It’s all downhill from here in Skyhill

, | Game reviews

You have to get down from the top of Skyhill, a 100-story skyscraper. Why 100 stories? Because no self-respecting skyscraper would come in under 100 floors. Skyhill is two floors fewer than the Empire State Building. Ten floors fewer than the Twin Towers. 63 floors fewer than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. 100 is also a nice round number for a rogue-like. You start on the hundredth floor and have to go down through 99 more, each comprised of a simple cutaway view of three rooms with highlighted hotspots where loot might be found by simply clicking on the screen. Let’s get started. Oh, but first, you’ll want to click the fast-forward arrows at the top of the screen. There’s no reason to draw out the walking animations for 99 sets of stairs; the combat is going to draw out the animation plenty anyway.

After the jump, the walk.

Skyhill rightly describes itself as a rogue-like, but continues by specifying “in an apocalyptic survival setting”. Why apocalyptic? I can’t think of many apocalypses solely concerned with descending a skyscraper. But let’s not quibble. The other word is relevant enough. The term survival here refers to the fact that it has crafting. Bits and bobs assemble into other bits and bobs, which assemble into still other bits and bobs until you finally get the upgrade you want. This is probably a weapon at first. Later it will be a new crafting station. Sometimes it will be a doo-dad to power the elevator on any given floor so you can fast-travel back and forth to the top floor. The top floor is where you craft and, perhaps more importantly, where you rest. Resting trades food for health. Also, don’t starve. All that stuff qualifies as survival.

This all works well enough. The problem is the bare-bones and ultimately tedious combat constantly clogging things up. Your character and one of about a half dozen monster types stand toe-to-toe in a room, taking turns whacking at each other. Do you want to aim at a specific monster body part to finesse the trade-off between damage and chance-to-hit? Or do you just want to take an acceptable average so you don’t have to click on the monster body part screen every time? Just take the acceptable average or you’re going to be spending a lot of time without much payoff.

Your character, who is always the same guy with some backstory about a wife or daughter or something, has four stats. You’ve probably leveled these up so you can equip a specific weapon you could build. Eventually you’ll level these up because you want to improve your critical hit chance (strength) or your chance for free extra attack (dexterity). That’s pretty much the sum total of combat, which doesn’t have the convenience of a fast forward button. So not only is it bare-bones, it’s slow. That’s a deadly combo in an otherwise streamlined rogue-like.

It’s a rogue-like because you’re working your way down the hundred floors, restoring elevator power as you go. The march downstairs proceeds apace, each floor three desultory rooms at a time. You’ll die pretty soon, especially if you don’t play on easy. This will unlock perks for your next attempt. Perks modify the bare bones basics as best as they can. After unlocking a couple, I earned all the perks in a single playthrough, which kills any incentive to keep playing. Where’s a high score list when you need it? Not in Skyhill.

The atmosphere holds up so long as the graphics are doing the heavy lifting. The simple cartoon visuals with stark shadows look plenty spooky in an Archer meets Fritz Lang kind of way. But the moment Skyhill tries to inject story, character, or setting, it falls apart. The idea is that a biotoxic explosion has… Never mind. It doesn’t matter. You can skip the audio logs, text diaries, and cut scenes easily enough. None of that is necessary to understand that twist at the end. It’s clever enough, I suppose. But is it worth 100 floors of bare-bones rogue-like? Hardly.

  • Skyhill

  • Rating:

  • PC
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