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Inventive grid-based roguelike sets Steam launch, you can try it now

Blending roguelike strategy with grid-based gameplay, The Dark Cave finally has an impending release date alongside a free Steam demo.

Dark Cave Steam release date: the back of a night stood in a dark pixelated cave, two red eyes peering through the darkness

Steam has so many roguelikes these days that it’s nigh impossible to cut through the noise. Procedural generation and permadeath mechanics are everywhere, but there’s still a place for old-school, grid-based, roguelike action. With a newly announced release date that’s just over the horizon, The Dark Cave looks like the perfect answer to the ever-expanding genre. Sometimes simpler is better.

The Dark Cave works on two 3×3 grids, one for you and another for your enemies. Everyone moves within their own grid; dodging attacks, repositioning for powerful moves, and lining up the perfect shot to hit multiple opponents at once. It looks simple in concept, but the roguelike game builds on this foundation with a slate of mechanics to give every choice even more weight.

After picking between the knight, fairy, and undead phantom classes, all of which have over 20 different skills to influence your playstyle, you need to set up your build. There are lots of skills, potions, and weapons to choose from, so now’s the time to make sure you can hit your enemies where it hurts while giving yourself enough defense, too. Moving costs energy in The Dark Cave, and when that runs out you start losing HP, so you don’t want to just think about raw power.

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Every one of your weapons has a different attack pattern on the opponent’s grid, but so does each beast you face. The Dark Cave is like a game of chess, you’re not just thinking about where you need to be to make your next move, but how that position could give the enemy an easy win too. We’ve all accidentally sacrificed a pawn when we forget about where the enemy bishop is. The Dark Cave just replaces that pawn with your life, and the bishop with a goblin.

Additionally, you’ll come across relics, potions, and enhancement effects in the Dark Cave, with countless build combinations offering up myriad ways to slay the beasties and stay alive. Increase your damage, heal your HP, or even get a new weapon, the choice is yours.

Dark Cave Steam release date: pixel grid-based gameplay of Dark Cave

Once you finish a layer of the titular cave, the Blacksmith, Angel, and Black Marketeer offer up new items for your next run, but as developer Leaves Games warns, this means you need to sacrifice something you hold dear in order to use their boons. These talents stay with you between runs, and help you fight off the increasingly tougher enemies as you delve deeper into the dungeon.

There’s always been something special about grid-based gameplay, and The Dark Cave gets that. Your positioning is as important as your attacks, and giving all your enemies the same tactical choices makes for something truly unique.

The Dark Cave launches on Tuesday July 16 for $4.99, with a two-week launch discount of 15% dropping it to around $4.25. You can find the demo on Steam right here.

We also have all the best card games and indie games to check out after you’ve tried the Dark Cave demo, which will keep you busy up to launch.

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