To quote the late, great Irish writer, Samuel Beckett.
No matter. Try… Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.
Whether coincidental or purely by chance, Evertried by developer Lunic Games personifies this quote. This is a roguelite adventure, which means it’s a game about trying, failing, starting over, only to fail again, but hopefully getting wiser with each start. There’s no shortage of games from this popular indie subgenre on Xbox, but this one offers a more strategic flavour than its contemporaries.
Set in a mysterious afterlife underworld, there isn’t much of a story setup other than the fact that the protagonist must not have led a very good life to end up in such a purgatorial predicament. The opening tutorial barely lasts a few minutes before the game throws you right into the deep end. Although the tutorial explains the basic attack, dashes, and gameplay conventions, there is certainly a lot more to the experience than what Evertried initially lets on. Even the thin story setup eventually builds up as you encounter story segments and new characters.
Evertried is a strategic turn-based RPG taking place on an isometric playing field resembling a chessboard. I’s all about carefully navigating these tiles, and each time the protagonist makes a move, so do the surrounding enemies and hazards. It’s certainly tempting to rush in foolishly in the early stages, but doing so results in an instant game over. Here it’s about baiting your enemies in, getting them to battle on your terms rather than rushing into their trap. It’s all quite nuanced and subtle, and just this basic tile navigation alone is imbued with sound strategic depth and design.
Moving around certainly takes a little getting used to, as the directional pads and the isometric viewpoint don’t always click. It takes a while to learn how to move in the intended direction, but thankfully the controls are customisable and so with a little tinkering and practice it becomes second nature.
The core combat initiates on its own once you’re close enough to an enemy, but again the attack cycle with the enemy follows a turn-cycle. The other mechanical hook involves dashing around, which is needed in situations where you need to navigate multiple tiles at once, and dashing also becomes useful with certain skills. Of course, you can’t just dash on a whim, as charges need to be replenished before you can dash again.
Although the core basics are simple yet strategically sound, there’s more to the gameplay as you ascend through the underworld tower. Defeating all the enemies on a floor allows you to progress to the next, and along the way there are opportunities to spend enemy soul shards to learn new skills which tend to activate with the dash ability. There are also modifiers which provide stat boosts once the Focus meter reaches a certain threshold.
Of course, like any cruel roguelite or roguelike experience, all the things you gain and learn in a run are immediately lost once you hit that game over screen, which means starting from scratch from the first floor of the tower. This is of course by design, and chances are you already know what you are signing up for when you pick up a roguelike such as Evertried. This is all part of the thrill and adrenaline; the satisfaction of being on a winning streak and never knowing what challenge lies ahead. Although you don’t get to keep any tangible rewards, you do gain an intangible experience as a player, and so there is always the pull of giving the game just one more go.
The aforementioned gameplay mechanics come together organically, and although the enemy and hazard layouts change with each playthrough, there is always an immediate strategic response to what’s presented to you. The various traps and hazards also harm the enemy, and so part of the strategy also involves baiting enemies and using your surroundings to your advantage. The enemy variety is strong, and eventually you also face some tough bosses too, which demand more attention to the tiles, placing yourself strategically.
The vibe and style of the game will certainly remind many of Hollow Knight, and although it isn’t the most original looking game, the isometric style is presented effectively and it’s easy to navigate and plan ahead without too many visual distractions.
Evertried is a strategic isometric RPG with an addictive roguelite gameplay loop. There isn’t much to it in its opening moments, but this is a deceptively simple game which rewards strategic planning and foresight. Genre fans will certainly enjoy the challenge, while newcomers will get plenty of enjoyment from the turn-based action as they master tile movement and placement.
You can grab Evertried from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S