SKYHILL

SKYHILL is a roguelike RPG point-click game released on October 6th, 2015. Since its release, it has won a few awards.

You play as a man called Perry Jason who goes on a short trip out-of-town for business. Deciding to stay in luxury because why not? You book the hotel’s penthouse suite. The suite comes with top of the line biological defense system, which is awfully convenient considering a biological attack occurs shortly after you enter your suite. Now you are stuck in a building full of murderous mutants. You have run out of supplies in your room and are forced to venture out of the safety of the suite to gather supplies and try to escape the Skyhill hotel.

Can you make it down all 100 floors?

Skyhill is a 2D point and click game with survival and RPG elements in a rogue-lite package. You always begin in your VIP suite and forced to go down the stairs till you find a VIP key card. Once you have the key card, you can get access to the elevators to travel between floors. As long those elevators have a working fuse box.

Each of the floors is divided into three sections: two rooms on both sides and the stairway/elevator in the middle. You make your way down, searching the rooms in hopes of gathering supplies whether they be: food to stave off hunger, weapons or materials to create new weapons or improve the furniture in your VIP room. Occasionally you will meet mutant enemies that will become stronger as you go further down. Other times, you will find locked rooms that you need to either find or craft a key to open it. You may even meet an old man who will seek to trade a specific item with you in return for another, after which he will disappear from the game.

Combat is turn-based with two different modes. You can either just click away at the monster itself and hit it for a randomly generated amount of hit points, or click on the advanced ‘targeting’ mode where you can select which area you want to hit. This way you can choose whether to hit the monster’s torso for higher chance of hitting it but does little damage, or try hitting the mutant’s head with less hit chance but higher damage. You can decide on a strategy this way, but it is a gamble. You can easily get yourself into a corner with no chance to retreat at all. Remember, once you die it is game over and you need to start over again with a new game from the beginning.20160417125319_1If the mutants do not kill you, then maybe hunger will. You have a hunger bar which you need to manage throughout the entire game. Every action you do decreases your hunger bar: moving between floors and fixing the elevator fuse boxes without the required material are two such activities that come to mind. My first thought was that the hunger stat would be an annoyance. At times, it is an annoyance but it is also just another stat to balance throughout the game. You even can sleep back in your VIP room and trade hunger points to increase your health, but you will need to quickly eat food to replenish the hunger bar. If it is too low or goes down to 0, you begin to lose each at every turn. Or you can cook the food which is more beneficial in the long run. I actually did die in that way…from hunger.

In one of my attempts to beat all 100 floors, I was in a bad situation at around 30th floor where I was low on health and hunger. I had no food or health supplies left, so I was desperately searching the rooms as I tried to avoid combat as much as possible. Needless to say, I got stuck in combat cause I could not escape and I promptly died when my hunger reached zero. By then, I barely survived the fight against the mutant and only had about 5 health left. I learned my lesson however. I had never been so stressed.20160417125247_1Speaking of which, you will be doing plenty of backtracks to your VIP room. Another reason you want to make sure you keep the elevators working as you progress further down the floors. The only way to craft anything in the game is at the crafting table in your hotel room. Why a VIP suite would have a crafting table is something I just decided to not question anymore. While here, you can sleep to regenerate health, craft new weapons (among other things) or even cook food. My first several attempts, I actually did not realize you could upgrade the furniture, and I didn’t really try too either. Needless to say, I never really reached the 20th floor in those attempts. It is actually really vital to upgrade the furniture and boosts your chances of survival. Improving your door decreases the chances of bad events happening to you while you sleep. Getting a kitchen and improving it will unlock new food recipes, the same applies to the workbench where improving it will unlock new recipes for you to craft. Improving the bed gives you more health.

