My path towards rescuing the A'kari homeworld from a devastating super-weapon took a bit of detour today. I was playing one of the randomly generated missions where you have to defend some space stations from an enemy fleet, and overall, I was doing pretty well. I destroyed the first wave of attackers, and then . . .
Nothing happened. The mission did not complete, nor did the second wave ever spawn. I sent my ships to every corner of the map, to see if there maybe was an enemy straggler I'd failed to eliminate, and I couldn't find one. So I decided to wait.
My controls were not frozen out. I could still give orders to my ships. But as the minutes passed, there was no change in the mission's status. Curious, I became determined to wait a really long time. I started up a TV show (House, if you're wondering) and let the game run. Every once in awhile, I would take a look at my laptop screen and check to see if anything had changed.
I figured this technically counted as playing the game, because it was not as if I'd just chosen to pause it and leave it running. This was, in fact, the game presenting me with a situation where nothing was happening. Where I could control my units while having no goal to control them towards.
For roughly two hours I waited, until it became obvious to me that there would never be any change. Then I quit and restarted.
What did I learn from this? Honestly? Not a damned thing. I guess there's a bug in Distant Star: Revenant Fleet that will sometimes cause a mission not to complete, and were you so inclined, you could spend the rest of your days in a limbo, neither progressing nor losing resources. So, you know, there's that.
The larger portion of my last seven hours was spent actually playing the game. There wasn't much different about these run-throughs. I have yet to defeat the boss and I have yet to fail to get to the boss. I suspect that means that Rookie mode is improperly balanced. Either the random missions are too easy or the final mission is too hard.
I don't think there's anything to unlock in this game, so I'm pretty sure that beating the final boss doesn't do anything for you but give you the satisfaction of a job well done. Which means that for all practical purposes, dying on the last level is almost exactly like winning the last level.
Of course, that's not really an argument that's going to get much traction ("I got all the way up to level 8-4 on the original SMB and then Bowser roasted me with a fireball on the bridge" "Oh, cool, so you only missed like 30 seconds of content"). I mean, a loss doesn't really feel like a virtual win, and the closer you get to the end, the more disappointing it is.
I was going to say that I subsequently wished the ending was easier, but it occurs to me that maybe I should move to a higher difficulty instead. If I can't reach the last level, then I won't be frustrated about dying in the last level.
Does that make sense? It sounded logical in my head, when I came up with it, but the upshot is that my plan is to make the game less frustrating by ensuring that I'll be frustrated more often. It's like an inoculation, maybe.
Or not. I don't know. What I really wish for is a save function. I know it goes against the roguelike ethos, but I guess that's where the roguelike genre and me part ways. I don't like the fact that in order for me to practice the parts of the game that are giving me trouble, I have to first work my way through two hours of prelude. It's like an entire genre of putting the last savepoint before an unskippable cutscene.