Hoplite pushed my buttons in an interesting way. It’s a roguelike, which is a genre that I respect in the abstract but I don’t play much of; but it’s a roguelike with small levels, with no hidden information within a level, with only four types of enemies, and where your build options, while somewhat random, come from a small enough pool to let you repeat the core of your build experiments fairly reliably. So there’s enough predictability to give you control over your outcomes, but there’s enough randomness to knock you out of a groove.

This makes Hoplite really interesting from a learning point of view, and the game’s achievements really help that. The achievements ask you to play in different ways, and each achievement unlocks a new ability that can show up in the tree. So you start with a small pool of abilities available to you, the game encourages you to learn what you can do with them, and then once you’ve shown that you can do something with those abilities, it gives you another one to explore. (On which note: Darius Kazemi has some great advice on how to learn while playing the game.)

I spent a couple of months playing it; I hit a few plateaus, banging my head against them, but once I made it past them I felt like I’d really learned something, that I could see possibilities I couldn’t before. And I’m pretty sure there would be several more plateaus to overcome if I stuck with the game: I’m used to focusing on reading when playing go, and Hoplite gives me a feeling that it supports that sort of calculation. If I didn’t have a couple other games I’m hooked on long term, I’d probably still be playing this one.

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