Are there any games that aren’t roguelikes? Every other review seems to be a take on the genre, and we have to put a pound in the Roguelike Jar every time we write that flipping word.
So, yep, Collapsed is a roguelike (£1), this time applied to a Turrican-like 2D action-platformer. You can hack-and-slash with melee attacks, but you can also fire ordinance in a twin-stick fashion. So, you’re a combat hybrid, and the weighting on one or the other is determined by your choice of character. You can pick from Reaper, Warrior, Devourer and Pest(?), with variations like the Warrior being a shotgun-wielding tank, while the Devourer prefers to work at range with a spear and rifle.
Our first impressions were a little deflated. Collapsed is not a particularly attractive game, certainly not when compared to some of its closer cousins like Dead Cells or Foregone. Part of the problem is the generic nature of its world: it’s full of stock mechs, robots and zombies that you could find in any other game. The levels aren’t ugly exactly, but they are blocky and hard-edged, making it abundantly clear that this is a procedurally generated game. You know that you’re playing an algorithm every time you boot up Collapsed. On the sort-of-plus side, everything’s lit up like Vegas: there’s so much bloom, neon and visual FX that you can barely see your character.
There’s little in the way of tutorial and you’re straight into the game. You hop into a portal, which takes you to a randomly chosen biome. You start on Level 1, and your aim is to find the portal that takes you to the next. In your way are various enemies, who – much like you – have some combination of melee attacks or ranged. There are plenty of chests to open for loot, which tends to come in weapon, armour, health and credit form, and there are the occasional challenge portals, which lock you to a room and then chuck wave after wave of enemies and environmental hazards at you.
Health is persistent over the levels, so you’re nursing your life pools, hoping you don’t get cornered. Loot is actually persistent over every playthrough, even through death, so you’re motivated to hunt for something that’s incrementally better than what you’ve got. And if you’re successful, churning through the levels like some kind of mechanised adonis, then you’re confronted with a boss, again generated at random.
Death brings you back to the hub area, stark and bland, where you can take all of your accumulated credits and spend them on permanent improvements to your character. This upgrade tree is the absolute bee’s knees: there’s such a sprawling map of unlocks, with upgrades possible to each individual node, that you can’t help but get lost in optimisation. Individually, the unlocks are not superbly transformative – we’re in the realm of 1% and 2% increases here – but a good run will allow you to upgrade two or three things, so you don’t necessarily feel short-changed. You can also craft items with your accumulated components. There’s enough in the hub to make dying the most satisfying stage of the Collapsed game loop.
In general, the keyword throughout Collapsed is ‘competent’. It’s the backhanded compliment that you think it is. Everything about Collapsed works and supplies a modicum of enjoyment.
The combat feels natural enough, with the guns in particular feeling powerful, chewing through dozens of enemies in a few seconds. The melee attacks are a little floaty, and could have benefitted from your targets staggering or feeling like they have been hit, but they also do a job. There’s not a huge amount of dynamism to the main character, certainly when compared to some of the game’s we’ve mentioned, so movement is a little lumbering and slow. We would have loved more balletic moves to get us round the arena at speed.
We have bugbears with the ammo system, which is finite. Collapsed has chosen to make the guns more powerful than the melee attacks, but throttled them by giving you a limited number of bullets per level. It means that you’re conserving ammo when you want to be spraying it everywhere, and that throttling makes Collapsed less enjoyable.
It also means you can get caught with your pants down. Boss rooms arrive without much ceremony, and you can often be left with no ammo and a depleted health pool. With a bit more warning, you could perhaps have prepared for them better, conserving what you have or stockpiling the good stuff. As a counterpoint, the bosses are never massively difficult, and it is perfectly feasible to defeat them as long as you pay attention. Once you defeat them, a whole new biome is available to you.
Despite these foibles, Collapsed feels just fine to play. It offers just enough visceral joy when mowing down enemies with sword or gun. It offers just enough variety in the procedural generation and the different biomes to make each run different. It offers just enough permanent upgrades on the completion of a run to hook you into one more run. It is just enough.
In a landscape where we’re seeing countless roguelite action-platformers released, many of them superlative in terms of quality, ‘just enough’ is, conversely, not enough. While we enjoyed our time in the guns-and-glaives world of Collapsed, we couldn’t shake the sensation that we could have been diving back into the depths of other, better games.
If you feel there is room in your life for just one more roguelike action-platformer, however, then Collapsed won’t let you down. It shines in the right places, tempting you into one more run with the promise of a host of unlocks. You just won’t encounter anything fresh or new on the way.
You can buy Collapsed from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S