I haven’t dedicated nearly as much of my time as I might expect with the “Roguelike” genre as a whole, even though it seems pretty up my alley overall. Claustrophobia: The Downward Struggle may change all that for me; it’s not a perfect game, but it sure is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed exploring the extensive, randomly-generated dungeons — and I got to see a lot of them over the course of this review, because if there’s one thing that Claustrophobia has a lot of, it’s situations that are pretty tough to survive. Deadly monsters, insidious traps, and the ever-present darkness that makes whatever’s around the next corner or through the next door a wonderful mystery.
I won’t fluff it up and say that Claustrophobia: The Downward Struggle is a particularly complex game. It’s really very simple – almost the entire thing is controlled with just your two mouse buttons, using left-click for movement and right-click to do pretty much everything else. The journey begins with some rudimentary character creation, mostly involving aesthetic tweaks that, as of my playing, were still pretty limited.
You can pick from the pre-made classes of Juggernaut, Rogue, Archer, and Warlock, each with unique abilities and adjustable stats to tailor your experience. I had the most luck with the Archer class, but if you play your cards right, any of them makes a formidable adventurer for roaming the dark halls of the sprawling dungeons that make up the game.
Once you’ve got your character ready — which doesn’t take long, especially if you use my methods of pushing “Randomize” until it’s something passable, Claustrophobia drops you into the topmost area of a massive multi-level dungeon straightaway. There’s no fussing around with silly things like narrative or plot, unless you count that the staircase up from your beginning point is blocked.
From there, it’s all tactical combat, searching for treasure, hitting the shops, and endless exploration. Survival beyond the second or third floor down will definitely require that you spend plenty of time exploring each floor, scouring monsters and seeking out the best loot that you can muster (or selling what you find to upgrade) so that you’re prepared to delve deeper and find even better loot. A vicious, familiar, and addicting cycle.
There’s honestly not a whole lot else that I can say about Claustrophobia: The Downward Struggle. It plays very well, features a pleasant look and control scheme, and an easy but not oversimplified underlying system. The real kicker is that the developer, The Indie Forge, made this wondrous and simple gem available for the low price of $4.99 on Steam — at least during the ongoing Early Access phase.
While it does still feel a bit rough around the edges, especially with some limits on character customization (which, frankly, probably doesn’t even matter), there’s a ton of content and that good old-fashioned love for the loot that drives many much more hyped, more expensive games without all the unnecessary bells and whistles. Sure, it’s no Diablo or what have you, but Claustrophobia is a downright fun, engaging, and deceptively easy to play RPG that I’d easily recommend for anyone looking for a quick and accessible time-killer.