Grogheads Impressions – Jupiter Hell!

450px Jupiter Hell cover
frontier wars 728x90 KS

Jupiter Hell is a traditional roguelike currently under development by ChaosForge. It is set on a futuristic moon station that you might recognize from the golden era of ‘90s gaming.  You play as a Totally-Not-Doom-Guy fighting for desperate survival against swarms of demons and zombie soldiers who all happen to be armed to the teeth.  Along the way you’ll find plenty of pistols, shotguns, grenades, med-kits, and BFGs to fend off the hordes of Hades.  Sound familiar? More importantly, if it sounds fun – keep on reading for our impressions!

450px Jupiter Hell cover

By: James Maxwell

Roguelike games are best described as a turn-based WEGO version of the original Diablo on hardcore mode.  You start at the first level of a procedurally generated dungeon and fight petty enemies and work your way down to the deadly bosses and beasts at the bottom.  Anything can permakill you fast if you’re not careful.  The action takes place on a grid and all units’ moves are calculated simultaneously, usually with speed stats to determine who moves first.  Thus, you can sometimes squeeze in “extra” turns if your speed is higher than the enemy.


“Like chess… with shotguns!

These games typically have medieval fantasy settings, and they require you to use nuanced tactical thinking to properly utilize a staggering variety of spells and magic scrolls available.  It’s common for newbies and experienced players alike to die with inventories full of situationally life-saving equipment.  Jupiter Hell stands apart from the genre by offering a meaty, no-nonsense guns-n-grenades tactical turn-based combat experience instead of magic and swords.  Anybody who has played classics like X-Com and Shrapnel’s 101st Airborne in Normandy should feel right at home – only instead of a squad of poor schmucks tottering into the dark, it’s just you and your gun.


I’m not happy unless I have a shotgun in my hands.

You start Jupiter Hell by creating a player character.  You choose between three classes – Marine, Scout, and Technician – each with their own starting equipment and special abilities.  The Marine starts with a med-kit and has some self-heal abilities, making him an ideal first-timer class.  The Scout starts with a .44 revolver, has a stealthy cloaking ability, and begins every floor with the exit locations mapped out for quicker access.  The Technician starts with a few multi-tools, which are used to open doors or hack consoles to gain map data, track enemies via radar, or even command security bots to kill everything on the floor.  Technicians can also use consumables faster than most, and can throw down a smoke screen in a pinch.


My favorite skills are the ones that keep me from dying.

Each of these classes use different forms of “mana” to power their special abilities: Fury, Energy, and Power, respectively.  These are earned by killing enemies, opening chests, and picking up orbs from dead enemies – again, respectively.  Once you’ve accumulated enough “mana,” you can activate your ability to use a quick flourish that might save your life.  This is one of the newer systems introduced to Jupiter Hell, adding to the legacy of the free downloadable DoomRL and making the game just a bit more accessible to newcomers.


A bloodbath follows in the wake of Slippery Slim.

In addition to pretty graphics, voice acting, and a butt-kicking metal soundtrack, this retail release enhances the combat by adding a bit more tactical depth.  The biggest improvement is the cover system: Walls and obstacles add to-hit maluses against targets in cover, with higher maluses for better cover, making it advantageous to maneuver into cover or around an enemy’s flank.  Additionally, you can “hunker” by spending a turn paused behind cover, gaining a temporary bonus to defense and your next shot.  This is a welcome addition to other features carried over from the free version, such as pain from wounds incurring penalties to your to-hit rating.

Using a column for cover

Using a column for cover

The inventory management is streamlined from the original free roguelike, which is a benefit for newcomers to the genre.  You have a backpack limited to ammo and consumables.  You also have several weapon slots which can be used for anything from firearms to melee weapons, and you have slots for armor (helmet, chest, boots), but you can’t store any spare firearms or armor in your inventory as they must be equipped or dropped.  This feels like a bit of a drawback compared to the original where you could store spare armor and weapons, but this may have been done in an effort to balance new features that give the player an edge.  Overall, I don’t find this change distracting as a fan of the original free game.


Life-saving items with cheeky flavor text are pretty nice, too.

Another apparent drawback is that you can only have one character at a time, which is an odd choice.  Hopefully they decide to implement multiple character files before the full release.

Al blasts a baddie

Al blasts a baddie

In the true spirit of a roguelike, I’ve yet to survive far into the labyrinths of Jupiter’s moon before being blown up, shot dead, or eaten alive.  My first impression of the game is very strong, though it’s clear that there’s still work to be done in Early Access.  I strongly recommend this game to fans of the roguelike genre, and cautiously recommend it for interested newcomers.  The free DoomRL delivers another awesome tactical turn-based gunfighting experience, along with similar free games like AliensRL (set in the James Cameron movie), Cataclysm DDA (zombie apocalypse), and Infra Arcana (Lovecraftian 1920s).  However, these games lack proper 3D graphics and mostly rely on either community-made sprite packs or ASCII symbols that take time to interpret on the fly.  As such, Jupiter Hell is a fine entry point into the genre.


My last medkit — suffer, indeed.

So if you always wanted to play Doom, but lacked the reflexes, Jupiter Hell is a fantastic tactical challenge that will demand a lot for you to succeed.  Look up those keybindings, be patient with your moves, and prepare to die a lot.


The end of the road for Slim.

Jupiter Hell is available on Steam in early access for $24.99.

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