The latest creation from developer Harebrained Schemes is Necropolis, a dungeon crawler that sends players deep into the catacombs of Abraxis in search of treasure. Like No Man’s Sky, Necropolis introduces procedural generation into the various stages players will be exploring throughout their time with the game by using algorithms to generate a fresh level each time. It’s a great concept in theory, but ultimately falls short because it generates levels that feel too familiar past a certain point – and it’s got me worried about No Man’s Sky.
Like other roguelikes, Necropolis comes packaged with everything that makes dungeoneering great: cooperative gameplay to enjoy with friends, difficult encounters to work through, and a metric ton of loot to claim. But this time around, you’ll be playing through procedurally generated levels which change every time you play through the game with a new character. The goal of the developers seems like it was to make every game feel somewhat unique and challenging, but unfortunately they’ve fallen sort.
Don’t get me wrong, when I first booted up Necropolis, I was absolutely hooked. A few buddies joined me as we explored the endless catacombs and arcane areas, collecting loot and taking in the various sights Necropolis had to offer — it was an addicting experience, but after about eight hours of play that feeling started to fade away.
The idea behind procedurally generated levels is great in theory. Essentially developers work to create a series of assets (level designs, enemies, traps, and so on) that their game can use to create levels for players as they proceed through the experience. In most cases, the goal is to produce a series of evolving environments and encounters that feel fresh and provide a sense of endless replayablity to players who dive in.
In Necropolis, however, the mix of environments and enemy mechanics begin to feel too similar to their predecessors the more you press on, and it’s killing the overall experience. For the first few hours, many of the game’s sprawling tombs and hallways feel unique, with varying colors and patterns to them that you’ll have to navigate in order to pass on to the next level. But as you continue to fight through hordes of enemies and move down deeper, you’ll notice that things start to look all too familiar. Necropolis runs out of original assets far too fast — which could become a similar problem for No Man’s Sky come August.
Set to release this coming August after a two-month delay, No Man’s Sky puts players in the middle of a massive universe containing over 18 quintillion planets that they can openly explore. Each of these planets is set to have a unique climate along with their own set of flora and fauna for players to interact with and discover on their own.
Like the levels in Necropolis though, every aspect of No Man’s Sky is procedurally generated by a set of algorithms that aim to mimic various aspects of nature both geometrically and structurally in order to produce a seemingly endless library of planets for players to explore. This procedurally generated content includes every star, planet, lifeform, ecosystem, and behavior of the game’s in-game factions too — of which Hello Games estimates only one percent will be experienced by players in a given game. It’s certainly impressive in size and scale, yet I can’t help but wonder how different these procedurally generated features will actually be. Will players start to see the same environments and ecosystems 20 plus hours in? Or will they truly remain unique as Hello Games has claimed? And considering that over 20 hours is still significant, does it even matter?
There’s no doubt that the various algorithms used to power No Man’s Sky and Necropolis are different. They essentially focus on two different things, but the fact remains that both have the potential to severely limit the content present in the game based on the way the algorithms handle their tasks. Here’s to hoping we see a different trend come forward when we dive into the world of No Man’s Sky this August.