The Worst Way to Die
In T3P’s Teleglitch, the phrase “game saved” just means “game paused” because gosh it’s a roguelike that rolls around in permadeath like it’s won the permadeath lottery.
The first time I made it to Level 3, I lasted around two minutes. I know that’s longer than a typical male sexual engagement but, please, these are experienced hands on the keyboard. So the second time I made it to Level 3, I “saved” my game and shut down the PC. Maybe I’d never play again and assume the survivor I was playing actually made it out without me, unlike what happened to poor Gwaul in Mount & Blade.
But I kept putting it off. Somehow playing Level 3 sounded like a lot of work just to reward myself with a predictable disaster. For motivation, I figured I’d make the game important: take dozens of screenshots and chart my progress through Level 3 to death… or victory, perhaps? I would give Teleglitch the Zaga-33 treatment.
I launched Teleglitch at 21:00 on Thursday, July 11, 2013.
I quit Teleglitch just 34 minutes later, even though my survivor was still alive at the time.
Something strange had happened.
The boom of the teleporter was followed by an eerie hum.
Teleglitch’s procedural generator peppers every level with eerie silences, eerie hums and sometimes eerie crackles. Let’s not ride roughshod over that boom though. The boom is the one moment where I believe that I’ve got the cojones to take the level on. As the boom fades away, the eerie hum poisons that confidence. A part of me wanted to hang out in the teleporter for a little while. At least it was safe.
I was kitted out pretty well with a double shotgun and a trinailgun, but health was down to just 17 and my nail ammo was running out. I could have built a detector but I’d never figured out how to make the damn thing work.
Teleglitch adores wide open spaces, an agoraphobic’s nightmare. Almost every chance it gets, the game will populate such a space with an army of Awful Things that wish to kill me. Whenever a door opens and I can’t see the other side of the chamber immediately, my fingers grip the mouse a little tighter.
Have you played Serious Sam (Croteam, 2001)? Same deal, right? Big spaces, lotsa critters. The standard Sam survival tactic is circle-strafing and a similar tactic works in Teleglitch. Everything I’ve encountered in the game moves 28-Days-Later-fast, so once I’ve acquired an army of Awful Things in pursuit, it’s time to run around in big circles, shooting behind me, desperately attempting to make each shot count. It’s not just a question of ammunition because if I take aim at something, I stop running. If I stop running, the Awful Things will catch up and start… punching me.
Everything I’d encountered so far wanted to punch me. There had been no ripping of limbs or devouring of flesh. However, for the first time I encountered a guard that the base AI had “chipped” and turned into an automaton to do its bidding. According to the in-game notes, the original human consciousness is likely aware of everything they are forced to do but have no agency. A bit like playing a mainstream FPS, then. Anyway, the guard wasn’t trying to punch me – he or she was discharging a goddamn firearm at my face. I didn’t like it.
Even though I killed everything in this room, bodies kept emerging from the ground. It was wearing down my ammunition level and, frankly, freaked me out. Just standing here, minding my own business, was dangerous. I’ve written that shooting games are about cleaning but when a game prevents you from ever finishing that job, well, that’s deeply uncomfortable for the player.
But I’m an explorer, a hunter of trinkets. Trinkets are crucial in Teleglitch because without them I wouldn’t have had my double shotgun and trinailgun. To be thorough, I had to grin and bear the anxiety that something could clamber out of the floor at any given moment.
Something that wanted to punch me to death.
The truth is opening any door is a nerve-wracking experience and I have my gun aim pointed ready when approaching a door. Nonetheless, each door is also my best friend, a chokepoint to hold off a horde and the place where Awful Things can be funnelled into my sights.
Yeah, well, none of that good stuff happened here. I was locked into this particular room and then ambushed by a truckload of Awful Things. Any Teleglitch encounter can result in a quick death if I get cornered because I can’t just walk through enemies, this isn’t that sort of game. With such a tight space and so many adversaries, I expected to end up as dead meat. Actually, with all that punching, more likely dead tenderized meat.
