Roguelikes have a natural tendency towards bloat. A key part of their appeal is balancing a wide range of effects against one another, so there's always the temptation for developers to keep adding more stuff.
Hoplite is the exact opposite. Stripped right back to basics, it's as lean and well-oiled as a Spartan hero. And the result is brilliant.
This is Sparta!
You're descending into the demon-haunted underworld to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Levels are tiny, each one fitting on your screen, and the game is turn-based and deterministic. When you move, enemies respond in a predictable pattern.
It sounds like one of those tedious move-based puzzle games, but a combination of randomly generated levels, different monster types, and a selection of possible actions keeps the puzzle constantly fresh and engaging.
Instead of moving, for instance, you can throw your spear for a distance attack, but at the cost of a diminished offensive capability until you retrieve it. You can also shield-bash monsters and bombs out of the way, or leap out of sticky situations.
Each level features a shrine where you can heal or get a power-up, adding to your choices. It's all about planning ahead, watching the monsters, considering tactics, and remembering all the abilities at your disposal.
It looks, sounds, and feels basic, but those simple mechanics interlock into a greater whole. It's absorbing and addictive, and there's unexpected scope for getting creative with your moves when trying to escape awkward corners.
Inevitably for a game with such a back-to-basics approach, shelf life is limited once you've mastered the essentials. But there's a ton of fun to be had getting to that point, and a fat list of achievements for the dedicated to tick off afterwards.
Hoplite is the best roguelike I've played on mobile, superb lunch break strategy, and proof that simplicity can be surprisingly satisfying.
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