Deathstate is well over a year old at this point, and by now after full release most games either settle down with dreams of long-tail sales or go the DLC route. Deathstate, on the other hand, has grown quite a bit since its initial launch back in October 2015, with its latest update coming out over the holiday week. The game I reviewed way back then is richer and deeper than it used to be, and it’s worth taking time to explore its changes.
Deathstate is an action roguelike that’s almost, but not quite, a twin stick shooter. The game dispenses with aiming by having the character shoot automatically at the closest enemy, which sounds like it takes control from the player but actually adds a surprising amount of precision when you understand how it works. Losing manual aim also allows Deathstate to go to town on the bullet hell, which isn’t so bad on the early levels but really comes into its own as the game progresses. Enemies aren’t shy about laying down the firepower in conflicting patterns, but you counter this by finding squidgy new alien organs to stuff into your spectral frame for stat bonuses. There are also shot-changing swords, mystic helper-books that provide backup firepower, plus other magical effects and items. Deathstate was already a fun, unique action-roguelike, but it’s come into its own in a major way since release.
Changes have included new enemies and attack patterns, entirely new interdimensional realms, more bosses (including five crystal skeletons who merge into a giant Cthulhian Megazord when their health gets low), a visible hit-box on the player, and an expanded range of items and weapons to collect. There’s also an Insanity difficulty that starts out brutal and gets progressively more crowded with pink-bullet doom, although the third level could be a warm grassy field with chirping birds and the occasional friendly grasshopper for all I’ve survived to see it. The late-game balance is also reported to have been improved, but as it turns out a year away has made me rusty so I’ve yet to experience that directly. The newest update focuses on polish, adding more animations for the player characters, new visual effects, and improved audio. Its main gameplay update, in addition to a some secrets and double-handful of internal organs (ew) is the Endless Mode. As the name implies this goes on forever, with each level being pulled randomly from the different types available and unique unlocks found in its depths.
Deathstate has changed from quirky-good to just-plain-excellent in the months since release, with the initial flaws patched out and replaced with a huge amount of content. The latest update was a nice surprise, and a good excuse to get reacquainted with a game that I’d left behind. What was already a nicely sizeable arcade roguelike has matured into a game that deserves to be one of the genre’s heavy hitters, packed with action, secrets, and frenzied Cthulhian bullet-hell carnage.