I enticed as many of Awful Things into the anomaly outcrop at the top of the chamber as I could. Tricking enemies in this way is a great way to save ammunition but it’s a bit like running along the edge of a cliff. One false step and the anomaly will have you; it’s rare to survive its gloopy embrace.
Did I tell you that Teleglitch adores small, closed spaces? It’s a claustrophobic’s nightmare, especially when the zoom kicks in, paradoxically making the surroundings seem smaller and tighter. As I prodded around in the corridors further down, I spotted the outline of a giant zombie. Still hurting from the ambush, I reversed course immediately.
It seemed the zombie didn’t see me. Phew.
That “zombie who didn’t see me” was foreshadowing.
I wasn’t sure what was going on. All of the rooms seemed to be filled with the bodies of previously defeated enemies. Except, they didn’t look like they were dead so much. They looked alive yet still, as if posing for a portrait. I could touch them and push them around like any other base debris. Were they… waiting to be triggered? Was the base AI toying with me?
It was terrifying. I felt like the creatures of the base were… staring at me. Waiting to make their move. Any moment now… BOO!
Dread stalked the corridors and it was unbearable.
Right, well, let me now tell you about a second theory I formulated. Rather than some creepy game AI trying to scare me it was more likely I’d hit a glitch in the game.
I knew this theory was correct when I found the exit teleporter without firing a single shot. Nothing had jumped me, nothing had even twitched. This was clearly not right.
The question was whether I should quit the game. Level 3 had been tainted so continuing felt like cheating myself of the experience. But Teleglitch is a permadeath game with a brutal saving system so I couldn’t just roll back to the start of the level. That ship had sailed. If I really believed in purity, I’d start the game again.
Ha, that wasn’t going to happen. Not with a double shotgun and a trinailgun poking out of my back pockets. I decided to save the game and come back for Level 4 another day.
To survive on Level 4, no doubt I would need to collect plenty of ammunition, health kits and machinery from Level 3. If I exited the level now, what chance would I have on the next one?
It was necessity and not greed that compelled me to loot the rest of the level. I departed the teleporter room, deciding the risk of the level re-animating while I was deep in its belly was worth the potential reward. Hopefully, the game wouldn’t notice the glitch and fix it.
It’s not what you think, the level didn’t re-animate. Ha, ha. I might have been able to do something about that.
I had wandered into this vast chamber, looked like some sort of workshop or hangar. Inside were some heavily armoured Things I didn’t recognise that I’m sure would’ve tried to do something painful to me, if it weren’t for the Teleglitch glitch.
But I suspected the hangar was meant to be the location of an epic battle: the doors had locked behind me. No doubt the only way to escape would have been to kill everything… but the glitch state precluded the frozen enemies from being injured.
I suppose I could have interpreted the glitch as my special story with the base AI lulling me into a false sense of security then coaxing me into a hangar that it could down lock tight. From fear to hubris to starvation, in half an hour. But the glitch was too obvious and I could only interpret it as a breakdown of the game. Although the events were detached from the narrative, it still became part of the mechanics: an unexpected roll of the dice. Do I exit the level or try my luck with looting? Decisions, decisions.
Of course, trapped forever, I was left with only one option: to commit suicide via Exit Game. The worst way to die.
Teleglitch: Die More Edition was released today through Paradox Interactive. It can be bought from Steam, Desura and many other online stores.
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18 thoughts on “The Worst Way to Die”
Wowow. Now that’s a story. As I was reading this the idea of the static enemies and AI toying with you, luring you into that hangar was delicious (and made me more than a little giddy for my own arrival on level 3 last night), but alas it was merely a glitch, albeit one that made for a great fireside story. That final image is pretty grim and provocative though; a lone survivor-scavenger indefinitely locked inside a giant hanger in an abandoned military research facility housing two massive but dormant experimental biologically engineered critters on a quarantined planet in a far flung corner of space. Starvation by way of madness!
That ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ choice when stood in front of the teleporter is tough. Sometimes, the hunting for supplies will kill you or diminish your supplies further. Other times you’ll hit the payload and find all sorts of goodies and craftables. Nothing like a bit of risk/reward and permadeath to spice up your play.
