Subaeria, a puzzle game with roguelike elements developed and published by Studios iLLOGIKA, has a lot of promise. It’s setting is interesting, and the concept behind its gameplay is great. It even has a neat art style and a good soundtrack. Unfortunately, these positives are not enough to ignore some very significant issues, both from a design and technical standpoint.
Subaeria is available on Steam for $12.99, XBox One for $14.99, and PS4 for $19.99.
Subaeria [PS4/XOne/Pc] Release Date Trailer
The game takes place on the titular underwater city of Subaeria. After polar ice caps melt, humanity is almost wiped out, and those who remain are forced underneath the ocean. Subaeria, one of what is implied to be several of such cities, is under the control of the dictator President Dorf. The rich live in luxury, while the poor toil away to improve the life of their “betters”. And all crime, no matter how big or small, is punished the same way. Death.
The player takes the role of Styx, a young woman who lives in the factory section of Subaeria, the slums. While playing a virtual reality game with friends, she hacks into the game to get free credits but gets caught. As such, she and her family are targeted for elimination by the robotic executioners known as cleaners. After finding her family killed, Styx vows to get revenge on President Dorf.
There are ups and downs to the story of Subaeria. On one hand, some of the naming conventions are a bit too on the nose. For example, one of the other underwater cities you hear about is literally called “Freedomia”. In addition, the set up for the game is a bit weak. One would think that in a community where any and all crimes are punished with the death of you and your family, you wouldn’t risk total annihilation to get a free game.
That's not to say there aren’t any positives. For one thing, the game has a surprising amount of dialogue, with the player being able to communicate with random citizens in specific areas. Most of the dialogue, while short, is well-written. In fact, a decent amount of the setting's backstory is provided through this. The only game I can really think of that does this is the Dark Souls games, specifically the first one.
The core idea behind the gameplay is interesting. Essentially, the player's only way of survival is to manipulate the cleaners into destroying each other. As such, there is a definite puzzle element to the game. This, combined with roguelike elements, should, in theory, create a fair amount of challenge. Unfortunately, design and technical issues make the game much more frustrating than fun.
The player takes control of both Styx and her small drone companion. Styx can be moved around using the left analog stick while the drone is controlled with the right. Styx has access to a jump and a roll in order to avoid danger. The drone uses power-ups called apps in order to interact with Styx and the cleaners and is the main tool the player will use throughout the game.
The apps come in three different categories. Green, which interacts with the cleaners directly, purple, which affects Styx, and cyan, which affects the drone itself. Examples of these abilities include giving Styx a teleport or taking control of one or several cleaners. As an app is used, it will level up, increasing its base amount of uses, duration, and cooldown.
As your progress, you will also pick up credits and food pills that can be used as currency. These can be used to get upgrades called boosts and chips. Boosts improve Styx, increasing her health and giving her discounts on future purchases, while chips affect the drone, increasing its app charges and range. Other pickups include processors, which can help clear out a room quicker, and hackboxes, which can be used to get bonus items.
As a roguelike game, Subaeria has many of the mechanics associated with the genre. Maps are procedurally generated, being built from a pool of rooms, though bosses will always remain the same. Should the player die, they will have to start from the very beginning of the game, losing all the items and upgrades the acquired in their last run. The more you play, the more you level up and unlock new apps to help you on your run.
The cleaners come in a variety of forms, but will always be of either the Soma or Amos brand, being yellow and blue, respectively. In addition, there is also a third type of enemy known as protectors, which are indestructible. The main goal is to destroy all the blue in yellow cleaners in the room, using the protectors, room hazards, and each other to do so.
While the idea behind the gameplay is pretty neat, it isn’t executed particularly well. One of the big issues with the camera. The game is played from a semi top-down angle, and because of this, it can end up being very easy to misjudge jumps. In addition, items and enemies can end up obscured from your vision by boxes and other items, leading to the player getting hit or missing important pickups.
Another issue comes in the form of the controls. From my own experience, there seems to be a certain delay with movement. While in most cases this can be worked around, it can also lead to taking unnecessary damage. I ended up losing more health trying to jump over laser beams than anything else, often being sure I would clear them before getting fried.
The main enemies, the cleaners, also have a few issues with them. For one thing, it seems like their A.I. can be a bit random at times. For example, one of the early enemies, which can be best described as an evil roomba, will randomly switch from being able to turn on a dime and dashing back and forth to randomly stopping. It’s also a bit of a pain trying to judge the aggro range of the cleaners, often times getting hit trying to bait one into a trap.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the game isn’t very strong on the technical side either. Many times throughout the game I encountered framerate drops, especially when facing bosses. As you can imagine, this was pretty detrimental towards my efforts, often times getting me hurt or even killed. There seems to be a fair amount of glitches, such as getting trapped underneath objects or certain enemies not spawning. Most noticeable of all would be the fact that in the main menu, you are not actually able to look at the various boosts you have unlocked while playing.
Sound and Graphics
Graphically, the game is fine, though as mentioned in the gameplay section there does seem to be some significant framerate issues. The actual art style of the game is nice, but I would be lying if I said that there were no issues with it. One huge problem is objects obscuring enemies and items. The biggest example of this is the community area, where I often found myself not being able to see the laser and taking damage from them.
Sound wise the game is actually pretty solid. The cleaners make sounds that correspond well with their various attacks, as well as making a nice explosion sound when destroyed. The music is probably my favorite part of the game, using techno beats to get a nice mix of both calm and high tension atmospheres. The only issue I encountered was a sound effect getting stuck looping after I beat the final boss, though it only happened the one time for me.
I wish I could recommend Subaeria. It’s concept, setting, and music are all fairly interesting on paper, but when it comes down to it the game falls flat. Issues with the camera, controls, wonky A.I., framerate drops and glitches severely hurt what could otherwise be a fun experience. In its current state, I would have to judge Subaeria as a game with a lot of potential, but not one that's not able to live up to it.
|+ Neat concept||– Poor camera|
|+ Good music||– Poor controls|
|– Framerate issues|
|– Noticeable glitches|