It is a very Carefully Constructed kind of Chaos. Everyone compares Streets of Rogue to Deus Ex, and personally I think it more closely resembles a sort of Top-Down Bioshock. But I’ve not really seen anything blend genres like this before, and very rarely do games make environments so mechanically interwoven as this.
Which is all the more spectacular when we remember our aforementioned points of comparison, both Bioshock and Deus Ex were designed by Hand, while Streets of Rogue is a Roguelike. Playing it knowing the Layout is procedurally generated makes the already Impressive qualities of the game ascend into the Miraculous.
A Tyrannical Mayor has taken power over the City and enforced multiple nonsensical policies such as banning Chicken Nuggets and confiscating everybody’s beer. As is always the case when a Government takes alcohol from its people, Men and Women throughout the city have gathered together to form a Resistance movement. Coincidentally much resembling the historically ineffective and disorganized French Resistance under German Occupation in WW2. Despite an amusingly accurate historical parallel, the plot is really just an excuse to ravage the streets and get to the fun bits.
SoR handles like a TwinStick Shooter with concessions made towards facilitating far more detailed and intricate interactions than usual within the genre. Much like how Portal controls like an FPS but plays like a Puzzler, Streets of Rogue is an Action RPG with Controls like a TwinStick Shooter.
Thus, we have the Top-Down view and the usual movement with the Left Stick and Aiming with the Right Stick. The Right Trigger will use the Equipped Item, with empty hands throwing a Punch. You’ll use this primarily to Attack and Shoot.
Some Special Abilities
Many Classes come with a Unique Special Ability activated with the Left Trigger. Vampires standing behind a character, for instance, can drink their Blood whilst they are stunned by the Bite and helpless.
Another Special Ability unique to the Comedian is the Joke, which allows a player to attempt to make nearby folk laugh. If it works, they will become Friendly to some degree. If it fails, they will become Annoyed at best or even Hostile at worst.
The simplest Special Ability is probably the Gorilla’s Primal Lunge, which after a short delay will have the Gorilla leap forward and deal much heavier damage than normal.
Pay attention to the Special Abilities and Traits unique to your chosen class!
Items come as Consumables, Throwables, Melee Weapons, Guns, and what I call Passives.
Melee Weapons and Guns both have a Value associated with them, Melee Weapons have a Durability Value and Guns have an Ammo Value.
If a Melee Weapon’s Durability Value depletes to zero, it breaks and is lost. Whereas a fully depleted Ammo Value only renders the Gun unusable until more Ammo is collected. If another Melee Weapon of the same Type is picked up, their Durability Value will be Combined to a usual maximum of 100. If you have a Melee Weapon with Max Durability and pick up a second of the same Type, the picked-up Weapon will vanish with no effect. This same quirk applies to Guns that are picked up when already carrying an Identical Gun with Max Ammo Value.
Consumable Items are spent when selected from the Inventory or from the HotKey/DPad menu. These can be for Utility use or Combat purposes. Some Consumables include all Foods, All Drinks, Time Bombs, Ammo Stealers, AutoHack Tools, and all Syringes and Drugs/Medicines.
Throwable Items are items launched in the direction a player is facing when the Right Trigger is pressed. These include Grenades, Mines, Rocks, and items carried using the Toss Special Ability.
Passives are Items that take effect simply by sitting in your Inventory. For instance, the Mini Fridge enhances Health Recovery when Consuming Food or Drinks. A more complex item might be the Kill Ammunizer, which will slightly refill all your carried Guns on every Third Kill.
The Inventory is Accessed with the Y button and by Default will Slow Time while in use. Be careful to move your Selection using the Left Analog Stick, since the DPad is reserved for Mapping an Item to a HotKey/Direction. Pressing a Direction on the DPad will Activate whatever is Assigned to that Direction with a max of four different Items on Switch.
Items can be Dropped or Equipped from the Inventory Menu in addition to being Used.
Pressing either Shoulder Button, L or R, will Slow Time and cycle through Equipable Weapons/Tools that can be used by pressing the Right Trigger.
Gameplay and Flow
You’ll start each run at the Slums, it is the First and Lowest level. Your Missions will be available for viewing by pressing the X button and looking at points marked on your Map.
Nothing says you should head straight for your Missions, and personally, I like to stroll around examining the area. If your class doesn’t have any particular enemies, you can usually stroll around completely unbothered until you step inside a building or otherwise run afoul of somebody. I always start off with looting trash cans and locating the Vending Machines on each Floor, if I’m not interrupted at least.
