Into The Pit is newly arrived on Xbox. With a unique look and a frenetic pace, it immediately caught my eye when it was revealed back at Gamescom. It’s an incredibly fast-paced FPS rogue-lite, two of my favorite genres. Add in the fact that it is releasing day one on Game Pass and I was elated. How does it all hold up? Well, let’s find out.
First things first, this is a beautifully ugly game. Through the use of strong color palettes and various filters, there is a vibrant 3D-pixelated aesthetic that I think looks fantastic. Things run at a tough to tell resolution and video footage with YouTube compression doesn’t do it justice. On my Series X, the framerate was rock-solid as well. These unique graphics serve to showcase the bleak and desolate world in which the game takes place. You come from a family of lore-hunting mystics and you are summoned to a village that is rumored to contain a demonic portal. The town is littered with little bells which lead you to the game’s various shops and quest givers.
Each of these is a simple text-based interaction and the writing is, fine. I quickly found myself focused solely on buying whatever I could for the various systems as quickly as possible and heading to that portal to start up my next run. Things start rather brutal, as you are weak and your runes (which serve to empower your run to your liking) are level 1. Quickly enough I was teleported to the demonic realm where I was met with my choice of 4 different paths. Each path has two options that give various types of currency, and you can choose one per path. These currencies are either used in a run to fuel the Cheat Death mechanic or post-run for buying new runes and keys. Special portals can be randomly generated which allow you to rescue one of the village’s residents and is the main gating mechanic to progress.
After all 4 portals are cleared you can then descend to the next level, and I found the setup for these micro dungeon runs to be excellent, well at first. As you progress and unlock more keys you’ll get access to a decent variety of areas. One issue I had is how incredibly similar each run can end up feeling as the room layouts repeat constantly. After a few hours, I could almost immediately tell exactly how I’d have to run through a room, and my favorite thing about rogue-lites is the variety you find in the random generation. The biggest thing though is the gameplay.
The game works on a Left Trigger and Right Trigger combat system, with each controlling the appropriate one. You are given a decent variety of attacks eventually, but it is rather limited feeling to start. They do end up feeling like different versions of the same attack quite often, but the best part is the power-ups. These are your typical randomly selected things such as frost powers to slow, or faster attack speed, and at first, I was enjoying the system. As the runs went on though it became clear that the game is heavily balanced around percentage modifier abilities, which do far more for your damage output than any debuff style moves. Attack speed and extra damage are always the right choices alongside the necessary healing abilities. I had multiple runs ruined because no matter how many times I spent currency to refresh my choices I did not get the buffs I needed most, and the lack of balance here really hurt the game for me. Sound-wise there isn’t much to talk about. Enemies have graphic-appropriate muddy roars, the music is ok but not there often enough, and there is no voice acting to speak of.
So much of this game ends up feeling like a few good ideas sandwiched by severe limitations. The lack of layout variety, the poor balance of the buffs, and the samey weapon types were greatly disappointing. Another issue I had was with a few major bugs. Thankfully the game saves your progress as you enter each micro-dungeon but there were multiple times where my game bugged out and I was stuck in place and could not move. The only solution was to return to the title and start it over again.
Into The Pit has some genuine fun in it. It controls well, has a unique look, and has great potential with its rogue-lite offerings. In the end though for me, the lack of variety in multiple areas kept it from being something I could recommend except for the fact that it’s only $15 and is also on Game Pass. For free (if you’re already an existing member) it’s a no-brainer to give this one a try if anything you’ve seen about it has caught your eye. After all, the only cost will be a little bit of your time.