“No, no, no.” I’m running down a narrow corridor with only one exit. I don’t know what’s on the other side, but it’s probably something awful. And behind me, only death, personified by a horde of mutants and zombies, rapidly catching up to me. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” I have two bullets left in my only gun. Spinning round, I fire my handgun, hitting a wall and killing one zombie. My room is a touch warm, but that’s not why I’m sweating.
I run to the door, what choice do I have? The sigh of relief is like a gale emanating from my lungs, as I see an empty circular room covered in detritus, but no monsters whatsoever. I hesitantly walk further into it, though I know I’m far from safe. The horrors chasing me down that corridor are still behind me, and they’ll be here soon. Then I see it, my saviour: a simple box. “Please be ammo, please be ammo, please be ammo.” It’s not ammo. It’s just cans of food.
They’re here now: the horde of violent, hungry creatures. I still have my trusty knife, and she’s gotten me through tighter spots than this. I’m lying to myself, of course. She hasn’t. And they’re upon me, some skittering around me, circling me, waiting to see if I still have any rounds left. My back’s to the wall now, there’s no escape. Kill or be killed, those are my two options, and so I charge, flailing around with my knife in front of me.
I died again. And I’ll die more, because Teleglitch: Die More Edition is an utter bastard.
Perhaps my love of roguelikes is a cry for help. I have a terrible fear of failure, yet time and time again I will delve into punishing games that don’t give two shits about how much progress I’ve made and will gleefully eviscerate me and plonk me right back at the start. Maybe I just hate myself, but that would be tragic, because that would be time wasted when I should be hating everyone else. In an uncharacteristic bout of optimism, I once explained my ardour for the genre as coming out of a desire to improve myself. That’s the only way you can beat a roguelike — by consistently learning how to be less shit.
Despite playing Teleglitch for a good long time when it came out last year, I find myself still learning. Teleglitch: Die More Edition makes me wonder if I ever learned anything from the original. Were one to stack my corpses on top of each other, we’d have a rather handy — yet grisly — staircase to the moon. They’d probably need to be embalmed and dried out first, of course. Nobody wants a squishy, rotting staircase.
I’m aware that there might be quite a few people that are not enlightened in the ways of Teleglitch. I’m half-tempted to lambaste you for this oversight, but I’d rather just explain to you why it is some damn wonderful.
A teleporter experiment goes awry, one could say there was a glitch, and something less than pleasant enters the military complex where you, the player, work as a researcher. After hunkering down, hidden away, you realise that help is not coming and everybody is very dead. The only hope of salvation lies in the teleportation technology that causes this whole debacle in the first place. The goal of each level is merely to survive and make it to the next device, teleporting you to another wing of the station, but between you and advancement is an army of robots, mutants, zombies and space nightmares. They have a goal, too: kill everyone.
From the first randomly generated level, death is a mere panicked mistake away. It never gets easier, you just learn to stop freaking out and running around like a headless chicken every time you see a single enemy. Unfortunately, that’s a difficult skill to learn, especially in Die More, where the unrelenting monstrosities that seek your death are now even better of putting you out of your misery. Tweaks to the AI make foes more patient, employing more thoughtful tactics rather than just going in for the kill immediately. I think that they just like to play with their food.
With a birds eye view of the pixelated action, one could be forgiven for assuming that this distance leads to a sense of detachment. It does not. It allows for a more tactical appraisal of the situation, sure, but the deathly silence of the station, punctuated by the whiring of odd machines and cries of monsters and the absence of any lifeforms not hostile never allows players to feel safe. And there remains a limited field of view, only allowing you to see what’s directly around you and not anything obscured by walls and doors. Most of the screen is shrouded in darkness, with the claustrophobic environments taking up little space. Sometimes the darkness will turn out to be another room, but most of the time it remains unknowable, and while I know it’s just my eyes playing tricks on me, I swear it’s closing in.
Randomly dispersed throughout this haunting environment are weapons, ammunition, life-giving food and items that, when spliced together, create new weapons. There’s nothing worse than having a lot of tools in your inventory, however. When you have nothing but your indispensable knife, you might feel vulnerable, but you won’t become a tightly wound ball of stress desperately wondering if it’s worth shooting something or wasting a grenade when you might need it later. The cruelly random placement of helpful items makes choosing to use them an agonising decision.
On more than one occasion, I simple ran when confronted by a foe. Instead of expending a clip to put the monster in the ground, potentially losing a few bullets to missed shots, I’d sprint down corridors, hoping I could outrun death, praying that the next door would open up into the transporter room.
Five more levels can be found in the Die More Edition, offering new opportunities to… well, die more. They’re optional, challenging additions, but make the proceedings less linear, offering branching paths for those brave enough to venture into them. This new version might not offer a huge amount of extras on top of the compelling vanilla romp, but it’s by far the best way to experience Teleglitch if you’ve not already had the pleasure.
Teleglitch is a confidently minimalist approach to both horror and roguelikes. It’s not charming or welcoming like Dungeons of Dredmore, nor does it have quirky, novel features like the dynasty mechanic from Rogue Legacy, and it’s not grotesque or distubring like The Binding of Isaac, it’s just pure survival amid a space station that’s trying its damnedest to kill you. Workmanlike, that’s what Teleglitch is — cutting straight to the heart of what makes roguelikes and the titles that emulate them so brilliant and yet so frustrating.