Upcoming RPG puzzle shooter Ampersat proves a bedroom coder can still make magic

Full disclosure: I was an early beta tester on this releasing-in-September Steam game created entirely by a former colleague (and still friend).  However, I feel that having battled through all of its dungeons and towers, and been informed of the refinements that have been made since, qualifies me to rave about it.

Ampersat sees a brave little @ symbol attempting to free the letters of the alphabet from the dastardly Lord Z. In fact, until you’ve liberated a few, you won’t have any idea what the shopkeepers and other NPCs are saying! However, doing so requires RPG grinding, arcade-style puzzle solving and frantic shootouts.

Ampersat - Level

Tough but fair

Not only does Ampersat successfully juggle genres, the learning curve is just right. I went from being humbled by the first boss I tackled and wondering how I was ever gonna beat it to – 40-odd hours later – overwhelming the Big Bad with my optimised magic armour/weapons/spells and fully unlocked skill tree.

Freedom to explore

Another thing I dug about Ampersat was the non-linearity. Struggling with one dungeon complex? Take your ice kit and tackle the fiery critters in a different labyrinth. Feel like upgrading a town shop? That definitely has its rewards. Stuck on a boss? Go find the secrets you missed on earlier levels (they all have ‘em!).

Ampersat - Game

Balancing act

As already stated, Ampersat is a solo effort, which is obviously a challenge when you’re trying to combine aspects of roguelites, maze games and top-down shooters to produce something new that works. I asked the programmer, who goes by the title Pale Gibbon, how they went about bringing it all together.

“In nearly all cases, I made the puzzle elements optional. They tend to be shortcuts past tougher routes or ways to earn extra treasure, as well as giving you a break from the action. They can be overcome by brute force if you’re powerful enough.

Balancing RPG and pure shooter/hack-and-slash gameplay was more difficult, especially with so many build strategies at your disposal. At first, I was modelling progression versus satisfaction in a spreadsheet, but eventually favoured just playing the game over and over.

I vividly recall finishing one playthrough then starting the next immediately, and the difference in the character’s power level was stunning. Yet when I went back to it the following day, it felt OK again. That’s when I knew I was in the right ballpark.”

Ampersat - Options

Worth the wait

If you love games that continually surprise you with clever design and old-fashioned RPG grinding that isn’t ruined by monsters that simply scale up in might, you’ll definitely want to grab Ampersat when it hits Steam in September. And I haven’t even mentioned the fairy helper available via local/online co-op!

Visit the Ampersat page on Steam.

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This Article was written by: Rahul Shirke

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