roguelike colony management in an hour

Reflector: Laser Defense

Play as an elite Laser Defense mech sent to build and defend a colony on an increasingly aggressive alien planet. The game features:

  • Laser-slinging Combat: Reflect, split, and absorb your laser beam to make the most of each shot
  • Colony Management: Provide housing and jobs for your colonists, who then produce resources for you
  • Wave Survival: increasingly large and dangerous hordes of aliens attach each night!
  • Short Sessions: a full successful game takes about an hour, so you don't need to worry about losing hours upon hours of progress
  • Undo Your Mistakes: you can fully undo up to 20 turns -- experiment without fear!
  • Traditional Roguelike Gameplay: play as a individual character in a randomly generated turned-based grid-based world


Alpha 4

  • Overhauled UI (in progress): the map will be made fullscreen and will be fully zoom-able and pan-able, with various HUD elements drawn on top of the map. Pretty much all of the existing HUD elements will be redesigned in the process.
  • Laser Overheating: instead of recharging, will you simply cannot shoot 2 turns in a row, a new Overheating system will be introduced. You can shoot multiple turns in a row if you really need to, but if your laser overheats, you will be forced to wait several turns while it cools
  • New Abilities for Enemies: flyers move faster than other enemies, volatiles throw bombs, and burrowers can move through mountains. What fun!
  • Simpler Job Management: you can limit the number of colonists working a job type, instead of needing to deconstruct a building or disable all jobs
  • New Dedicated Tutorial: the core mechanics of the game will be taught in a short tutorial on a non-randomized map
  • Downloadable Version: you can download the game to play offline. Windows and Linux for sure. Maybe Mac.
  • Difficulty Levels: the default game will be easier, and the current difficult will be "hard". There will also be easy and very hard difficulties.

Beta 5

  • Research and Technology: use your excess resources to research new game-changing technologies and buildings. Each game you'll only have access to a randomized selection of techs to keep to keep things fresh.
  • Corporate Objectives: the corporate backers of the colony will make demands of you. Fulfill them for bonuses, but fail and you may lose their backing.
  • Reactive Alien Ecosystem: you'll no longer be landing on an empty barren planet, where monsters show up out of nowhere. A living breathing ecosystem will be present, and will react to your presence and actions. Make room for your colony with violence, and you will be met with violence in return. You can try to coexist peacefully, but the demands of your corporate overlords may make that difficult.
  • Mysterious Artifacts: a new victory condition. Your goal is gather alien Artifacts, and uncover the mystery of the planet.


As currently planned, all the major systems will be in the game with Beta 5. Subsequent releases will be focused on content, balance, and polish. Minor systems may be added in the process, but the core mechanics should be stable at this point. I'll be moving towards releasing a paid Steam version, though the only difference between that and the free version will be Steam integration for achievements and other Steam-specific features.

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Damn this is a LOT of fun. It feels like a nostalgic game from the past that came out of a time portal and appeared today. It's got it all - the lo-fi dark theme ambience, the brightly coloured insect enemies, and the obsession with lasers and mirrors befitting its likely inspiration in the form of classic laser puzzlers like Aargon Deluxe.

Things that work great:

* The SimCitying. Every tile is precious in this game. It's simultaneously an obstruction for you and your lasers, a target ants can take out, necessarily dependent on the surrounding terrain and an absolutely vital component of your burgeoning colony. The minimum requirement of having to house colonists and keep them safe has knockoff effects on everything else that happens. The need to gather resources and refine them. The need to produce power. The need to store and consume. The need to improve your combat capabilities. Initially I thought reactors overloading would be a gimmick, but it's actually a non-stop tightrope dance you have to do. 'Oh shoot I need more power and I'm out of windmill/solar panel space, better build a reactor' turns into 'oh shit, I have too much power, I need to slap down a battery or uhhhhh projector' turns back into needing more power, especially since the differing production and consumption between day and night and sometimes because structures fall apart mean you're constantly threading the needle.

* The lasering. The visceral thrill of threading mirrors through tight spaces to blast as many ants as possible. It's the perfect level of difficulty - not impossible to optimize, but constantly making you think about the geometry of your space. About keeping lines of sight open. About lining up your farms and solar panels and mining spots, and contemplating NOT upgrading to mines just because they get in the way. About where to place projectors so you can get around pesky moutnains and lakes. About not constricting your highways too much or else reducing the number of lasers you can fit through them. About cursing your colony's need for growth because it makes your life more difficult. And getting those multi-kills off is just pure fun.