And by the way, you looked positively well equipped for level 3 based on what I’ve currently got… eeesh. This is with the DIE MORE EDITION though so…
Speaking of which, I noticed you put half an hour into it last night, did you play it long enough to spot the obvious change?
Hi gregg. Yeah I did try the Teleglitch die more edition last night and discovered it was a lot harder without a pistol as default. It took me many attempts to get through to the second level and discovered a new area pretty quickly. I spent most of my time punching rather than shooting. Don’t know exactly how that makes me feel but I’m going to stick to the original game for now(glitches be damned).
But I still love Teleglitch; it’s likely I will return to it for the site sometime later.
Ah, the big change I mentioned on Steam chat was to do with the first teleporter. I think it could make those restarts more bearable and interesting. Did you notice the random starting gear option?
The two things I actually like about the new version is that firstly, you start with a knife/shockblade thing and little else. This probably isn’t as satisfying as having a pistol by default (after all, the shooting is just lovely) but it does force you to get proficient with the only constant you’ll have in the game. I tried mastering the knife in the original version to preserve ammo so the transition was pretty fluid for me. (Having said this, I still haven’t done the black void dance yet to dispatch enemies.) But also this serves the purpose of making your first ranged weapon a real special find (or creation).
Secondly, bigger swarms of enemies hit you earlier on (that is, on level 1) so you’re under no illusions of what the game can — and will — throw at you. Those swarms are by no means unfair, but they do break the ice.
These two changes, while nasty, do set a good precedent and climatise you to the game’s unflinching difficulty as early as possible. It’s surprising how comfortable and complacent I got pot-shotting single enemies in the original for a level or two and then BAM! surprise swarm and dead. Back to the beginning. At least the new version is happy to administer that healthy dose of Teleglitch’s cruel reality right off the bat.
I’ve not had the brass to create a nailgun yet (a finite close quarter weapon), are they any good? MGs and shotties have helped me the most so far. The sticky grenade launcher has been handy at times too. But don’t get my started on explosives; they’re suicide weapons like the disc thrower in Super Crate Box.
Okay so random starting gear determines what you start with (obv), so you can indeed start with a pistol/ranged weapon and forgo all the stabby stabby. So that’s my first point out the window. I didn’t make it on level 3 and got overrun by a swarm while some pesky onlookers shot at me. On my current attempt however, the swarms haven’t been coming as thick and fast as last time so that might very well be my second point out the window too…
So, yes, Gregg, I got to the second level (surprisingly) easily with the exit teleporter just around the corner more or less. I hopped in but I don’t know why. I need to collect stuff! Things! I started out with a taser once, a rifle a couple of times and also once with dynamite. I had a lot of chocolate.
I do wonder whether making the game harder straight away was a good idea though. I mean- it’s likely to repel some players? And tell me where you can buy the original version…? The Die More Edition is replaced the original.
I don’t know if the nailgun is really great. I’ve not played an excessive amount but I found the shotgun wasn’t as great as I hoped. I love explosives, though, Gregg. Only because they open secret areas, though. I hate throwing explosives away on merely “blowing zombies up”.
The game feels really good and the aim/shoot is a thing that requires quite some work to master.
A taser? I wonder how that differs from the shockblade I received on my first attempt.
The DME has replaced the original as far as I can tell. I know what you mean about the difficulty repelling players but… I don’t know, that’s kind of a staple of roguelikes or at least roguelike elements; you’re at the mercy of the machine. And the difficult has always been there, even if it’s discovered a little later than it is now.
I made a nailgun on my current attempt, a double-barreled one, and it’s pretty nifty and cheap to keep operational. The only downside is ammo uses explosives to craft and they’re handy for various things. Opening secret areas can be done with guns so if you don’t like the shotgun, go point blank and blow some holes in them walls! I actually like using explosives as weapons, even if it is incredibly dangerous. Nailbombs are devastating and have a surprisingly long range on them which has caught me out a few times. I’ve accidentally crafted a stimulant so I ought to see what that does before I die. I’m dubious of its ‘side affects’.
