A fantastic turn-based roguelike in the style of a board game.
Since its release, Galactic Keep has been described by its buyers and the tech media as a labor of love due to its high production values and decidedly old school premium design. This is a game that was clearly crafted by artists and programmers without a marketing executive in the room because it is completely devoid of aggressive monetizing strategies. The end result is a product that is polished to a high sheen, both in gameplay and visuals. Galactic Keep is, at its core, a turn-based roguelike dungeon crawler. However, instead of the typical fantasy theme we get a sci-fi one because everyone knows that magic doesn't work in space. You begin the game by selecting a character then rolling a set of virtual dice for stats. When you are ready, you step onto the game board, and begin rolling/advancing in typical board game style. The game board itself has a colorful hand-drawn comic book style appearance, and your character is represented by a shiny game token. While there are plenty of ambient and combat sound effects, there is no in-game music; which is completely appropriate for this type of game.
As you delve into the keep you will encounter monsters and gear, hopefully not in that order. Combat is turn-based, and consists of you and the monster taking turns whacking each other in an attempt to bring the other's health to zero. Herein lies the game. If you attempt to win by simply trading blows a la Flintstone's boxing, you will surely fail. To be successful you will need to choose between attacking, blocking, using an item from your inventory, or using one of your limited special attacks. The entire process is driven by dice rolls (some overt, some hidden), which thankfully don't seem to be skewed in favor of the computer. This is one of the things that give it a roguelike feel; sometimes the universe smiles on you and sometimes it doesn't. If you lose a battle, your character will remain where it is, and must be rescued by another member of your team using whatever gear he/she has on them. If you can get to your fallen comrade you can resurrect him/her with no penalty. This is not always as easy as it sounds. For some, however, this may make the game too easy. Fortunately, Galactic Keep offers a hardcore mode where death is permanent. You can still continue to play with another member of your team, but dead characters remain dead. Oh, by the way, this is the other defining quality of a roguelike (permadeath). This can be a big hit as successful completion requires you to level as you play, and when a teammate with a lot of experience dies, they take their experience with them. Lastly, for the Goldilocks in us all, it is possible to flip the hardcore toggle on and off as you play (except when you're in combat). Why would you do this? Because your characters gain more experience in hardcore mode, that's why.
Galactic Keep comes with one adventure with more promised. If you're worried that a single adventure may not justify the purchase price, fear not. It's big, with hours and hours of play. Also, there's plenty of incentive to replay due to the wide variety of characters, gear, and strategies available. At $3.99 it's a steal, considering the amount of content, and its high fun factor. If you enjoy roguelikes, turn-based games, role-playing games, and/or board games, Galactic Keep will likely be right up your alley. Highly recommended.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - The comic book style map and characters give it lots of polish. Sound: - 4 - Very good sound effects help to draw you into the game in spite of its board game stylings. Controls: - 5 - A very clean interface designed for touch screens. Gameplay: - 5 - An old school premium gaming experience that will hit all the right notes for fans of the genre.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Select a human character for your first playthrough. They are the most balanced of the choices. Try to use weapons that give you access to special attacks. This will be more important in the late game due to the increased number of times you can use them per combat. Remember to use the equipment in your inventory. Without it, you will lose, and lose fast. Enemies that kill you will retain their damage so even particularly difficult opponents can be whittled down by sending in your team one at a time.