Things that intrigued me, and make me wonder what might come in the game's future:

* Splitters are INCREDIBLY strong. It's first order optimal, after you get your initial projector network up so you can defend your whole base without moving, to get a bunch running. I used three for most of the game, and eventually moved up to four, and it just feels like you get ahead of the power curve and stay ahead if you're able to do this. The 'action economy' of being able to shoot faster is incredibly powerful, and doesn't have enough opportunity costs - but it's also by far the most interesting part of the game, since it makes you weave multiple lasers alongside each other to route them to where you need, and makes the geometry of buildings and obstructions matter more. It makes me imagine either a Hard Mode for the game, where you absolutely HAVE to make as many splitters as possible because the threats are so insane, or some bigger cost or slower unlock for splitters so that the enemies are keeping pace with you the entire time.

* Burrowers are very interesting. There's so little you can do to interact with them - it's like it's the game's way of making sure that no strategy is foolproof. And in a roguelike-adjacent game, that's a good thing to have - uncertainty, fear, the need for backup plans. If burrowers are going to pop up on adjacent turns then you basically ARE taking damage. But there's so many things you can do to plan around it - you can shoot them on the first turn to blow them up, or blow up a volatile (or battery??) next to them. You can entice them with earlier targets, put a shield generator up around your residences. The rest of the enemies once you're ahead of the power curve all feel about the same, since you just blast them at max range (twice if armored) and then their unique gimmick matters little. It makes me wonder what other kinds of enemies (or limitations on the player's power) could be interesting.

* The first two days are really pivotal. You should farm for only a few ticks (and then have one full farm happen on the second day) and otherwise be making nothing but metal, setting up roads, setting up your projectors and splitters and generally not wasting time. If your action economy on the nights sucks, then you're probably going to die in the first few days. But if you get setup, you have smooth sailing for the rest of the game - you can reach effectively maximum power very quickly. It's fun for a romp, but it does make the difference in experience between a good starting strategy and a bad starting strategy massive. I watched my brother play the game and declare it to be too hard after dying on night two, but he spent lots of turns moving manually to places instead of being able to just sit still and laser them. I don't know if 'doesn't know the optimal strategy' is or should be a fixable problem, but it is interesting to note.

* Map RNG? And speaking of, my first map rolled was like, *extremely* bad. It had a diagonal strip of mountain and a diagonal strip of water in the middle, and my colonists spawned on the *wrong* side of the lake, so most of the first night was spent with no productive activity. And the nature of the terrain meant that all the places I'd want to put projectors or myself were either over water or basically a whole day's away by travel. Meanwhile, my second map had a super nice + shape open in the middle and was smooth sailing. There definitely should be easier and harder maps, it's an interesting difficulty slider the player can adjust, but it feels to me like the new player experience should be less wildly different than that.

Overall, this was a blast, it was a great and memorable experience and I'm glad I got linked it.

Notable screenshots from my playthrough:

* My first map. The colonists spawned on the other side of the lake from me, and all the mining spots are very far away, so I had a slow start to my economy. You can also see how awful it is to defend and build with the giant lake in the middle.

* How far I got before deciding to start over.
* A really good second map, and a flawlessnight one. I killed an ant every time my laser recharged after I started firing!

* I got one splitter night 2 and got to work with many double shots.
* By night 3 I had three splitters and was getting quadshots on the regular.* Night 7, my first 5-fer! Burrowers are starting to get spooky and get incidental shots in.
* Night 10, my biggest shot of the entire game, an 8-way kill.

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Wow, thanks for the kind words and detailed feedback! It's really motivational to hear from someone who "clicked" with the game!

I just added a roadmap to the game description, where you can read about my plans for the next 2 major releases, Alpha 4 and Beta 5. Here's some notes addressing things not mentioned in the roadmap:

  • Splitters. I agree that they're too obvious of a choice once you've learned the game. I'll look into ways to balance them for the next release. I'm considering several, but trickiest part will be communicating this to the player.

