Roguelikes have been showing up A LOT lately. That cycle of (hopefully) getting a little further, or a little more powerful each run, while the variables change each time, is an excellent game mechanic. I've played quite a few different titles featuring it over the past few years, across multiple genres, and the variety created by the random elements always helps to make each run feel unique.
This game though, Streets of Rogue, might just have the most variety I have ever experienced, in any game, ever. First time around I'm a slum dweller. Armed with nothing but a can-do attitude, and a bottle of whiskey, I head out, hoping to make my fortune and secure a life as a member of the rich elite upper-crusters. Unfortunately though, a plague of zombies soon put a stop to that idea.
Next time round, I'm a hacker! Yeah, this is cool! Armed with a teleporter and laptop, I can hack almost anything! I'm gonna install malware on every floor and set off the largest cyber-attack this world's ever seen! Lasted about 5 levels before hacking into the wrong thing and setting off an alarm. Died in a hail of bullets after teleporting to escape from a group of cops, and then appeared amongst an even more heavily armed, group of cops.
After that, I was a gorilla. Or was I the Vampire? Was I the comedian, maybe? Or the wrestler?Anyways, point is, Streets of Rogue has a LOT going on, so let's get right down to it, shall we?
What actually is this game? Well, it describes itself as a "rogue-lite co-op stealth shooter RPG brawler mega-game. It's like Nuclear Throne meets Deus Ex, mixed with the anarchy of GTA. Rogue-lite meets immersive sim and goes completely insane."
And I couldn't agree more!
It has the cute pixel look, twin stick controls and top-down view of say, Enter the Gungeon or Nuclear Throne, but missions can be approached in a wide range of ways, like in Deus Ex. Throw in interactive citizens with their own behavior and routines, as well as the fact that you can play in co-op with up to 4 players, and you can see it might get just as crazy as GTA or Saints Row ever was!
Story wise, there is a reason for all the shenanigans you'll be involved in. Firing the game up will set the scene with a good old-fashioned text scroll, and gives a sample of the overall humourous style that runs throughout the entire title. Once home to peace and prosperity, the city has fallen into the hands of a ruthless and dictatorial Mayor. Elected on the vague promises of "lower taxes" and "more beer", his true colours began to show immediately upon his inauguration. The mayor's first executive orders were a massive raise on taxes, and a one-time confiscation of all alcoholic beverages. He stated that the confiscation was so he could throw "the mother of all ragers" for his constituents. But in reality, there was only one keg and a bag of tortilla chips.
It was suuuper lame.
He used the money and extra booze to fund a private army of goons, happy to carry out his every nefarious bidding. Before long, the city had fallen into a state of chaos.
But there is still hope! A secretive organisation known only as "The Resistance" has been formed to fight back against the Mayor's tyrannical leadership. And that is where our tale begins. It is time to embark on your journey into the...Streets of Rogue.
And from here, if it's your first game, we continue into an excellent tutorial and have all the basics explained. As mentioned earlier, the action takes place from a bird's-eye view and has a cutesy pixel look that, while simple in style, still has enough detail to identify characters and items quickly. Simple controls are explained like the left stick moving while the right stick aims, and the right trigger attacks, while the A button interacts with your environment. From here, the game then goes on to explain how things like the inventory, item shortcuts and teleporter work. After explaining these basics, you're dropped in home base and are told to choose a character before heading out into the city to begin your adventure. Every character has unique stats, starting items and traits, both good and bad, associated with them, and the choice you make is important. For instance, the Thief starts with not only a pickpocket ability, but a stash of lockpicks, crowbars and wall bypass devices too. On the other hand, he also looks shady as hell and no shopkeeper will allow him entry. If you decided to choose the doctor though, you'll have the ability to chloroform people from behind and start with a tranquillizer gun. However, you'll also get the pacifist trait and can't use any of the various weapons you'll come across. Whatever character you decide to pick will have a huge effect on how you approach the various missions and how your adventure might play out.
Beginning in the Slums, level 1-1, each of the stages you'll visit takes the form of a small section of the city. These are randomly generated each time, but you can save and reuse/share a seed code if you find one that's particularly good or interesting. There are three of these levels in each zone, and 6 zones in all. Each zone has its own unique aesthetic and the people who live there are different from place to place. So the slums are full of the poor, gang members and police, while the park is home to a cannibal tribe, and the industrial zone has workers going back and forth.
No matter what that actual zone though, spread throughout will be various houses, pubs, labs, storage areas and loads of different shops and vendors. Each area has its own community too, and they all have their own roles and behaviour. Different people will react to things in different ways, and while most people are basically nice as long as you don't directly hurt them or trespass in their houses, shopkeepers WILL protect their stores, and police WILL react violently to anyone they see committing a crime.
