Welcome back!

Sign in or create an account to enjoy GINX perks, enter competitions and access exclusive features.

GINX TV > Interview > Video Games

I Built A Rat Army In The Deadly Path To Fuel My Roguelike Conquest

We went hands-on with The Deadly Path at London's WASD, and chatted to developer Tim Sheinman about how it all came together.
I Built A Rat Army In The Deadly Path To Fuel My Roguelike Conquest

I wasn’t quite sure what I had signed myself up for with The Deadly Path, but my quest to find WASD’s weird and wonderful indie gems had led me to this demonic-themed roguelike strategy game, full of monster making, meat harvesting, and demon worshiping. A typical Thursday in London town. 

My guide for this experience was game creator Tim Sheinman, who introduced me to the tutorial deity that I would be working for: Roiaan The Blightcaster. Roiaan was covered in pustules and rats, oozing from various places, but Sheinman assured me, saying, “He’s lovely. I promise he’s lovely… but blighted!” Concerns quelled, we dove into the meat of The Deadly Path.

“You're gonna train some rats, you're going to survive the Killing Moons, and you’re going to build the Effigy of the Dreamer. Clear?” Sheinman joked. I nodded, then proceeded to fumble and flail my way through a dungeon of my own making — but that’s what makes roguelikes so engaging. Learning from your mistakes is key to success, and I could already see my path to improvement should I have undertaken a few more runs.

(Picture: Owlskip Enterprises)

The game blends aspects of town management with roguelike strategy, where you’ll need to generate resources and defenses within your own dungeon in order to withstand coming threats. How this works is by opening up numerous tiles on a board and utilizing them as best you can. This might be dragging monsters into a freshly excavated pit and turning them into Rat creatures, because they’re better suited for harvesting bone. Or, you might sacrifice your minions to the slaughter house in order to obtain more meat, which in turn allows you to open up more tiles. All very normal, very pleasant things. 

The resources you obtain allow you to upgrade your dungeon, better preparing you for incoming threats. There’s also an upkeep that grows and needs to be met, which means you always need to have at least a bare minimum amount of meat, bones, and gold. If you run out of resources, it’s game over.

There are plenty of mechanics to get to grips with, and learning what everything does is part of the fun. The game is also designed to be played in short bursts. “I would call this the palette cleanser between larger games,” Sheinman said. “You're going to play this for 40 minutes in between Against the Storm, or Terra Invicta, or something.” It’s a perfect lunch break game, though one I feel is hard to put down once that break is over. 

(Picture: Owlskip Enterprises)

The Deadly Path emerged from Sheinman's interest in creating something mechanically appealing, but with a sharp edge. "I was playing games like Stacklands, where it's a kind of survival craft build-a-town game. I was playing Cultist Simulator, I was playing Dome Keeper, and thought it might be nice to have a short, sharp, nasty game. The sort of thing that distracts you with shiny things and then punches you in the face.

It's going to be a roguelike, which means you're going to die a lot and hopefully learn — you must learn. It was just from playing this kind of new breed of Indie games that I thought 'Y'know this is something quite interesting. It doesn't go on forever, there's lots of variety, it's endlessly replayable, and people like it."

(Picture: Owlskip Enterprises)

At WASD, better gamers than I were getting stuck into The Deadly Path on the show floor with great success. For small dev teams like Sheinman and his studio Owlskip Enterprises, this kind of live feedback is invaluable. “You know, they've been picking this up and actually beating the game quite solidly in two or three tries, without ever taking the tutorial. So that's been really encouraging to see. You pray for that kind of legibility as a programmer.

[The attendees] don't tend to read a whole lot, but they tend to have an intuitive grasp of the game really quickly. There's just this while world of games literacy that people have. It's been a nice, positive experience, and it's a good start to get off to. It settles the poor publisher's nerves. They've been worried for a week." 

The core anchor for each run is to appease one of 25 deities, all as equally unsettling and demonic as the last. Each deity has a victory condition that must be met, which involves completing quests throughout your run. During my attempt at appeasing Roiaan The Blightcaster, I needed to train up rats and also survive three Killing Moons — an event that doubles all upkeep needs. I endured the first two by the skin of my teeth, but was ultimately sapped by the third. My grotesque, purpose-built rat militia was no match for the demands of the Killing Moon. And thus we relented. Starving, boneless, and dead broke. 

But despite meeting an untimely end on my first run, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't itching to give it another go. Perhaps Roiaan The Blightcaster just isn't the evil, demonic deity for me. Maybe there's a place for me beside one of the other 25? But, until The Deadly Path launches in 2025, I'll be patiently waiting with it sitting comfortably in my Steam wishlist