Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
A while ago I had the opportunity to preview Rogue Lords, a new rogue style game from Leikir Studio and Cyanide Studio. With some tweaks and alterations from the demo, it’s now time to look at Rogue Lords and see what it scores.
For those of you who haven’t read my preview, Rogue Lords is about the Devil, having been defeated by famed Demon Hunter Van Helsing. Now, he wants his revenge, and he will do so by sending his minions to fight in his stead. Together with famed monsters such as Dracula, Bloody Mary, Frankenstein, and more! The evil minions are tasked with disrupting the actions of the church, recovering powerful relics to use against your adversaries.
Your loyal minions, three of which you can take into each chapter, must pass through nodes on a map, on their way to the end to reclaim the relic. Each node is a different encounter, and can range between a healing pool, a “story style” encounter, to combat. Combat will reward you with your choosing between skills, souls (the game currency), or a terror effect. Skills are provided randomly, and you can choose as many as the combat encounter allows, or bought from the Grim Reaper, who is the merchant. Terror effects will give either a buff in your favor, or a negative effect against you, based on whether you or “the board” activates the terror effect. Your job throughout all this as the devil, is to cheat the system, a fact I’m grateful for considering my awful luck.
You can cheat in many different ways, such as altering the outcomes of social interactions, decreasing enemy health or increasing your own, or opening portals between different nodes on the map, or moving status effects between characters. But be careful, because cheating requires devil essence, which is also your “health bar”. If you lose all your essence, you fail the chapter. On the plus side, you earn exp from attempting a chapter, win or lose, which will unlock new skills to find, and characters to use.
So, the combat. I’m still not 100% how I feel about this. Essentially, each character has their own set of skills, that must be randomly earned through battles or purchased, and three types of the same skill of the same rarity automatically fuse into one higher rarity of the same skill. You start with 5 action points, and each skill takes a set number of action points, and enters a cooldown period. You must then recharge your skills in order to use them again. Each character has both HP and SP, and if either drop to zero, the character is vulnerable, and the next hit will kill them, or in your case, attack your demon essence.
This is all well and good until you encounter a batch of enemies, or single enemy, that hard counters you so badly there’s hardly any way you can win. No, seriously, you either build generic and hope, or you specialize and pray you don’t meet that one enemy. Sometimes, you roll the enemy over like cheap papier mache, and sometimes the enemy attacks you for 6x 32 damage and you cry because it was the last fight before the chapter boss.
Sure, there are skills that can reduce or negate incoming damage types, but when they never pop up during a run? Well, you’re out of luck then. Also of note, when the game calculates damage, for whatever inane reason, damaging moves that “steal” HP or SP have the healing effect occur last. For instance, if you attack to regain 20 HP, but the enemy has “thorns” which deal 4 damage to attackers, and you’re out of essence and the attacker is vulnerable? You lose. Yes, this happened to me. No, I wasn’t happy about it.
Also of note, after completing a social interaction, teammates may react. Sometimes they like your choices and get bonus stats. Other times, like whenever Dracula looks at me apparently, they can get a negative trait that can decrease stats. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: my luck is wretched. That being said, Rogue Lords can put you into some situations that I literally couldn’t see myself possibly winning the fight. The game is definitely fun, don’t get me wrong, but the balancing is so out of whack I honestly don’t know what to say. The kicker? It’s better than the preview I did.
Overall, Rogue Lords has some really nice aspects to it. The exp system feels reasonable for unlocking characters and skills, and there a lot of really interesting takes on the old roguelike formula. That being the case, good lord the difficulty is all over the place. I can’t say “expect a challenge”, because you might not get one, and I can’t say “it’s easy”, because then you get rolled over like a soft pastry. If you really like roguelikes, and don’t mind the potential for a little extra punishment, you’ll probably be right at home here, but barring a balancing patch, newcomers may be pushed away. Rather forcibly.Score: 8 / 10