But before you can do much of anything with the Vending Machines or Shops, you’re gonna need to have Something to Sell or some Money to Buy. The best way of accomplishing this happens to be by undertaking your Missions.
These are visible from your Map and need to be completed in one way or another, Success or Failure before you can move on to the next Floor. I always look around for things to Pick Up or Loot to start with so I can get some Money or Food or a Weapon of some sort before tackling a Mission. Food can be most easily found by raiding someone’s Refrigerator, and Weapons are usually found by bushwhacking some poor guy carrying one. Regardless, you’re probably going to make somebody very angry, very sad, or very dead.
I applaud the Developer for enabling the self-imposed Challenge of playing in a (mostly) Moral manner. And naturally, my favorite Custom Character is a Pacifist, because I use videogames as a way to torture myself.
“More than one way”
So Violence is very rarely your Only option, but it is usually the Simplest and most Accessible one. Let us say you’re on a mission to Retrieve an Item carried by some bastard in a Complex. Guards are at the Doors, and they don’t want you in. You could distract them, and slip past.
- You could break a window and climb in at the cost of 15HP.
- You could probably beat them in a fight, but then again they could potentially beat you in a fight.
- You could bribe the Goon at the Door with a Beer.
- You could Brainwash them with a special ray gun and then just ask for the Key.
- You could booby trap the door, knock on it, then watch them answer it and blow themselves up.
- You could Knock on the Door then slip in behind them as they go back inside if you’re quick and careful.
- You could use an Infiltration Tool like a Lockpick or Window Cutter or Hacking Tool to drop their Defenses, or Reprogram their Turrets to shoot at their Owners if you’re a Hacker and have some time to spare.
Once you’re in, it’s totally plausible to sneak by Security and the Cameras undetected. And when you need to get back out, you could blow the generator to make a new exit or find another door or get out through a window. This game gives you an unprecedented number of options, thus providing a surprisingly robust Role Playing Experience.
Occasionally, and usually on the Third Floor of each Section it seems? There will be a Disaster of some sort. Be it an ever-spreading toxic Ooze or a Killer Robot or some kind of War in the Streets. Your best bet is to take shelter only long enough to get your bearings, plan a route to your Missions and get them done QUICKLY because everything can go to Hell very quickly when any of these Events are Active.
In the Resistance Base, there is a Hacker that will let you turn on Mutators to keep the game fresh or customize the experience. A favorite pair of mine to combine are the Zombies Ate My Game Balance and Cash Rewards Mutators. Mixed Up Districts are also great after you have completed at least one Run. OH! Also the Mutator for three Lives. Really nice when you need a bit less Tension but otherwise want to play as Intended. These go a long way towards making the game Accessible, and I find them Brilliant additions to the game that greatly enhance the already great Replay Value.
My Temporary Term Tangent: The terms of Roguelike and RogueLite get confusing to me due to their being so closely related. Most Roguelikes that I have ever played have been like Black Coffee served with Optional RogueLite Cream and Sugar on the side. You can’t define the game properly as a RogueLite or Roguelike without delving into the Context of how the game is played. So to use the terms, this is a Roguelike game with RogueLite Accessibility Options all over it, and that’s a Good since it all can be deactivated for the Roguelike Purists out there.
So some things will be Permanent from one Run to another, so what are they? Well, between Runs, you’ll be hanging out in the Resistance Base. You’ll see the Characters you Unlock hanging out here with the base filling up as you progress. Your primary reward apart from these Unlocks directly from your Gameplay will be “Chicken Nuggets.” Yeah, we’re coming back around to the Mayor’s ban of Chicken Nuggets. These will be awarded to you for going out and doing awesome stuff like Leveling up and Completing Floors. And they act as the Currency you will be using to Unlock new Traits and Loadout Items.
For instance, one handy Trait I recently Unlocked was Wall Walloper. It allows you to whack a wall with a Melee weapon and break it in exchange for a hit against its Durability Value. Very useful for getting into places people don’t want you to be. Once unlocked, these Traits will randomly appear as optional additions at the end of a Floor in which you Leveled Up. You can, of course, Disable Unlocked Traits if you so choose by talking to the Traits Vendor if you don’t want them to appear.
Similarly to Traits, Loadout Items may be unlocked by spending Chicken Nuggz at the Base. Just go talk to the proper fellow and start browsing. You can choose to unlock an item such as a Pistol or Grenades, which then will be available for you to select as part of the Loadout of a Custom Character. These items will from then on (usually) being found in the Red Loadout-o-Matic Machines on sale at a rather good price when you play as a Character with the Item in their starting Loadout.
