Review – Into the Pit
Is it just me or has Humble Bundle consistently been a great thing within the gaming world? Not only have they given gamers a great deal with their monthly bundles, but they have always strived to offer some spotlight to indies. Including great indies in these bundles helps exposure which leads to getting the game talked about. On top of all of that, they’ve fairly recently started getting into the publishing business and this has been getting bigger and better. They have published some amazing indies like: Unsighted, Flynn: Son of Crimson, One Step From Eden, and Slay the Spire. Even when a game may not have been the top of our list, they usually still put forward some great ideas like in Wildfire. I promise this is not a paid for review by Humble, but I just wanted a long way to tell you that yes, Into the Pit, is great even if it’s not perfect.
Into the Pit is a unique take on the first-person shooter and roguelite genre, not in a revolutionary way, but there are some great ideas here. You play as a mystic who gets called to a cursed town rumored to be plagued by a demonic portal opened by an evil mage. You will need to work with the townsfolk to create keys that will unlock portals to demonic realms so you can close them. As you descend into the pit, you will rescue more townsfolk that will help you unlock more services and items that will help you close the demonic portals and stop the evil mage.
Since Into the Pit is a roguelite, you will start minimal but build and upgrade your arsenal as you progress through portals and collect material. However, I think Into the Pit is a bit more friendly to newcomers, unlike other roguelites. It definitely doesn’t have a beginning grind until things start to feel fun, which I appreciate. If you have played any fast paced first-person shooter games, this should be easy to get into. Your fundamentals will pull you through this game, but if your base skill isn’t there, it won’t take long until you upgrade. Luckily, about midway through Into the Pit, it does pick up in difficulty so the FPS veterans out there will still have fun.
Dungeons can feel a bit repetitive in structure since they all follow the same layout. I know this brought up a huge red flag, but let me explain. Dungeons all have five levels with the fifth level being a boss. Each level will have four portals with two options per portal. These options range from various permanent upgrade materials to temporary buffs for that dungeon. Once you enter a level you’ll need to collect motes of the material you chose and then destroy all the keystones to finish the level. You close all four portals and are now able to descend deeper into the pit. Levels two, four, and the boss there will offer the opportunity to rescue a person from the town. Every dungeon follows this structure which can feel repetitive, but luckily the portals all have a unique theme.
As you continue to collect more material motes and rescue townsfolk, you will unlock shops and additional options at those shops. You’ll find the typical ones where you will be able to buy and upgrade runes (more on that later), but the most important one is the Key Maker. Buying Keys is essentially how you unlock more dungeons, but it isn’t as simple as that. Each Key has a specific theme with its own set of unique monsters. Yes, there are some monsters that do show up in all, but for the most part there will be mostly new monsters. What’s unique here is that when you’re preparing your dungeon, you can combine two separate keys that will make a unique dungeon. Each key combination is a whole new dungeon with unique but familiar portals and enemies from each. These combinations are where difficulty will start to increase as the game throws more enemies at you.
Runes play a huge role in the combat and gameplay, being a mage you’ll use runes as your weapons and buffs. As I mentioned above, you will need to build your dungeon and this means more than picking your keys. This will be the moment where you will be able to select up to six constant buffs for the entire dungeon. Do you want to start with more life? Get life every time you destroy a Keystone? Collect more of a specific mote when you clear one of its portals? This is where you’ll setup the backbone of your dungeon run, and these runes will also be able to be upgraded.
Once you’re inside your dungeon you will first need to select your base attacks for each hand and a defense rune. The base attacks are a random selection of three for each hand since you will be dual-wielding spells. These attack range from close range blasts, slow moving explosive blasts, long distance bolts, heat seeking projectiles, and more. How you combine the two attacks should compliment each other because the wrong pairing can be difficult. I do wish there was a way to change up your base attack type in between levels even at the cost of the upgrades on that hand.
Since you are a mage, you will of course be altering your base attack with various buffs and even elements. After completing portals, you will get to choose one of three buff options. This means each level of the dungeon you will be able to increase or alter your powers four times. Since this is a roguelite, there will be portals that will allow you to sacrifice some life at the chance for a powerful rune. Some of these are common like fusing ice to your spell so enemies will be slowed when you shoot them. However, others are more unique like the chaos effects that will cause a chain reaction when enemies die. The key here is to imbue you each hand with complimenting powers, elements, and buffs.
My main issue with Into the Pit is that you can easily overpower yourself as along as you select and upgrade the right runes first. Even without powerful runes you can still finish a dungeon with skill alone, which isn’t a bad thing, but to me shows that it can be a bit unbalanced. There is also a lack of challenge with the bosses themselves; I have found that the individual portals have been harder than the bosses. For the most part they’re easily taken down by just moving in a circle around the boss constantly while shooting. They also don’t seem to be as aggressive as they should be.
Luckily, where the bosses may lack in aggressiveness, their designs are great. That’s to be said about Into the Pit on a fronts of the art design. I love the pixel art design here as it’s well detailed with plenty of bold colors and designs. Each levels themes are very well detailed and all have their own unique look, same for the enemy designs within each level. They also were smart to make the enemy designs stand out against the level design because they could have easily gotten lost in a mesh of pixels. Since visually it’s not impressive to just shoot things from your hands, they use a smart color method for each to stand out. If you select poison, your hand and magic will turn purple, ice is blue, and chaos a nice deep red. The various colors matching the effects is a nice visual touch since you don’t have anything physical to hold.
Sound design is also punchy, which I love in a first-person shooter set in demonic portals. It may not hit the levels of DOOM, but there is plenty of upbeat music and effects to match the action. The sound design matches the level themes as well offering squishy wet sounds for the poisonous marshes, and water crashing on boats at the docks. Besides the level sound design, the enemies all have their unique sounds which makes it quick to know what enemy has just crept up behind you. Being able to identify enemies just based on their sound effect is huge for fast paced shooters and it’s done well here.
While Into the Pit may need a little bit more balancing and tweaking as far as the runes and general difficulty goes, I think it’s still a very fun roguelite. It is a nice change of pace that there isn’t a huge grind to get to anything fun, but that also means run time may be short for some. While I personally would have liked more difficulty in the portals and bosses, I also think this is a solid game to offer someone being introduced to roguelites that aren’t amazing on FPS games. Plus, it has its own unique ideas here that will make you feel like a bad ass powerful mage, and that always makes me feel happy.
I love the pixel art design all around from the portals to the enemies. Each dungeon has their own unique look and enemies, and designed smartly so the enemies never blend into a pixel mess.
The roguelite elements work well with the arcane wizard power theme. Using runes to modify and alter attacks is great, and the fast paced FPS action is smooth. Some balancing is needed, however.
Sound design is near flawless with fantastic music that compliments the gameplay, as well as fantastic sound design for the portals and enemies.
While I feel some balancing needs to happen with the runes, and upped difficulty in areas, I had a lot of fun with the gameplay. The unique take on FPS combat and roguelite dungeons shine here.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Into the Pit is available now on PC and Xbox One.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb of RAM.
A copy of Into the Pit was provided by the publisher.