Rogue Lords Review
With so many roguelikes available on the market, keeping a player’s attention is very important.
It’s something that Rogue Lords struggles to do. And it’s a shame given it has some unique ideas and a horror theme that some will love. Ultimately, some will get enjoyment out of it. But for many, it will require too much patience and persistence.
It’s good to be bad: that’s the first thing that Rogue Lords teaches you. But despite being the devil himself, you’re going to let your disciples do your bidding. On your quest to destroy the demon hunters that forced you to seek refuge in Hell, you’ll send three of your loyal servants on a number of quests presented as books. But completing each one will be an arduous affair.
Each book is split into numerous chapters, and each of those consists of multiple events. It’s up to you to navigate from one to another via a map, and like in many roguelikes you’re able to plan your route effectively thanks to each event type having its own icon.
Events include battles, encounters with Death who here is merely a merchant, and sacrificial altars where you can modify your combat abilities. Each has something to offer, and so it’s up to you to chart your course effectively. The challenge is maintaining your demonic essence, which is lost when your disciples fall in battle, or when you cheat.
Who says the devil has to play fair? At pretty much any point during Rogue Lords you’re free to unleash your demonic powers, giving yourself a welcome advantage. You might want to steal an enemy’s positive buff during a battle, for example, or increase the chances of persuading someone to work with you during a social encounter.
There are many parameters you can tinker with, but every time you do so a chunk of your demonic essence is lost. And should you lose all of your demonic essence, your journey through your current book is lost. It’s a balancing act, then. You’ll want to use your essence to improve your chances of success, but you’ll need to use it wisely and replenish it whenever you can.
It’s combat performance that generally leads to your success or failure. Get into an encounter and you’ll find that Rogue Lords sports a turn-based combat system, much like you’d find in a JRPG. With limited ability points to make use of, however, you’re not forced to assign an ability to each disciple under your control. You could use all your ability points with just one if you wish.
Each disciple has a range of abilities available. Generally, the more powerful they are, the more ability points are required to use them. New abilities can be obtained throughout the course of the game, too. And they can also be upgraded. Further complicating matters is that some abilities have requirements that need to be met before you can use them. And all abilities can only be used once before needing to be refreshed in some form.
Add in other unique combat features, such as enemies and your disciples becoming vulnerable when either their HP or SP is depleted, with another attack of the same type finishing them off, and you have a game that’s perhaps a bit too complicated and challenging for its own good. The fact that each book can take hours to complete just compounds the problem.
And things only get marginally easier over time. At the end of each run, experience will be accumulated, unlocking new disciples, abilities, and more, to be used on subsequent book attempts. But they do little to break the feeling of repetition, and don’t particularly lessen the challenge, either.
Rogue Lords, then, isn’t a roguelike for the masses. And even those keen on the genre might not gel with it. The long-term rewards just aren’t all that rewarding, especially with each run feeling like a slog. And while its unique mechanics separate it from its peers, they also overcomplicate matters. Still, its horror theme is definitely alluring, so roguelike fans who like a bit of darkness might want to give it a go.
Rogue Lords Review – GameSpew’s Score
This review of Rogue Lords is based on the PS4 version (played on PS5), with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.