To be honest, I rarely ever slept on the bed to regenerate health since I often struggled with managing my hunger bar. I only slept on the bed if I was extremely low health and was confident I had enough food supplies to manage my hunger bar. I mainly focused getting a kitchen first. Once I had a level 1 kitchen, then I heavily focused on upgrading the workbench and kitchen. I only upgraded the door if I had the materials for it, just in case I did need to sleep in the bed. At least then I had minimized any chances of a bad event happening. The bed was usually last to be upgraded by me.

The game implements a leveling up system, where you can assign points to four different stats (strength, speed, dexterity and accuracy). These stats will heavily influence how often you can land a hit on an enemy, what weapons you can use effectively and how much damage you deal with those weapons. Your level and stats heavily influence what weapons you can use and wield effectively.20160417125306_1So what happens when you do die? You can unlock new passive and active perks based on how many floors you managed to progress. I think you unlock a new perk for every 10 floors you manage to go down, it would make sense to use every 10 floors as a goal/checkpoint. The main point is that you and death will become good friends, and you will get used to dying.

You gain new perks which you can select upon starting a new game. It is actually not required to have both selected, so you could either just get one perk that is either passive or active then skip the other. The perks have various effects on you and the game, whether it is your stats or just in-game events. You could have a retro cinema perk so the game has a noir gritty film grain over it but does nothing else.

As I mentioned earlier on, the game is randomly generated so everything is up to chance. Sometimes you get lucky in finding a lot of supplies, and other times (which I ran afoul of several times) you will not find any supplies for several floors.

You will also find various journal entries, notes, newspaper clippings and recordings throughout the floors. Since the game randomly generates everything, you need to replay the game several times if you want to find them all.

While the game has replay value, it does get mind-numbing. So unless you are someone who wants all the achievements, find new strategies with the various perks or find all the collectibles (notes/journals) then you will get bored with the game rather quickly. There is apparently more than one ending to the game, since when I beat the game for the first time I managed to get the alternative ending instead? So I am debating whether to replay the game to see all the endings or not. However by then, the game is unable to throw any sudden surprises.20160417125636_1It is easy to be attracted to Skyhill’s concept and I admit that is what got my attention in the first place. The lack of variety in the game is its biggest downfall. Skyhill could get away with the interiors looking all relatively similar, maybe even though that is a little painful at times to deal with. Even the enemies will be unable to surprise you as you will know which enemies begin to appear and how to deal with them. By the time you beaten the game successfully, you will have seen all the enemies.

Earlier in the post, I mentioned you could fix broken fuse boxes/generators for the elevators. Out of everything in the game, I believed this was the most flawed aspect of the game. In order to travel easily between the floors without losing much of your energy/hunger, you have to rely on the elevators. You have to fix the broken elevator generators if you want to use the lifts in that ‘floor sector’. Fixing it will allow you to use the elevators above, under and on the floor you are on. Provided that the elevator doors work, if the doors are damaged then you cannot use that particular elevator and have to find another.

The game tries to make you search for the needed item or maybe even craft your own generator to fix it. However you could also attempt to fix it without neither the crafted generator nor the required item. The third option which is the option I used the most is to just sort of improvised a solution with whatever was in my inventory. The third option sounds like it sound fail more often than not. Surprisingly, the success rate is rather high as far I can tell. Very rarely did I lose an item in those repair attempts (making it rather cheap, since you only lose a few hunger points). It makes the “find this missing item to repair the elevator” or crafting your own generator rather pointless, since muscling your own improvised solution is cheaper and quicker.

Skyhill as a game was great fun to play in the beginning, the challenge often motivated me to keep trying till I could successfully beat the game once. The game is easy to understand and master. The crafting system and how Skyhill tells the narrative of the people living in the hotel prior to the biological attack was masterfully done. I think Skyhill did a decent job in having players trying to make choices with their supplies and whether to gamble to fight against mutants as well. The downsides seemed to prevent it from reaching its true potential at times. Otherwise, it was challengingly fun and I did enjoy myself playing Skyhill even if some of the battles became stressful as I tried to keep on top of my hunger and health bars and manage my supplies.

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