As the doors open, I hear the screams. A pack of things rush me and I only have a few shells left in my shotgun, not nearly enough to take down this frenzied mass. As I wait for them to get closer, I say my prayers and ready my last explosive. I place it at my feet and, at the last second, run back through the doors. The explosion echoes faintly and, with my gun raised, I wait to see what's going to come rushing through.
This is Teleglitch: Die More Edition. Teleglitch is a top-down roguelike with omni-directional shooting that launched late last year on PC. The Die More Edition institutes enemy AI tweaks and adds new levels, weaponry and lore information. It tells the story of a hapless researcher stuck in a military complex after a teleporter experiment goes awry and something comes through from the other side. It's a typical sci-fi trope to be sure, but it makes for a quick and easy vehicle to explain fighting monsters, zombies, robots and other genetically enhanced nightmares.
After emerging from his hiding place and pushing aside a clumsily arranged barricade, the silent protagonist must progress from zone to zone, always in search of the next teleporter that will bring him one step closer to freedom. That pursuit is a silent one: Without a backing score and only the faintest inclusion of sound effects (gunfire, monsters screaming and explosions) the silence only amplifies the tension accompanying each step forward. It's an interesting choice to forego any sort of musical accompaniment, one that serves the atmosphere's overall sense of terror in a palpable way.
In Teleglitch: Die More Edition, you can choose to start with only your 9mm pistol (as in the original game) or to spawn with random items - fitting given how integral randomization is to the experience – but it's never enough. You're never truly equipped to handle the situation at hand.
No two sessions of Teleglitch: Die More Edition are the same. The levels are randomly generated, as are the enemy sets, item drops and layouts of each particular wing of the massive facility. And every single level is a haunting endeavor, full of enemies silently milling about, waiting to pounce as soon as they sense your presence. You never know what might alert them – it could be a stray bullet or something as simple as opening a door.
Part of what makes the experience so harrowing is just how strong and unpredictable enemies can be. Low-level enemies tend to employ patterns, behaviors you can monitor and learn and adapt to. Later on, you have to deal with groups of mixed enemy types, and certain baddies start packing guns. One high-level enemy shooting at you is tough enough – surround him with a horde of zombies and panic sets in. And you will panic. Mistakes will be made. Death will be inevitable.
Every enemy in Teleglitch is dangerous, which adds weight to every encounter. Learning and understanding enemy patterns is challenging, but the real payoff comes from exploiting them at a moment's notice during tense, sudden skirmishes – the intrinsic value of Teleglitch: Die More Edition's combat model. When you desperately lead a line of running madmen into a carefully placed bomb and watch seven of them go down at once, it's utterly empowering. And Teleglitch: Die More Edition offers no aid whatsoever. There's no tutorial to guide you by the hand. You're all alone, and you'll have to discover the game's essential strategies organically.
That's a rewarding experience, but it's also a brutally difficult one. Teleglitch is demanding and hostile towards its players, and that's bound to turn some people off. There's incredible satisfaction to be drawn from success, but some may not find it a worthy trade-off for all the frustration.
Outside of discovering random items, a rudimentary crafting system is in place to create your tools of survival. Combining a can with a high-powered explosive and a box of nails can turn it into a devastating nail bomb or a vicious can gun, a single-use weapon invaluable for dispatching crowds at close range. You can create stimulants that boost your performance, modify guns to be even stronger or even build detectors that help warn you of nearby enemies.
The crafting system works well, though sometimes it's impeded by the game's art style, which is full of chunky pixels and basic sprites that can make it hard to see items within the level. It's crucial that you uncover and acquire everything you can, because the game so seldom tosses you a bone. It's a shame, because the art style is unique and beautiful, but it's frustrating to occasionally backtrack through a room and discover you missed a vital pickup the first time around – not to mention however many items you may have overlooked entirely.
Progress in Teleglitch comes at a snail's pace. Every death earns you more knowledge and (hopefully) you get just a little further along each session. Thankfully, you won't always have to restart from the very beginning, as reaching certain levels allows you to start from later in the game. If you reach level five, for example, you can start a new game from level three.
That adds to your sense of accomplishment, obviously, although completing any level in Teleglitch already feels like a triumph. Even the first level is tough, and once you reach the first teleporter it's a satisfying and formative moment, one where eventual victory seems possible – until the next level kicks your teeth in, of course.
Teleglitch's greatest strength isn't the constant tension and the ever-present fear of what lies around the next corner, it's the empowerment you feel from besting the seemingly impossible odds. It's the sense of development, learning from each death and relishing in the sweet moment of triumph when you deftly react to a sudden problem. Teleglitch is a harsh mistress, but the cruelest lessons are often the ones that truly stick with us.
This review is based on a download code of Teleglitch: Die More Edition, provided by Paradox Interactive. The game is currently available for $12.99 on Steam.
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