The various members of the community can also be an asset though, and have behaviours you can take advantage of. Have extra cash? They might have items or weapons for sale. Need backup? Most people can be hired, though it can be expensive, and they might run off if trouble gets too bad. Other characters have a better way to build a team though. Playing as a Gang member allows you to recruit any other member to fight by your side. Slave Masters can, well they can enslave people with exploding thought collars, while Gorillas can free other apes from labs, building their own little squad. You can then use these helpers in your attempts to complete each levels given objectives, and you can check these at any time by holding down the "Y" button. This will bring up the map screen with the various target locations and objectives marked upon it. These differ for each seed, so will vary with every run you do. There are a few different types, ranging from simple "Neutralise" or "Collect" missions, to things like robbing a safe, rescuing a prisoner or hitting a certain combination of switches. Where the game gets really interesting though, is how open the approaches to each mission can be, and how you can tackle them in a myriad of different ways. Of course, many of the options might totally depend on a class skill, a trait or an available item, and makes experimentation a really fun and rewarding experience.
Say you have to steal plans from a safe. It's hidden in the backroom of a large factory like structure, made up of large rooms with corridors linking them, and it's regularly patrolled by a few armed guards, spread throughout the facility. The doors are locked and the guards will shoot trespassers on sight. How do you get in?
I mean, you COULD just knock on the door and attack the guard the second he opens it to see what's going on. This is risky of course, his buddies are definitely going to hear that, and maybe the cops will too. Maybe you go looking for another way in and notice a window? Smashing it will be noisy though, and surely it will draw attention and passing through that broken glass is definitely going to hurt. Maybe you acquired a wall bypass device or a glass cutter? The thief starts with these, so that could work... Maybe you discover the air filtration system for the building and throw some chemicals in, gassing the occupants? Maybe you're the hacker and use your skills to remote access the computer, unlocking the doors and safe, while turning the security system against the guards? These are just a few approaches, WAY more are available, and that variety and replayability is a huge part of the Streets of Rogue charm. No matter how its actually done, completion of every quest on that level will open the exit and allow you to move on, and hopefully you'll eventually reach the top and take down the mayor himself!
Alongside this main story quest, each character also has a "Big Quest" related to them. For example, the Slum Dweller wants a house in the posh part of town, and you have to put money away for this each zone. The soldier wants to take down the whole power-grid, and to do so he must destroy the generators on each stage. The Gorilla wants to free his simian chums from the science labs, while the vampire wants to hunt down and kill all the werewolves. Altogether there are 24 available characters, each with one of these missions, unique to them. They are optional, but give good experience and items for carrying them out. These are just as varied as everything else in SoR, and obviously add hugely to replayability. When missions are completed, or when you level up, you'll also receive a reward of chicken nuggets quite regularly. These act as a currency that you can spend in your base, unlocking new skills, weapons, items, traits and mutators that will be added to the in-game pool, and have a chance of appearing in future runs. These buyable items make even death rewarding, as when you fail each run, you can spend the nuggets you've earned and unlock some goodies, hopefully making life easier next attempt.
Downsides here are very few. I suffered no performance issues or slowdown, even with large battles and multiple participants. I didn't play much online, but never experienced any problems with the few games I did play. The only things I'd like to mention are nothing major but might be worth noting. First up, while just playing a standard game, death can come quick, and means a total restart. All the way back to zone 1-1 you go. Now, you can unlock a shortcut, allowing you to jump straight to starting at a certain zone, but doing so requires completing the zone with 5 different characters. There's also a mutator available that introduces 3 continues a level, so this problem can be mitigated, making things a little easier. What really makes things easier however, you ask? Bringing friends along for the ride! Playing single player is WAY more difficult than getting other players to help. To be fair though, SoR makes this as easy as possible, with both couch and online co-op available, and loads of search and filter options to choose from. People wanting a primarily single player experience though, should definitely take note that the game can be significantly more difficult when going it alone.
Despite these very minor niggles though, I totally enjoyed my time with Streets of Rogue. The sheer amount of options and approaches blew me away. I will certainly be continuing my time with it, as there are characters I have barely explored and I have hardly touched the custom character creation system. A deceptively simple looking game, but underneath the humour and cutesy pixel art style, lies a whole load of depth and complexity. The amount of characters, unlocks and things to earn make this a title where the replayability is huge. For the price, you get an UNBELIEVABLE amount of quality content.
Well worth the look!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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