Gah, I mean ‘side effects’.
*the detector works on a passive level, is essential for complete play thru in my opinion – also, can be upgraded, and let you know where sneak attacks will be (EM detector)
this game is so great
@Gregg: Shotguns on walls? Man oh man. That will so make me day. I can’t wait to hear what a stimulant does. I love the humour in that it costs explosives!
@tr: I’ve created a detector before but, well, nothing really seemed to happen. Not sure what I missed! I’ve creator a detector in my new playthrough and we’ll see.
Oh, that’s insult to injury in a roguelike. I’ve had my eye on this one since… well, since you first mentioned it a while ago, HM, and I will pick it up sooner or later. Unfortunately I suffer from an embarrassment of games right now, and I just can’t take on another. Especially one that would make me shiver and weep.
Steerpike, don’t worry about it. You can’t play everything! I don’t know if I’ll ever finish Teleglitch unless I really stick the hours into it. I would like to do another piece on Teleglitch; this one was more about a particular moment than the game itself.
I do like this game. It’s a shame that the simplicity of its presentation and the harsh difficulty curve (and I think a lot of it is down to the first enemies you face (the mutants) having the most unpredictable movement patterns of all the enemies in the game and the standard zombies being much faster than you; as you advance, not only do you get a constant speed boost from an item, enemies become more predictable in their patterns, if more dangerous as well) seems to draw people away, when it’s one of the shooters where the shooting itself is the most satisfying. I reckon a lot of it is down to the sound effects. You mention the teleporter boom and others that the game assaults you with (and it gets worse) but at least it gives you some thunderous sounding guns to “fight it back”. Dropping a 500 in the middle of a crowd is an event in and of itself.
Oh and about the detector, you might have read in one of the info stations that the zombies prefer closed environments and tend to stick to the pipes and corridors instead of open areas? What it does is project a circle around pipe openings that have zombies in them so you know how near you can get to it before you trigger the assault. It really isn’t that necessary an item as you’ll learn to approach open pipes with caution soon enough.
@green: Hi there. Yes I have seen some reaction to the graphics and I’m disappointed that some indie game enthusiasts see the lo-fi look as a problem. It’s so limiting sometimes to get hung up on gfx and miss an awesome game
The sound is excellent and the weapons feel so good, for sure.
Thx for the detecter info!
Oh, sorry. It’s kind of silly but I still manage to get excited over games out of left field like this one in such a way that I’ll even neglect introductions. So, er, hello!
Hey, no worries!
I also created a detector in a previous attempt and couldn’t work out how to use it, or how it worked. I assumed it was passive but never did see it ‘kick in’. It sounds very useful though.
As for the stimulant… aside from the speed increase and the momentarily fuzzled screen it wasn’t clear what else it did. Perhaps it reduced damage and/or increased accuracy or something like that but you’ve definitely got to time its use perfectly because it (obviously) doesn’t last forever and is easily wasted.
I’ve got to say, I can’t be doing with the recoiling at Teleglitch’s visuals, never mind dismissing the game because of them. They remind me of having to run Quake in 320×200 on mine and my brother’s first PC, which given its nods to Quake is quite fitting. But aside from that, I love the stillness and bleakness of it. The line of sight gives the environments this pseudo-3D quality that makes the military facility feel like it has exceptionally high walls, like you’re genuinely closed in. And even though it’s very Quake Brown it has these flourishes of vegetation and those goddamn distorted chromatic visual effects that spark colours everywhere. The subtle physics that cause detritus to shuffle around and impede your movement add to that sense that the facility and its denizens only move when you do.
The sound design is really quite something too, punch sound effects aside. I love the strangely calming breeze in outdoor areas, the buzzing and humming machines, and especially the teleporter boom and weapon sounds. There’s just a lot that doesn’t carry over in screenshots, hell, the trailer for the DIE MORE EDITION isn’t a patch on the original’s because of the ACTION music smothering it all.
Gregg, I so want to do a Teleglitch video.
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