I was just looking for a few days of luxury, but then the bomb dropped and the world ended. And even in the best of hotels, the quality of service after the end of civilisation leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t get me started on the other guests.

The penthouse of the Skyhill hotel is not the worst place to witness the end times. Its biocontainment and security features have saved me from the fallout, but a man can only live on peanuts and miniature bottles of booze for so long. I need to find supplies. I need to get out. The only thing standing in my way is the 100 floor descent. Well, that and the flesh-hungry mutants trapped in the hotel with me.

Like many other roguelike titles, it’s not until you’ve died a few times that Skyhill really comes into its own, and while the random nature of the game can be infuriating, you will quickly learn that there is some strategy required if you hope to make back to ground level alive.

Every floor in Skyhill is laid out identically; a central stairwell with an elevator, and a single room to either side. The contents of the rooms are completely random, and so may contain nothing useful, or be stockpiled with items that can aid your downward journey. These things might be weapons, components used to craft better gear, or even upgrades for the penthouse facilities.

Hands-on with biological catastrophe survival roguelike Skyhill

There are no save games, but assuming you’ve got power running to the elevator, you can use it to return to any floor you’ve explored, and – more importantly – you can also make it back to the penthouse. Far more useful than it first appears, the penthouse is where you can rest, and also use a workbench to improve weapons and construct useful items in the hope of delaying your death.

It is basic, but it works, and as you improve your stats and weapons it can be quite satisfying.
Hands-on with biological catastrophe survival roguelike Skyhill

Combat is a very simple turn-based affair: click on monster to swing weapon, monster swings back, repeat until one of you dies. There is an optional targeting system where you can choose specific areas to attack, sacrificing the chance to hit for increased damage or vice-versa. It is basic, but it works, and as you improve your stats and weapons it can be quite satisfying.

Death in Skyhill threatens constantly, and will end you game with alarming regularity. Sometimes it’s a slow painful degradation due to starvation as your hunger meter inexorably depletes with every room entered. Sometimes it’s far more rapid as your health points are beaten out of you by one of the many varieties of mutated monstrosities who didn’t have access to the advanced biosecurity features of your penthouse suite – something they seem rather pissed about.

You will die, but in death you may also find salvation. As you explore the hotel, you will unlock perks that you can use during subsequent runs. These perks can literally mean the difference between life and death, so choosing the ones best suited for you can be vital.

Hands-on with biological catastrophe survival roguelike Skyhill

As surprisingly fun as the game is so far, there are a few niggles that need to be ironed out before it’s released. Some are minor logic failures like not being able to access vending machines because you have no money. Admirable honesty for sure, but hardly pragmatic while trapped in a skyscraper surrounded by hostile horrors that want to wear your face as a hat.

The most jarring issue though is the writing, and there the issues are legion. For a game that uses discovered notes and documents to tell its story, this is a problem that needs resolving before release. I am not sure what an overdue broccoli is, but I am fairly sure no one cares that its late.

At its core, Skyhill is about risk versus reward. As you progress, each decision becomes more and more important, and much harder as a consequence. In the time I’ve spent with the game, I’ve not made it lower than the 55th floor, but damn it I will find my way down to the lobby and I will find the bastard that’s taunting me, wherever he is. I guess that means that yes, I will keep obsessively replaying this bloody wonderfully infuriating game.