And the brave expedition was never heard from again
The story of Sword of The Stars: The Pit is a simple one, at least on the surface.
Arbuda IV is a colony world on the edge of human controlled space where Sol Force veterans from all service branches go to retire. Besides settling the world and the hardships tied to it, this was supposed to be a nice, cushy place to relax for the end of their days. Peace and quiet was not in the cards for this colony world however as plague breaks out and starts turning the population into zombies.
The scientists on the Arbuda IV can't figure out a cure for this plague, so they come up with the next best thing. Send a series of obviously suicidal expeditions into an ancient alien facility deep in the mountains in hopes of finding the source and a cure for this plague. Nobody knows if there's even a hope of finding a cure in this facility, but at least there is that hope that there just might be something in The Pit.
That's the story that you are told from the intro cinematic at the beginning of the game. The rest of the story is told through repairing and hacking different terminals along your journey and successfully deciphering the data inside.
Nothing says retirement like exploring ancient and deadly alien facilities
Just don't expect it to be relaxing! But first things first! You have to pick a character. There are three to chose from, each with their own back stories and specializations, all retired Sol Force veterans who weren't exactly expecting to have to fight off a zombie plague on their hard earned break.
The first and most straight forward of the bunch is the Marine. The marine is your typical Sol Force monkey who starts out armed to the teeth in comparison to the other two characters, and with skills that are heavily focused on all forms of combat from the get go. While the marine can shoot his way out of most fights and take hits that would seriously injure the others, he has a bit of a hard time preparing to survive deep inside The Pit due to his lack of crucial utility skills. He'll struggle with foraging, lock picking and even handling computers which can contain vital supplies and information.
At the other extreme we have the Engineer, who is loaded with all sorts of utility skills and items but is lacking when it comes to combat skills. He can't really handle taking a hit but he can defend himself well enough with a pistol, and if you ever need something repaired or hacked they work wonders. They can also forage and pick locks with relative ease.
Finally there's the Jack of all trades character, the Scout. Scouts are right smack in the middle of the other two characters, having good utility and combat skills. They're not really lacking in any department other than handling computers, which does offer up a challenge when it comes to activating repair and medical terminals as well as the computers which hold encrypted messages with she story of the game and recipes. They won't be lacking for supplies, however, as they have the easiest time picking locks and foraging from the start. When I played scout I was actually a little too well equipped, with two different pistols, three swords, as well as three of the same rifle. Where I struggled was finding and items to repair my equipment with and not breaking terminals that could help me out.
But what if you want to do everything the other classes can while playing a soldier? Nothing's stopping you! It's just a rocky start for whatever your character is lacking. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that there was a fairly robust role playing system in place here in Sword of The Stars: The Pit. While each class starts with its own strengths and weaknesses, players can level up as they play. Sometimes an individual skill will level up the more a player uses it, other times players will gain enough experience points to move on to the next level and have ability and skill points to distribute. Players can then decide if they want to further improve their strengths or improve on their weaknesses.
Being a rogue like, just about everything in Sword of The Stars: The Pit is randomly generated. Maps might not seem to be this way because the tile set is always the same for each set of floors, I think it's around every five floors after the first few levels where the tile set changes. Sometimes a floor might have a nice variety of things for players to tinker with and only a handful of monsters. Other times it's a floor full of nothing but kitchens and monsters! You never know what's on the next floor, and it helps keep each replay of the game fresh. If that wasn't enough, there are also modifications for weapons, armor and players, along with door traps, which are also randomly generated and are color coded rather than named. In one match a red mod can improve your weapons accuracy, and in the next game it might decrease its durability. It's the same story with door traps. One game they can be deadly, the next they can be your favorite thing to find as they can heal players and charge their items. I'm still hoping to find a door trap that repairs my equipment, since there are some that flat out destroy items.
Recipes and messages
What does stay the same, however, and I'm very glad they do, are the recipes and encrypted messages that you discover. Your soldier made it down twenty floors but could barely turn on a computer, let alone decipher a message? As long as you didn't try that time you can just try to decipher it on your next run as an engineer, perhaps he can figure out what's hidden inside that garbled mess of text. Maybe it's some more story, or a recipe. Speaking of recipes! You can also discover these on your own by experimenting with labs or cooking stations encountered on your adventures. Experimenting is a must in Sword of The Stars: The Pit if you want to play without looking up recipes online or talking with friends. Some of the items players can make will provide great support utility skills or flat out improve survivability when crafting weapons or armor.
Finally there's combat. Normally players can run about freely without a care in the world, but once an enemy is nearby it settles into a turn based system, and success depends on how skilled your character is with their weapon and its related stats, and how lucky they are, just like with picking a lock.
Enemies are also rather fast in comparison to the player, so there are a few you can kite, but the rest will just keep attacking you if you try to move more than one cell at a time. There are a variety of weapons, from the basic pistol to laser rifles, grenades and who knows what else. I've only made it 17 floors in as a soldier and he hardly found any equipment because he struggled to open things, while my engineers and scouts struggled to get past the 15th floor if I couldn't find equipment to take out the wide variety of things that go bump in the dark halls of The Pit. In all honesty I died more often than not to disease rather than monsters, unless I played on insane difficulty. I really can't recommend people take on that difficulty level without a Marine character or at least a scout, since I often found myself being swarmed by powerful enemies as soon as I hit the second floor.
Come live out your days on Arbuda IV!
I honestly lost track of time while playing Sword of The Stars: The Pit. "I'll just play for a few hours and review it!" I thought, since it was a rogue like that looked fairly straight forward and simple, but before I realized what was going on I was playing it almost every night until I was just about ready to pass out, each time trying to get deeper still into The Pit before I died to disease or some monster doing terrible things to me. My most amusing death involved an acid monster destroying every single weapon on my Marine at around the twentieth floor. I was forced to defend myself with my bare hands. I managed to kill the acid creature and a security droid before finally dying to another, heavier security droid.
Sword of The Stars: The Pit is certainly worth buying, especially you enjoy a challenging game with lots of replay value. Even on normal mode this game pulls no punches. It also might be a nice change of scenery for fans the Sword of The Stars series, which normally takes place in, you know, the stars. I really need to pick up the space games.
What do you guys think about Sword of The Stars: The Pit? Let us know by commenting below!