The grind and gamble.
Few things make a ‘rouge-like’ a ‘rogue-like’. The three classic pillars of the genre are punishing difficulty, ‘permadeath’ and procedurally created levels. Modern rogue-likes, such as Rogue Legacy, have added a new pillar for the modern gamer – universal progression. Nobody likes losing their character, but that sting is lessened if you can at least get upgrades that can’t be lost and make the next run easier, even to the slightest degree.
Rogue Stormers, a Kickstarter project funded in 2014 (originally titled DieselStormers), attempts to combine the pillars of a rogue-like with a run-and-gun type platformer. Oh, also the setting is steampunk, the enemies are goblins, and slot machines spit out weapons and upgrades…got all that?
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Price I’d pay: $5
Multiplayer? 4 player Co-op
Rogue Stormers makes a good enough first impression. The controls take some getting used to, but quickly feel satisfactory. Each playable character has a basic projectile, a secondary weapon that is routinely switched out for a new one, and a unique ability. Early on, it’s fun to discover all of the secondary weapons and the temporary (lost upon death) upgrades that one can get at the one-time-use slot machines.
Unfortunately, after just a few hours, I would eventually see the same weapons, upgrades, and enemies, over and over and over again. Seven procedurally generated levels need to be completed in a row to beat the game. This took me well over 20 hours, with 95% of it spent in the first three levels, which also have poor enemy variety compared to the later levels. Instead of the levels having variety, what really changes things is what you get from the slot machines. I could get something I want – or – I could get 10 things in a row that I really don’t want.
Adding to the frustration is a wholly unsatisfying progression system. When a character levels up, two randomly picked upgrades are presented and only one can be chosen. Most are pretty standard upgrades – Health +5 or damage +3% – but a few are more inventive and interesting. Still, leveling up didn’t happen nearly as often as it should have, especially considering that these upgrades don’t transfer between characters.
I noticed many small, rough edges through my time with Rogue Stormers. I noticed that some upgrades, like an assistant following you around for instance, may cause bad framerate until you die and lose that upgrade. Enemies frequently get stuck in walls and I, myself got stuck on the geometry sometimes. Other things cropped up that just didn’t look right or were disorientating.
Eliminating the rough edges and making the leveling up actually fun and frequent would go a long way to improving Rogue Stormers. It drips compelling things every now and then, but those don’t justify all the grind and frustration that lords over them.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.