Bullet hell games aren’t really my style, but when we were invited by Digital Extremes & Human Head studios to check out Survived By, a free-to-play retro-styled bullet hell meets MMO, my interests were piqued.
Survived By combines the popular roguelite gameplay loop where permadeath is a regular part of the experience with familiar RPG trappings such as classes and item progression, but the twist is that it’s all online in a shared world. Formalized grouping isn’t a thing right now, but what’s really neat is that everything is shared with players nearby. If some dude is killing a monster near you, you get the full (instanced) loot and experience for the kill. This definitely lowers the barrier to playing cooperatively with others and since the game is punishing enough on its own, this feature is to the game’s benefit. That said, it was a bit confusing trying to stick together with other players, so I do hope a real grouping feature is added in soon.
Your character in Survived By is part of a legacy, similar to games like Rogue Legacy, so while you do lose just about everything each time you die, you do keep a sort of legacy wide progression to aid you in your next run through the world. When you die you can spend a resource to unlock (and upgrade) legacy cards that can improve your character a bunch of different ways, from simple things like granting you increased health, to adding a snare effect when you deal damage to enemies, and so on. You can convert the loot on your run into this resource when you die or you can choose to pass on some of your spoils to your next character.
There are currently six character classes in the game: the Alchemist, the Druid, the Geomancer, the Harbinger, the Infiltrator, and the Sentinel. Each class plays differently and can use different weapons and items. The Geomancer throws pickaxes at enemies and can summon turrets to aid him in combat, for example. The Druid can shapeshift into a bear, etc. You can craft gear and find loot to improve your character and there are even procedurally generated dungeons to spelunk scattered throughout the world.
The game world is static, but the dungeons are different each time you spin one up. Dungeons also feature harder difficulty modes for those looking for more of a challenge. There are world events with huge boss fights you’ll need to tackle with other players, as well as raids. If you manage to make it all the way through to the end of progression for a particular class, you’ll even be able to unlock some aspect of that class for all your other characters.
If you’re a fan of bullet hell games and roguelites, Survived By is definitely something to keep an eye on. If you’re like me and you’re not a huge bullet hell fan, but you do like roguelites, I still recommend giving it a try when you can (the game is currently in closed beta). Bullet hell games tend to just make me an anxious mess, but playing with other players really takes the pressure off of the individual when just roaming around the world and that actually made the experience a whole lot more fun for me. I was digging the RPG hooks and the fun art style, but I was apprehensive of the whole everything flying at me at once chaos typical of bullet hells. Turns out playing alongside others really helps make the chaos manageable.