    • Each splitter costs more power/turn than the previous one. For example, first one is 2 power, second is 4 power, third is 8 power. This might also help make advanced splitters a bit better, since you get a little more bang for your buck.
    • Using splitters overheats the laser faster (see the roadmap for more about overheating your laser)
    • Splitters themselves can overheat if used too often
    • Hard maximum on the number of splitters. Beta 5 could include technologies to increase the maximum
  • Map RNG. Things can get weird when water or mountains spawn right in the middle of the map. For now, I'll change logic a bit so you player and colonists should never be separated at the start. Also, if you're up for a challenge, the "badlands" and "marsh" maps are quite a bit harder than the standard map.
  • Burrowers. It was interesting to hear your generally positive take on them. I'm personally not quite satisfied with how they turned out. They do serve an important role in undermining some otherwise too good strategies, but I want to figure out how to make them more manageable. As is, some burrower attacks are unavoidable. The laser overheating mechanic will help with that, since you can choose to fire multiple turns in a row if needed. Anyway, this is something that I'm thinking about, but no specific plans yet. I also don't currently have any plans for more enemies, but I wouldn't be surprised if some new ones find there way into Beta 5.
  • Optimal strategy / build order. A couple things to note here.
    • Beta 5 with the reactive ecosystem and random technologies should really mix things up. There will no longer be one optimal strategy, and you will need to adapt to your specific situation, available technologies, and corporate demands.
    • Alpha 4 will add difficulty levels, and default difficulty will be easier than the current game. In my experience, many players are like your brother and spend quite a bit of time wandering and experimenting before the game clicks for them, and then get slaughtered on night 2 and lose motivation. I'd like the default difficulty to be less punishing to those players.

You said you got linked to the game? Out of curiosity, where/how did you find it?

Thanks again for detailed feedback! With your permission, I'd love to add you to the playtester section of the credits. Let me know if that's alright, and what name/username you want to be credited as.

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Cool! Looks like you're already thinking about everything I was. All of this looks sensible (or at least plausible, and playtesting will sus out the best version of the idea).

One of my friends (named Voksa) linked it to me. They found it because it was listed on . (And they were probably looking on roguebasin because they're in the process of prototyping a roguelike themself, about saving colonists from a reality-corrupted station.)

My name is Patashu, and permission granted. Thanks!

EDIT: I did get an idea, which is that if the game is in a 'Relaxed' difficulty setting by default, then it could detect when you're playing well enough to handle a higher difficulty and ask once if you'd like to increase it mid-game. That way the first game can account for people who get it quickly AND people who don't.

Thanks! I update the game's info in RogueBasin whenever I release. I'm glad to hear that's finding it's way to new players! (Also, that sounds like a neat premise for a game)

I think some sort of dynamic difficulty is a good idea, but I don't think I'm going to invest in it now, since the release with the reactive ecosystem will change things so much that all that work would be lost. The reactive ecosystem by it's very nature will dynamically adjust the difficulty. For example, an efficient, rapidly expanding player will probably cause more disturbance to the ecosystem.

Under the hood, there is a bit of dynamic difficulty now. The number of enemies you get each night is partially based on your population. So if you have a few bad nights and lose some colonists, the next night will be easier than it would have been otherwise. I might expand that a bit to take other things into account. Perhaps total "value" of buildings. I think that might be a good metric for how effectively a someone is playing.

True I was already thinking about these things, but hearing other people's ideas and talking through my own helps to clarify, so thanks for sharing!

Reactive ecosystem, sounds similar to the systems in Factorio or Riftbreaker. Good luck with the rest of the game!


So, I'm seeing an exploit: if one doesn't like where an alien spawns, they can just undo to before the spawn. Then when the turn is replayed, the alien spawns are randomly determined again. So the second time, aliens apear in different positions.

Yeah, I was wondering when someone would notice that... Next version (3.1) enemy spawning will use a seeded RNG so it stays consistent when you undo. That's a 2-3 months away though. I'll check how much work it would be to patch for a smaller 3.0.x release.


Loving this! One thing: the undo ability doesn't play well with queued up movement.  If you click on a space to move the mech several spaces at once, then try to undo a turn, the mech just resumes moving. Maybe undo should cancel movement.

Thanks! And yeah, I'd consider that a bug. I'll include a fix in the 3.0.1 patch I'm working on, should be out in a day or so. Thanks for reporting!

Fixed :) This release also changes the default "click to move" behavior so it only works for adjacent tiles. If you liked being able to click to queue an entire path, change "Click to Move" to "Always" in the settings.


Just tried it out ... woah, this is fun, and I love how you teach the mechanics. Will play some more, see how long I survive.

Nice clean UI, and i loved having all the keys handy.  This game is really hard - can you beat it?


Thanks! I almost beat it once... But I'm not normally very good at roguelikes, so I figured that was about right


VICTORY! (Sneaky victory message in the log. I should make that more obvious...)

Cool idea! And pretty hard. Just a heads up, the log window cuts off some of the text here (Chrome, Windows 10) in an unfortunate way... 

Thanks for the heads up. I'll add that to my cleanup list