Roguelikes. You either love them or you hate them, there’s no in-between. This sub-genre makes you cringe through a horrifyingly difficult, randomly-generated gauntlet whose final reward is often just a barely tangible virtual bauble. These games are specific in that they make you master what little tools you have at your disposal and then use those tools in all kinds of procedural situations, all of which will very easily take you down. The best thing? It’s perma-death, more often than not. Alas, as horrible as it sounds on paper, rogue-likes are oftentimes deceivingly fun and intense experiences that easily keep you coming back for more. Just take a look at Dungeons of Dredmor or Binding of Isaac. Leap of Fate is a similar game, but one that’s different in many regards. Having recently been released in Early Access, this title is now ready for previewing and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

In Leap of Fate, players take control over a modern-day cyberpunk mage as he attempts to uncover his fate by taking part in a strange and mysterious crucible, one where many a mage have already fallen before the dangers that lie within. Not only does he have to face the trials prepared for him by the strange tarot cards, but he also has to evade the dangerous Cabal as they send heavily armed mercenaries and mutants after him. This is the setting of Leap of Fate, as it currently stands, and even though three more characters are to be added to the game’s roster, the backstory is likely going to remain static. The game’s universe is a strange amalgamation of modern-day fantasy and cyberpunk, and it works. Through the many random quotes and additional lore entries, the game slowly builds what is a believable universe in a genre where I would least expect one.

The gameplay is a tad complex for the first couple of minutes, before you figure everything out. Basically, upon starting a new game you pick a character, the game difficulty and can review your current passives and whatnot. Once you’ve made your choice, the first deck of tarot cards is shuffled before you, creating a tree of sorts depicting all the stages currently available for you to clear. In the three hours I’ve spent with the game so far, I’ve never had the same selection of stages repeating itself. The large majority of cards will be the combat rooms. These have three possible difficulties and a selection of potential rewards, as depicted on the card itself. The only way to complete each deck (three of which are currently playable) is to find the specially designated card, surviving whose challenge the player may advance to the next deck. Oftentimes it won’t be necessary to complete every single card, so it’s important to weigh out the difficulty and reward ratio for each undertaken mission. As you may have suspected, health level and energy resources carry over from one clash to another, making planning and careful advancement a must if you ever wanna complete the game.

Not that that’s an easy thing to do, mind you. True to its genre, Leap of Fate features fast, aggressive enemies who will easily take you down for good. The player character’s movement is controlled via the usual WASD prompts while attacking is done with the mouse. Aside from the initially weak primary attack one can get their hands on powerful Glyphs that, when cast, can sometimes easily turn the tides on your adversaries. Combat is fast, brutal and tactile – fun more than anything else, and I’m finding the game to be more interesting to me than, say, Binding of Isaac ever was. Your abilities in usual gameplay are limited to a set number of uses. The rapid energy dash, for example, may have only three or four uses before being rendered useless – this means you’ve got to carefully control how and what happens on the battlefield if you want to stay alive. The same goes for Glyphs; and even though you may find special crystals that can temporarily increase the number of abilities at your disposal, relying on these instances is a death sentence in the long run. Each deck of cards will have at least one skill upgrade for your mage, where you can spend your hoarded mana on whatever skills can be unlocked with the given card. The skill trees are shuffled every time a new game is started, which means you never really know what kind of a mage will you be able to build. It’s a novel system that removes one’s ability to fall into the trap of repetitiveness at the cost of sometimes offering potentially overpowered or underpowered character builds.

As you progress through the game you’re bound to die. Repeatedly. To alleviate the feeling of hopelessness that’s sure to spring up after a while the game has a special passive skill tree where upgrades are unlocked by completing achievements through usual gameplay. These range from the ordinary damage increases to more interesting ability enhancements. For example, the energy dash for the starter mage will be improved early on so as to deal a set amount of damage to the enemies you pass through. This means you’ll want to micromanage the ever-prowling mobs into conga lines of death to sweep through as you evade their attacks. It’s great fun, really.

In its current build, the game is a tad light in regards to content. With only one character and the first part of easy mode available, it’s easy to be done with it all in a matter of hours, but the developer promises lots more to come in the following months. The gameplay is fun and I can see the game being great in the long run, once all is said and done. If you’re a rogue-lite fan, it may be worth your while to keep an eye out for Leap of Fate.