Cryptark

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by AlienTrap Games for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4, originally released in 2017.
Cryptark is a roguelike twin stick shooter that centers around a privateering vessel that is commissioned to recover the contents of a massive derelict spacecraft known as the Cryptark, which contains valuable alien technology. Along the way, the crew enters other ships to salvage materials, uncover enhanced weaponry and equipment, and earn more money from their benefactors so they can continue pushing forward. Unfortunately, these spacecraft are not simply floating treasure troves… they’re guarded by defensive machinery built to protect its systems.


The game is built around a strict economic system, and the player’s starting investment is quickly eaten away by suit modifications, weapons, and ammunition. Materials can be recovered from ships, with additional rewards from destroying ship cores quickly, or refraining from the use of certain equipment, but taking additional risks may mean missing out on valuable upgrades. On the other hand, exploring every corner of a ship opens the player to attack, and getting killed means buying a new exosuit… and they don’t come cheap. Lose enough money and there will be no way to continue the mission.


The player – or two in local 2P co-op – is given an incredible amount of freedom as to how he engages each mission. Once past the tutorial area, the player is given the option between several ships to enter, each with its own systems, enemies, and potential upgrades, and different kinds of ships offer different challenges. Each ship is procedurally generated, so layouts change from one run to the next, but the focus is on exploration and destroying ship systems that allow you to eventually disable the core.


You begin each mission within your small spacecraft, which floats close to the ship you have chosen to enter. Here, you can equip your exosuit with up to four weapons (and/or shields) and up to four items. At the start of the game, you have access to a medium machine gun, a dashing strike, grenades, and a shield, and you can equip a healing item that restores half of the exosuit’s energy. As you discover technology pods aboard each ship, the plans are sent to your benefactors, and new weapons are made available to you… for a price.


You are able to select your ideal configuration and test it, and you are told how much this loadout will cost before you leave the ship. Depending on your resources, you may need to select some weaker weapons rather than going in with all of the shiniest new equipment. As you play, you’ll earn more powerful machine guns, as well as other weapon types like lasers, shotguns, EMP weapons, guided missiles, and even mini-nuke rockets that generate huge explosions and cause continuous damage to enemies (and to you, if you’re not careful), as well as numerous grenade types and shields. Some weapons have secondary functions, such as piercing projectiles and bouncing bullets, although some heavier weapons also reduce your maneuverability. There are dozens of weapons to be found throughout the experience.


You need to choose your loadout carefully, as your weapon selection must see you through any situation you come across, and you can only carry so much ammo… although some weapons allow you to carry more ammo if you’re willing to foot the bill. There are occasional ammo and shield restoring pods found within ships, but these require payment as well, further solidifying the game's economy-driven nature.


When the player finishes outfitting his exosuit, he leaves his vessel and is able to jet freely around the ship he wishes to enter (in a nice touch, there is no sound in these space-based sequences). Ships have multiple doorways, some of which are locked and some are unlocked. Unless you want to use one of your precious inventory slots for a key, you’re best off looking for an unlocked door and picking up keys along the way, as these tend to be plentiful.


In early areas, players can see a map of the entire ship, allowing them to set waypoints and make a plan of attack. However, some later areas feature jammers that prevent the player from seeing anything on the map that he hasn’t personally explored, with the exception of ship systems and pickups. At first, there isn’t much strategy required for entering a ship and reaching the core. The player can opt to destroy ship systems or leave them alone, as early systems simply supplement enemy defenses.


For instance, an armor system provides enemies with additional health, and factories pump out enemies or hazards every so often. Disabling a sentry system causes all of the ship’s turrets to go offline… or you can just deal with them as you go. Destroying the door system unlocks all of the doors on the ship… or you can just use keys. Destroying the alarm system disables trip lasers that summon additional enemies, which can be blasted away. In another nice touch, enemy systems reflect their function, so the alarm system has one or more rotating alarm beams that set off alarms when they touch you, and the shield generator system has a rotating shield.


As you progress from mission to mission, strategically destroying these systems becomes much more important. For instance, the nuclear destruct system causes any destroyed system to unleash a gigantic nuclear blast that extends outward in a circle, causing heavy damage if you don’t get away in time. A repair system slowly repairs any previously destroyed systems, putting it high on the priority list if you don’t want to lose progress.


Armor systems can protect other systems with impenetrable shields, so you need to take them down first. There are also backup systems that can take on the function of previously destroyed systems, as well as the aforementioned jammer that prevents you from seeing the map and enemy placement, and even a system that causes all of the other systems to cycle positions within the ship every so often.


Most systems aren’t terribly difficult to defeat. They have some defenses but remain stationary, allowing players to clear out any nearby threats and then blast them to bits. That said, regular enemies – even the smaller ones – can be quite challenging, and it’s possible to lose half of your health in just a few seconds if you’re not careful. Some small enemies can dash quickly to cause melee damage, making them difficult to evade if you have a heavy loadout, and difficult to target if you have an inaccurate weapon. There are numerous projectile-firing enemies as well, which can absorb quite a bit of damage before exploding, and there are some large-scale enemies that can deliver a lot of hurt in a short time.


When weapons aren’t getting the job done, the player may fall back on one of his installed items. Items include health restoratives, remote explosives, support drones, and alarms that draw away enemies. One of the more useful items is a reusable cloak that grants temporary invisibility. When used strategically, players can bypass threats to reach heavily-guarded pickups, ship systems, and health and ammo restoratives, or even make a run for the ship’s central core. Similarly, a teleportation buoy allows players to dash into dangerous situations and quickly warp back to a safe point. There are also some passive items that can extend weapon accuracy, damage, and fire rates, or reduce the impact of explosives or environmental damage.


Similar to the structure in FTL, the player must make it through a series of missions before reaching his final goal, and running out of resources requires him to begin again. Here, players must make their way through five ships before reaching the Cryptark. Getting low on currency can place the player in desperate situations where his only hope may be a quick run on a ship’s core to replenish funds quickly and allow him to move forward. The game also features a Rogue mode where players move from ship to ship and must acquire weaponry on-site rather than purchasing it.


As players make progress, they not only discover keys and weapons, but also artifacts, which can be traded toward new exosuits with different specifications, special abilities, and default loadouts… although they can pull from the same pool of weapons and items. The default exosuit allows for a quick dash in any direction, allowing players to dodge incoming enemies or projectiles. Other exosuits offer various tradeoffs and allow for different playstyles, such as having a more heavily armored suit that is less maneuverable, a suit with heavy weaponry but slow speed, or a lockpicking rogue with built-in cloaking and a short-range teleporter, but with a lower maximum health.



2D CRED
Cryptark was developed by AlienTrap, made up of designer and art director Jesse McGibney, designer and technical director Lee Vermeulen, programmer Graeme Collins , artist and animator Ariane Laurence, and level designer Berkley Staite. Sound design for the game was created by Eduardo Ortiz Frau, and music was composed by Ryan Roth and Ryan Henwood. The studio previously developed Capsized and Apotheon.

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