It sucks when your first time is your best


In my first game of Skyhill I felt like I did pretty good. Little did I know that it was that rarest of occasions where the first time you play a game you do better than you ever will again. Compared to my subsequent games I didn't just do pretty good my first time, I did great, and I've been playing it obsessively since, baffled as to why I can never seem to match that very first performance.

Skyhill is a turn-based survival crafting point-and-click roguelite (man, games are getting complicated to describe) about reaching the ground floor of a randomly generated 100 story hotel. You begin at the top, where you've been trapped during a biological weapons attack that has turned everyone into mutants. As you descend floor by floor and explore the two rooms on each level, you loot supplies, craft weapons and first aid items, battle monsters in turn-based combat, and try to keep your health and food meters full.

My first time playing I made it down to the 52nd floor, almost halfway to freedom. I managed this despite being barfed on by a mutant up on floor 90, whose poison puke leeched my health points every turn from then on. I was unable to craft an antidote until I made it down to the 66th floor where I finally found the requisite supplies. I also made several trips back up to the penthouse (if you find a working elevator and repair power panels on your way down, you can ride to the top floor and back) where there's a crafting table and a health-restoring bed. I finally died on 52 after fighting another puke monster, though he defeated me by whipping me with one of his gross arms instead of puking on me.


I don't think the giant hammer monster will either.

My second time I thought I'd do better, especially since my first game unlocked some new perks, like an immunity to poison. It didn't save me: I never encountered a barfer but was slain after encountering floor after floor of stairwell zombies. The next time I went with a perk that reduced damage taken in stairwell fights, since they're common and unavoidable: I wound up dying in a room fight with a hammer monster on 76. I've played a bunch more since then and still have never come close to making it back down to the 52nd floor again. Why are the gods of random generation so displeased with me? And why were they so initially agreeable?

Combat in Skyhill is both frequent and simple: you and a monster take turns whacking each other, or you can choose to target a specific part of its monster body based on potential damage and to-hit chance. You can level yourself up with XP, and put points into offensive skills like strength, speed, or dexterity that boosts the damage done by a weapon that relies on that stat. My first time through I didn't even realize this, and yet knowing how it works hasn't helped me top the success of that first game. The next time I played I got punched to death on 66 by a giant-fisted monster dressed like a janitor. Following that I only made it four floors down, to 96, before perishing in a stairwell fight. The next game: 92. Then 63, by that big-fisted monster again.


Finding keys on lower floors can give you access to locked room on higher floors.

Maybe it's for the best? I'd definitely be disappointed if in my second game I made it down to the 20th floor, and the third game took me all the way to the bottom. It's just, you know, dang it! Why'd I have to do so well on that very first try? And why haven't I ever been able to do better, or even as nearly good? It's vexing. I think I'd still be playing the game either way, because it's fun, but there's definitely an added incentive. I must survive past 52.

At least once. I must!


Someday I will die on you again. Someday.


The first PC game Chris owned was Choplifter in 1982, and since then our staff writer has played at least three other games. He has a love/hate relationship with Early Access survival games and an odd fascination with the lives of NPCs.
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