I tend to put roguelike RPGs into two categories: The games in which we fight people and the games in which we fight something more akin to elemental forces. I usually prefer the “forces” roguelikes. These are games in which we struggle against something that we can’t kick or punch. It’s an idea we battle, something universal and almost mythical in its scope. These are games like Out There, in which we explore a galaxy and pray that we find enough resources along the way to fuel another jump, or Tharsis, in which we struggle against constant mechanical failures aboard a starship, like characters might in a disaster movie. We’re not fighting other people in these games. We’re fighting nature itself: the barren universe and the cruel indifference of space.
When up against such all-encompassing forces, how can we not expect to fail? These kinds of roguelikes make me feel okay about losing, and since they are roguelikes, I’ll be losing a lot. Additionally, It’s nice when those failures don’t sting.