Not The Robots, and here’s why you should too:
First and foremost: Nothing is sacred. You can’t just run from one piece of cover to another. Instead, you actually have to destroy your cover to progress through the game. I can’t emphasize how amazing this is – there’s so much more depth than just waiting for guards to move along a set path and running from A to B. Do you start eating from the start, clearing out room after room, or do you go to one end of the map and only eat on your way back? Ideally, you should eat as little as you can while still fulfilling the objective, but of course that’s easier said than done.
The next amazing thing is that slow and methodical play is equally effective as straight-up YOLO running and gunning. The game doesn’t reward recklessly aggressive play any more than it does painstakingly slow play, it only rewards skillful
play. Mechanics like eating your cover, inventory management, procedurally generated levels, and random sentry movement all emphasize calculated risks and culminate to create a huge
skill ceiling. As a result, any playstyle (even the extreme ones!) can be successful, as long as you know what you’re doing.
Finally, the game’s ambiance is perfect. The in-game music “consists of 70 loops which are dynamically mixed together.” It sounds weird, but basically there are a couple of tracks looping which can switch on the fly depending on the current situation. When you’re safe, it plays a nice and eerie theme, but when you’re spotted it becomes faster, louder and more rhythmic. What’s really impressive though is that you don’t even notice this change – each loop flows seamlessly from one situation to the next, and yet it still adapts immediately. Back to the ambiance, haha. Most levels have a dark and off-gray color pallet. It sounds boring, but just like the music it fulfills two requirements: It creates an ominous and tense atmosphere which works incredibly
well in the game’s favor, and it’s pretty much as unintrusive as physically possible.
One last thing I have to say is that this game is an example of randomness done phenomenally
well. There are few enough random elements to count on one hand, and yet they all work in tandem to make this game everything it is.
- Level generation: This is pretty standard for roguelikes, random levels add replayability and make it so you can never know what you’re dealing with ahead of time.
- Items and upgrades: Each item has a clear-cut situational use and nothing is ever strictly better than any single other option, except maybe Dig+ and Blocks+. The items are balanced enough that decisions like Dig vs Teleport, Stun vs Blocks, and even Invisible vs Invisible+ are almost never easy ones. Is it worth keeping a half-charged Invisible+, or can Sprint fulfill the same role immediately? Like the level generation, it emphasizes dealing with the situation you’re given with the tools you find. For upgrades, my only complaint is multiplier is mechanically useless. Scanners and Inventory both have their merits – sure, having up to five items is great, but there are always situations where it’s hugely helpful to know what’s in a box in the corner of an empty room.
- Enemies, especially Sentries: If there’s one thing you’ll quickly find out, it’s that Sentries are a b*tch. They have a formidable line of sight, they can teleport furniture away from you, and they move randomly with no set path? Good heavens! However, I have to admit I love Sentries. I’d even go as far as to say they single-handedly make the game what it is. Every other enemy is extremely predictable and easily avoidable, or both. Adequate cover and charged items are all you need to be well-equipped for an encounter, and even without that you can reasonably run into safety if you can think on your feet.
This part extends to all enemies: The game is completely fair. While the later levels no doubt incredibly challenging to say the least, you have three to four buildings to prepare before that. Any combination of items you like, within reason, can be found in 9 out of 10 games before you even have to worry about tagging anything. You have to work for it, though – is that item across the room a teleport you so desperately need, and are you willing to get rid of your trusty Blocks+ to find out? It’s a calculated risk – it could just as easily be another Dig. No matter what, however, nothing in the first four buildings is ever a death sentence. Got three Stuns? Put them in doorways and you can eat like a maniac. Three Blocks? Cool, you have permanent cover wherever you want. Three Digs? Great, you can get to any part of the level in the shortest path possible. Three Sprints? Congratulations, you can literally run away from your problems. Realistically, of course, some levels will always be easier than others, but overall any situation is workable. It’s all about dealing with the situation you’re given with the tools you find, and death is always caused by a mistake by the player. I’d go as far to say that it’s possible to go through the whole campaign with no items without taking any damage. Accomplishing this, however, is an exercise left to the reader.
This game is really amazing, and I love darn near everything about it. You should try it.My comprehensive guide to Not the Robots