What Would You Call a Roguelike with Language Elements?

Jeffrey McGee
4 min readJan 24, 2022


I always wanted a roguelike of my own

Roguelike is an exciting genre, as it incorporates all kinds of elements that constantly require the player to rediscover new and old elements. Every game is a new one and yet the same game, balancing out replayability and repetitiveness, offering a new experience every time by reusing an old scenario with new qualitative aspects.

This is a poetic description of what Roguelikes are, by yours truly. But in everyman’s terms, it’s a really cool genre. But like all cool genres, it’s not for everyone… god knows why.

Roguelikes have seen a rise in prominence lately, with “revolutionary” additions to the genre such as Hades and Returnal. It’s not surprising that there’s a tidal wave of roguelikes coming out on Steam recently because everyone wants a piece of that sweet pie, and like all pies, it eventually runs out, leaving those that came late with a skinny slice. But yeah, Roguelikes seem to be getting more attention these recent years, with my favourite right now being Risk of Rain 2 because that game is terrific.

When MOBAs were at their prime in the early 2010s, I wanted my own MOBA. But now I want my own roguelike. But I wonder — how creative can it be?


If I were to make a roguelike, and as I know myself, I would make it focused around languages, as is the way I like it. Will it have violence in it? Probably. But there will be more emphasis on using your brain instead of just going around and collecting stuff and then using that stuff to kill bad guys. There will be… action based around linguistics.

So it will be an action game, but your weapons are words, and there are various levels and components to their function. “Languages” (as in “a game element”) will be the protagonist’s primary source of power. Each language has some kind of special effect, so for example, English can be like the default weapon, and French can be like a weapon with a redundant amount of letters in each word (kind of like the word “queue” because it’s five letters but sounds like one). Each language has a different flavour to its power. Then you have word categories such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and these elements will modify a different aspect of the game, such as the story. Depending on how many nouns/verbs/adjectives you’ll have, you’ll take different paths in the story, resulting in different scenarios. And that’s just the beginning.

But at the same time, I also want to make this game more sophisticated in ways that are more than just killing bad guys, but I already said that. There needs to be some kind of dialogue system where you either get better or worse at the game based on your choices, like how you use natural languages in real life. But I still got a long way to travel.

What if they just talked all the time?

The real problem here is that the game is fundamentally dysfunctional, or simply put, no one would play a game where you just talk to people because it has language as the core feature, which is why it’s also action-packed and the languages are weapons. But then it just comes off as weird, and this is just a random brainstorming session, so I’ll need more time to make this game functional.

That being said, I’m not sure what I want to do with this idea since it just came to me on a whim. But I still really want to make my own roguelike. Will it happen? Who knows… maybe and maybe not?

In the meantime, I will discreetly abandon this random idea and move on to the next thing. What that thing is, I still don’t know…

Do you have anything you want to add to this roguelike?

I could use a helping hand here, especially from a linguist, as I need to understand the inner mechanics of linguistics better so that I may better design in this game. It will not lead to anything special, but regardless, if you have an opinion or an idea or whatever, then this is the place.

In Conclusion…

Usually, this is the point where I recommend (or don’t) the game I was talking about, but I was talking about any specific game this time. Since I paid more attention to the genre, if I had to recommend a roguelike, it would either be Enter the Gungeon or Risk of Rain 2. Those two are really good, and if you’re looking for a good roguelike, then one of them is bound to give you a good time.

As for this language roguelike I was talking about out of sheer randomness, it could definitely use polishing… but not now. Nonetheless, if you’re interested, then say something, don’t stay quiet.

Come to think of it, if I were to make a roguelike, it would be something really, really cool… and not just “something with languages”. But before that, I need a team and a budget… and I have neither.