an interesting quality to the gameplay, if you get that far, but I won’t say anything more to avoid spoiling it (though the mission screen gives this away once you reach the third mission).

When you get caught between the moon and...you know the rest.
When you get caught between the moon and…you know the rest.

The graphics are extremely simple, but all obvious in what they are: Anything with a red glow around it is bad to the touch, everything else can be acted upon with a right click or by hovering near it. The real treat of RymdResa is the music, which strongly lends to the atmosphere of the game. There is voice acting, but it’s the single distorted voice of your pilot, who may chime in at certain intervals to give a metaphor-laden story or quote some poetry. Mechanically, the game could very well use some work, as sometimes nothing may procedurally generate your way for almost an hour which may leave you inexorably bored (this happened both times of going through a warp gate, especially. Even with Exploration of 50, no planets, space stations, etc., for around 50 minutes of flying in one direction). There’s no way of knowing what’s beyond the edge of the screen for most of the game, so sometimes picking the direction of your objective may leave you with nothing to interact with at all, not even a stray asteroid, for quite some time. It is unknown if this is a glitch or on purpose, at this time.

Overall, RymdResa can be quite an amusing game if you’re a forgiving player. The audio, pixel graphics and relaxed play style do come together quite well, especially with the roguelike elements such as persistent levels between lives. Dying out of nowhere happens while performing roughly the same basic task over and again, though, so those easily frustrated by such a thing may want to focus on some other game in their Steam library instead. Those who appreciate games on the more artistic side of the spectrum may very well find something to enjoy in RymdResa. The mechanics of the game leave a bit to be desired at obviously random intervals, which is why this is really only recommended to those who really enjoy games involving space or roguelike elements.

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