Evertried tries to bring a really interesting concept to the roguelike genre. It’s a tactical grid-based strategy RPG mixed in with slight action-adventure elements molded all together into a puzzle game, with an emphasis on its puzzle aspects. It is absolutely unforgiving, cutthroat, and places you in this world with very little explanation, which is why I’ve been playing it longer than expected, putting in almost 15 hours, and not even seeing the game’s ending as of yet. Even with its solid mechanics, the technical prowess of its gorgeously detailed and designed NPCs, and its strikingly, darkly, intricately crafted enemies, it left me deeply frustrated, and not for any of the right reasons a game such as this should.
The game places the player right into this world with a short cutscene about its grid-like environment. You play as a warrior’s spirit attempting to journey through this tower trying to ascend to the very top, alluding to a goddess of some kind of this realm. You meet different distinct NPCs on different floors. These characters either try to aid your ascension to the top of your amnesiac journey or are trying to figure out how they themselves can thrive in this world.
Each character I spoke with pushed me to hear more about their own storied backgrounds. You have Mallow, a large purple animal trying to strive in growing a flower. A simple task it may look like in this realm, but Mallow feels it is all it can do as its primary goal. Sir Laden Inken Flame attempts to find solace with you as another warrior with amnesia to find resolve in past deeds. Then there’s Vitas Varnas, whom I found compelling in every interaction. A spirit wearing a mask similar to those theatre comedy/tragedy masks with a corporeal form spouting philosophical quandaries, Vitas Varnas would interact with me about philosophy—even using the word itself—as well as light, dark, and the body, mind, and spirit. It reminded me of playing Eternal Sonata over a decade ago, an overtly philosophical game whose ending espouses arguments and dilemmas about dreams, reality, free will, and destiny. Evertried very much had me dwelling on these themes alongside the issues of war as the warrior’s spirit is just trying to figure out his own reason for being here.
Each level is on a 7 by 7 grid totalling 49 units for the warrior’s spirit to traverse. Each enemy moves or performs an action after your own. Each action you take will be the end of your turn, be it taking a step, moving two spaces through a dash step, or attacking in a certain direction next to an enemy. They’re very simple, easy to understand mechanics similar to other strategy RPG games. The game does not tell you much, but it lays these foundations in an exemplary manner with a quick tutorial. To beat each floor, you need to defeat all enemies before ascending to the next.
At the same time, even though you have all of the time to assess your situation, there is a Focus Bar on the top right. Attacking enemies will increase the bar, and it will decrease when you’re hit by enemies or take too long to decide your next action. So at the same time, you have to be both quick and precise in your actions to keep your Focus from dropping.
Focus Levels determine activating passives through Modifiers bought from the Shopkeeper. Modifiers also give additional stronger passives by sustaining higher Focus Levels. Shock will stun an enemy after it attacks you, but if your Focus Level is high enough it will also damage the attacking enemy. Being able to incorporate a swift, timely, and precise plan on each floor will have you rewarded greatly.
Outside of passive Modifiers there are Skills that the warrior’s spirit can activate. Examples include summoning swords, creating decoys, placing traps on spaces, and creating healing grids, to name a few. Using these Skills will increase their Mastery, and is the only aspect that carries on to other playthroughs. Skills are used through Charges, which are earned by moving on a floor. This is the main way to earn charges, and Skills expend a number of Charges. Dashing between two tiles or killing enemies (unless with certain Modifiers) do not allocate charges for Skills.
Whether you die at the beginning, against a boss, or on floor 46, you start all over on the very first floor. This game is not generous with its progression, and this made me more involved in its elements. Sometimes, I would have to trade my Focus Levels to think even just a second more on each floor on how to combat the enemies or lead them into traps. Making those hard decisions can be worthwhile, and finding a great balance made me feel enthralled throughout every run. Mastery of Skills do carry over, but they are hit or miss. When you do fully max out a Skill, you will be able to choose it before each run making traversal slightly easier. It does take awhile to max certain Skills, but even having the option to take Ice Block to create impenetrable ice on floors grants slight ease on early floors.
Outside of the very basics, Evertried doesn’t tell you how to use Skills or Modifiers, or even all of the ways they can work. That can make some battles especially difficult. For example, the second boss will charge at you every time you hurt them. Sure, you can plainly see which tiles the boss will charge on to in order to escape beforehand, but there are numerous ways to approach this battle. You can turn that charge against it. When I did something like creating an ice block for the boss to charge into, I felt so smart, a burst of “yeah, I did that!” excitement. I figured out a variety of ways to handle many different enemies. Creating a decoy behind certain tiles to trick some enemies into charging and falling to their deaths? Leading them away with a decoy to the floor’s traps?! It all felt so good and empowering. I felt so smart about tackling these puzzles, and to see my little experiments come to righteous fruition. Just like the warrior’s spirit, I know very little about this place, but we each make the most of it, following the laws of the realm, and succeeding in an immense amount of ways to reach Floor 50.
I went into thinking Evertried was more action-adventure focused, but was pleasantly surprised that it’s almost closer to a puzzle game. That would have made it one of my favorite games released this year, but my biggest problem was the game crashing in numerous ways. You leave the Shopkeeper too quickly? Well, now you have no way to choose yes or no to leave the floor. You use the napalm Skill on the first boss? Now the boss has no weak point for you to progress. After more than 15 hours, finally making it to Floor 46, I was ready to beat the game on this run, only for it to crash once more. So, when I went back in, of course none of my progress was saved because the game does not save like this. I felt so worn spending almost an hour on this run for nothing. Not even my Skills from that run had been saved or increased. I had nothing to show. I felt frustrated with despair, and not in a way that the game wanted me to feel.
Evertried is genuinely difficult. It is not generous. It is not for every lover of roguelikes or even enjoyers of puzzle games. When my latest and greatest run was ruined because the game crashed, I realized I was done playing the game until these issues can be resolved. I have zero qualms with playing for almost an hour for a run then dying, but having the game crash with none of my Skills being increased from the run? It is hard to want to try again. Each mistake or action on a floor is my own, but losing all of the progress because the game crashed or glitched out has led me frustrated on a game I really like. I don’t even want checkpoints or a save function that lets players leave a run to come back to later; I just want the game to have a backup due to its game breaking crashes. Because, despite those flaws, I do want to keep playing this game. Its superb soundtrack and visuals are an everlasting treat. Playing it handheld on Switch is how it should be played, in reminiscence of playing SRPGs on a Nintendo DS. When its issues are fixed, I really hope to recommend this game to others because it has been one of my favorites of this year. I’m still waiting to ascend to whichever goddess or whatever fate awaits me on its final floors, feeling the despair of a warrior’s spirit, but not in the way I or Evertried had hoped.
Evertried was developed by Lunic Games / Danilo Domingues and published by DANGEN Entertainment. Our review is based on the Switch version. It is also available for Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Veerender Singh Jubbal is a critic/journalist writing on Sikhism, race, and entertainment. Please follow on Veeren_Jubbal.