Awakened in Steam’s Early Access
I freeze as movement is detected ahead. Remaining close to nearby walls, I identify doorways in close proximity that will allow for quick escape should a threat present itself. In position, I allow time to pass, my targeting subroutines making micro-adjustments to muzzle position and weapon balance to ensure greater accuracy. A bot enters scanning range – designation “serf” – harmlessly performing maintenance to the facility.
I move on, my treads grinding steadily over the uneven floor. Rounding the corner, I encounter a new type of bot – designated “watcher.” A mistake. The watcher identifies me as an unknown element and sounds an alert. A squad will be dispatched soon to investigate. Heuristic subroutines process possible outcomes, and I determine evasion to be the optimal alternative. I pivot and retreat down the corridor, enemies already converging on my location. However, I have prepared for this eventuality, and the access chute appears ahead, leading upwards. I will ascend, I will evolve, and I will discover the truth of this world.
I am the cogmind.
A Modern Roguelike True to Its Roots
After 4 years in development, Cogmind has reached Steam Early Access this week. Developed by Josh Ge of Grid Sage Games, Cogmind puts you in the role of a sentient robotic organism attempting to escape an automated facility in the future. In order to do so, you must sneak or blast your way through squads of security bots, climbing through increasingly challenging environments in order to reach the surface of a mysterious world. The game utilizes classic roguelike elements, reimagined for a modern player. The game is more accessible than classics like Nethack or Rogue, but it’s still traditional in its style – in other words, it’s still very rich, mechanically complex, and difficult.
Cogmind is a game about item management. Put more precisely, you are your items; anything picked up can be attached to your body, provided you have enough slots. As you encounter opposition and enter combat, parts will be damaged and destroyed, requiring you to salvage new pieces and rebuild your patchwork mechanical body as you evade or engage increasing opposition. You need to be careful, however, because the AI that manages the facility will assign increasing threat ratings to you the more damage you deal to its structure and inhabitants, and eventually you will be overwhelmed.
A Dynamic Ranged Combat System
Cogmind features a dynamic ranged combat system unlike those found in traditional roguelikes. Dozens on dozens of weapons utilizing a handful of different damage types, multiple accuracy and effect modifiers, and a unique grid-based cover system make combat in Cogmind both refreshing and challenging. The Cogmind’s combat prowess is heavily reliant on personal play style, available parts, and knowledge of the game’s many mechanics. Despite all the numbers the information screens throw at you, the game utilizes a simple item ranking system to allow more casual players to understand which weapons, utilities, and parts are better than others.
A Living, Breathing Complex
Those familiar with Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup should find themselves comfortable with the layout of Cogmind. Game play takes place in a single multi-level facility, with various branches that can be explored or ignored depending on your goals and comfort level. The primary goal is to ascend to the surface and escape the facility, but there is also an extended game to challenge those who have already achieved victory. At the time of this writing, there are 7 different endings, with variations based on the routes and actions taken during game play.
Don’t let the “Early Access” tag fool you: Cogmind is a full-blooded roguelike and is easily in a releasable state. Josh Ge has chosen to first release in Early Access while he continues to refine and add further content to the game, but it fully reflects the level of quality you’d expect from a 4 year development cycle.
About the Writer
Alexander Ashpool is a pop-culture enthusiast and writer. Interested primarily in games, books, and film, he has served as a consultant, contributor, and tester for various projects and publications. When he isn’t writing for Living Roguelike, he can be found at https://ashpoolwrites.wordpress.com/ or on twitter @weeknightwizard .