Something incredible happened this week: I beat a Roguelike game.
It’s never happened before. But after a few weeks of picking up Neon Abyss obsessively every night, I laid waste to its final boss last night. I whooped, I punched the air, I celebrated my momentous victory. But it was short-lived as I then realised, “what am I going to do with myself now?”
Obviously, the answer to that question is play any one of the other 2,000-odd games on my Xbox. Maybe even one that – shock, horror – I need to write about for work purposes. But that would mean being productive. Since its launch last month, Neon Abyss has been my go-to procrastination tool.
I very much have a love-hate relationship with Roguelike games. As in: I say I hate them, but I actually love them. I’ll curse at them when I’m losing but they’ll always suck me back in; before Neon Abyss it was Atomicrops, and before that it was RAD, The Binding of Isaac or Rogue Legacy. And numerous others in between. There’s just something about the plight to get that bit further every time that sucks me in. And Neon Abyss had the perfect formula to get right into my veins.
With five ‘managers’ to face (because calling them ‘bosses’ is too obvious), Neon Abyss has a straightforward structure. You’ll move through a side-scrolling dungeon, and should you manage to reach the end, you’ll face one of those bosses. Once one has been defeated, you’ll move on to the next, then the next. But when you get to manager number four, things get a little more complicated. They don’t unlock automatically; you’ll also need to find a randomly-generated token on your journey which grants you access to the manager’s level. Fail to find the token, and you’ll simply fight the previous manager before being kicked out of the dungeon.
While my many hours spent playing Neon Abyss has made me something of a pro at dispatching its enemies (lol yeah right), progress does often feel down to luck. As you play, you’ll pick up random items and pets – many of which are helpful, but some can hinder you. Typical items will increase your weapon power, or give you extra health, or enable you to fly. Pets can help you attack enemies or block incoming bullets – but some pesky ones will steal hearts and coins away from you, making progress that little bit harder.
So while most of the time I’ll easily reach the end of the dungeon, there are those cursed runs where I’ll die ridiculously quickly from a simple mistake, or not make it more than halfway because the RNG gods have not been kind to me. You’d think that would be frustrating, but it just makes me more keen to jump in again.
Every night, I’ve sat down in front of my Xbox One, with the intention of playing something I need to cover. Nine times out of ten, Neon Abyss‘ draw has been too great to resist; “just one quick run,” I tell myself. Two hours later, I’m still there, it’s nearly bedtime, and I’ve not touched any of the games I was supposed to be playing.
But it’s all over now. With defeating the fifth manager, Neon Abyss’ credits rolled. I’m pleased I’ve defeated the game, but I’m left with an empty feeling. Now what? I could go back in and continue to unlock new characters and see what weird and wonderful items I could pick up. But when there’s no greater goal to work towards, it feels rather futile.
On the bright side, my productivity levels may finally increase. Or I could just start playing Rogue Legacy again. Decisions, decisions.
→ Read more: The Best Roguelike Games on Xbox One