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Wasteland Kings is a merciless game about trial and error

Vlambeer's roguelike-like game, Wasteland Kings, is a brutal game that rewards patience, situational awareness and mastery of trial and error.

The game is set in a desolate world where creatures have mutated into grotesque monsters. There is no law but the law of survival. Every now and then, someone will rise up and attempt to become king of the wasteland, only to die trying. During our demo at PAX Prime 2013, we died — a lot — and that's something players should get used to, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail told us.

"It's a roguelike, and roguelikes are not necessarily built for being really merciful," Ismail said. "It's a merciless game. If you are not used to roguelikes or topdown shooters, it's going to be a really rough time."

Like previous Vlambeer games, Rami said, Wasteland Kings is built on a simple system: run, shoot and survive. To progress through the game, however, players have to master that system. Players have to clear each level before they can move on to the next, and it requires a great deal of trial and error.

"You die, you start over and you've learned something, so try again."

"People are going to die a lot in a lot of different ways," Ismail said. "That's actually one of the most exciting things, because we didn't design this game as a normal game. It's a lot about randomness and situation that we haven't designed. A lot of things that happened in the game are not necessarily things that we thought of. People will figure out weird combinations of weapons that do things that we haven't thought of."

In one case, Ismail said, a player was able to successfully dual wield with a sledgehammer a pistol. By using the sledgehammer defensively, he could deflect bullets, while the pistol cleared out enemies quickly. Another player mastered crowd control by knocking enemies back with a laser and finishing them off with a pistol. During our time with the game, we had the most success by sniping enemies from afar with the crossbow and staying on the move.

"You're running from place to place trying not to get shot, which is hard enough as it is," Ismail said. "It's a lot about situational awareness. It's a lot about understanding the way the rapid generation works, understanding the way the enemies work. A lot of that is just going to be trial and error. You're just going to run into an enemy and be like, 'Oh, what does this do?' And then it shoots you with a laser and you die and start over.

"In this world, somebody dying is not a big deal. It just happens. That's how the game treats it as well. You die, you start over and you've learned something, so try again."

The next level of puzzles.

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