Ao the Original stands atop the Temple surrounded by representatives from the four village guilds, ominous portal looming above. Ao steps through the portal. “Provide a WORTHY sacrifice…and your people shall prosper.” Temple of Yog: The First Epoch opens with the promise of death and the reward of progress. Enticing potential followers with features like permadeath and procedurally generated levels, it stands out as one of few roguelikes currently available on the Wii U. But, will your faith be rewarded?
Ao’s tribute serves as the tutorial level. The left stick moves, the right stick shoots, the right trigger button swaps the Shadow World from the GamePad to the TV, and suddenly this roguelike becomes a dual-screen, twin-stick shooter. You pick up the compass, slay a few creatures for boon points, and eventually die. Your items are brought back to the Temple’s altar and boon points are given to the village as currency. You can now choose a new tribute to try to get more boon points and new items.
There are four classes to choose from. Each have slightly different base stats for HP, MP, and SHW–health, mana, and length of time you can stay in the Shadow World, respectively. These stats can be upgraded with boon points so a class is not defined by them. What sets the classes apart is their playstyle. The cleric is a nice starting choice as they have medium range, medium strength, medium speed, and can heal themselves in a pinch. The mage starts with incredibly low health but makes up for it with a shield and fireballs that can reach the edges of the screen. The warrior, despite having a melee weapon, shoots high-powered fireballs. The thief might be the most unique of them all, casting rapid, short bursts and rolling away from an attacking enemy or chasing a fleeing one.
You send your tribute of choice into the portal to slay as many snakes, spiders, wargs, and venus fly traps as possible. The hedge maze-like levels are small, randomly created, and sparsely populated at first. Each level contains a portal to the next level and you can only travel forward. Every odd level there is an optional quest you can take up. These quests usually task you with killing [x amount] of [y creature] for some boon points. Stay alive longer and you will find more items to bring back to the altar. Stay alive longer still and you will encounter a boss battle. The more boon points you get, the more difficult the game becomes. The milestones are Pitiful, Weak, Meager, Able, Exalted, and Worthy. Providing a Worthy sacrifice is the object of the game. It won’t be a cakewalk, especially for folks new to this type of game (full disclosure: I’ve only been able to provide an Exalted tribute). Fortunately, grinding long enough yields enough boon points to beef up the least blessed tribute.
That’s about all there is to Temple of Yog. It’s simple, punishing, then rewarding, and ultimately fun. What you see is what you get.
One thing I wouldn’t call it is a roguelike. It attempts to be a roguelike, where death has meaning, but in doing this it conflicts with its roguelike identity. In my opinion, a roguelike is an RPG with randomness, dungeon progression, character leveling, and the inevitable loss of everything upon death — hence permadeath. In roguelikes, death has meaning, as its significance makes you play smarter. In Temple of Yog there’s not so much permadeath but rather a lot of plain old death. You keep all the items and points each tribute earns. All that changes is the tribute’s name–and Kohlrabi the Pungent is identical to Pumpkin the Nimble. There’s even a checkpoint, if you can have such a thing in a procedurally generated game, in that it places you back at the same difficulty level if you make it far enough.
Temple of Yog is an arcade-style RPG with procedurally generated rooms. I would hesitate to say it has roguelike elements. Fans of the roguelike genre would likely be disappointed if they were to purchase based solely on this. There were some minor things that bugged me like minuscule text in some areas and quick scrolling dialog. The game lacks a loading bar and appears to freeze up momentarily during transitions. These aren’t game breakers by any means, just odd blemishes in an otherwise polished game.
I should confess that Temple of Yog is not the type of game I normally play. While I’m not devoted to any video game genre, I tend to sacrifice my time to more linear games that have an ending I can see. The basic format and random levels delivered here initially put me off, to be honest, but I admit Temple of Yog shines in some areas. The high-res pixel graphics are clean and detailed. There is extra flourish in the form of bushes catching fire and smoke rising off them. The particle effects mesh with the sprites so well it looks natural. The Shadow World on the GamePad has a neat curved perspective and distinct inverted colors. GamePad usage at all is a delight in itself, but the way it’s used in this game is really impressive. Even when you’re in the Light World, the Shadow World is displayed on the GamePad. Flipping between them is instant and seamless.
There isn’t much text, but CHUDCHUD uses every bit of it to be clever and humorous. Personally, I found the context in which an Ian Malcolm quote is used is hilarious! Temple of Yog has its appeal and is certain to fill a niche for some gamers. I would recommend it to people who enjoy the gameplay in games like Gauntlet, Smash TV, and Magicka. Wii U gamers looking for something simple — yet fun — or people who can’t invest much time (and money) into a game should also check it out. Temple of Yog can be played for a few minutes or a few hours; you reap what you sow. Hey, if you need to hop out in a hurry, you can simply press the start button to sacrifice your tribute. No big deal, right?
UPDATE 2/19/2016: CHUDCHUD has released patch 1.1 for Temple of Yog. This patch fixes a few minor things involving user interface and AI bugs, while it adds a few new features to the game, as well. You can now go in and out of the Shadow World on any screen. Loading screens now say “LOADING” at the bottom right hand corner and have a humorous message in the center of the screen. The AI was made more intelligent, too: now, if you attack an enemy outside it’s field of vision, you’ll aggro it instead of getting a free kill. Previously, snakes would sucker-punch you at spawn points, but that’s been sorted out. Additionally, it seems like their attack hit-boxes have been reduced, so if you do step on a snake, it’s not game over. You’ll now find rainbow planty biters among the regular planty biters. When you slay them, a portal opens to a shop where you can purchase upgrades to your movement speed, rate of fire, or damage. You use your boon points to purchase these upgrades. Even if you don’t have enough boon points to buy anything, just going through the portal to the shop and back can be a pretty big boon point boost. There’s also a new enemy type; you’ll come across hives that can spawn up to two wasps at once. *Psst* — you can farm these for a steady flow of boon. Which reminds me, you can now see how many boon points a slain foe gives you. These are some fantastic improvements on an already great game. I can’t wait to see what CHUDCHUD brings with the Second Epoch.
A review code of Temple of Yog was provided by CHUDCHUD Industries.