I love this aspect of the game more than anything else. I’m refining my own Custom Character named Lenatir, he’s Blond headed like myself and tends towards bad luck. Why? Because in my backstory for the Character he did something stupid and got himself Cursed. So now he has the Shapeshifter Class’s Special Ability to take over the bodies of other Characters by getting behind them… But it comes with Negative Traits meant to balance out that very powerful ability. So like the Shapeshifter class, he’s hated by half or more of the Populace. But I decided that I wanted to ATTEMPT Role Playing as myself, and my experiences fine-tuning Lenatir’s loadout have taught me that a truly Pacifist run in this game is very difficult. And so, of course, I love it. You have a Max of 20 Points to use and can increase the number of Positive Points at your disposal by taking on Negative Traits, so you can get the Positives you want. Use it for boosting one of your four Attribute Stats or on Traits or on Items for your Loadout! The possibilities are pretty amazing.
Big Quests allow a character to have a particular class-based goal-oriented around rewarding “In Character” behaviors. This will unlock a Super Special Ability for that Class and a Mutator allowing the use of said Ability. I really appreciate these. They help a character to be built in Personality as well as Stats. I’ll give examples after I explain Custom Characters.
Custom Characters can be given a Big Quest on the Switch version, but it must be borrowed from one of the Default Existing Classes. While completing a Default Character’s Big Quest will unlock a Souped Up version of their Special Ability, doing the same with a Custom Character given a Big Quest will NOT unlock anything. Still, it is a nice feature if you want to make a Super Gorilla or Customized version of an existing Class.
Before writing this review, I made several runs with Default characters taking particular note of how the Experience differed each time based on my Chosen Class.
Slum Dweller: Start with Whiskey, a Magicarp class. Everything about this class is starting at the bottom and working your way up. An Exp boosting Trait called Super Studious all but assures you’ll get a Level Upon each of the earlier Floors. While playing as the Slum Dweller, I initially found a lot of use from traits boosting Weapon Durability, since it let me sell extra-Melee weapons as I didn’t burn through them so quickly. The Big Quest for the Slum Dweller is to move up to a higher social caste called Upper Crusty living on the Top Floor in the Mayor’s Village. To get this, you need to make a $50 deposit for each Floor at an ATM or Bank. It isn’t too hard to make payments in advance after about Floor 1-3. The biggest frustration of this class is a lack of early options, but earlier Floors are easier too. So debatably this class is the most Balanced.
Soldier: Soldier‘s Big Quest is to destroy all Generators on all Floors. This isn’t hard to do but may require a touch of backtracking. The Soldier’s Loadout consists of 3 Door Detonators, a Kill Ammunizer that resupplies some Ammo with each third Kill, a Machine Gun with a Full Clip of 50 Rounds, 5 Hand Grenades, 3 Land Mines and a Combat Helmet. Remember these can all be repurchased at any Loadout-o-Matic Vendor.
Needless to say, you’re fully kitted out with this guy. His high Firearms Stat ensures he can make good use of each Bullet. Rotate your weapons right and keep a variety of guns handy and you can theoretically never run shy of ammo. I killed mostly anything that got in my way or between me and the food in their refrigerator. My murder spree ended abruptly when I stuck an Unknown Syringe into myself containing Sulfuric Acid.
Doctor: The Doctor has a powerful Special Ability as well as a terrible Handicap. His Loadout includes a First Aid Kit, a Tranquilizer Gun, and an EarWarp Whistle. My run as a Doctor was mostly spent working around his Pacifism. You can Remove or Swap Traits, but it felt wrong to change a defining Character Trait. It is an option to remove Pacifism for about $300. My run ended abruptly when I got cornered by multiple enemies and my Backup plan of EarWarp Whistling did not persuade them into not riddling me with Bullets. Always test your Parachutes before jumping Kids.
Thief: Begins with 3 Cardboard Boxes, 5 Wall Bypassers, 3 Lockpicks, 3 Safe Crackers, 3 Window Cutters, and a Crowbar. He’s also got a Special Ability and Handicap. His Loadout is one of the easiest to replenish. Other Thieves sell Intrusion Tools at good rates, and so life as a Thief has a lot of Stealthy Shenanigans. I constantly forget nothing prevents you from taking a Direct, Violent Approach. I died a lot from forgetting I could just attack the enemy. His Pickpocket ability is amazingly versatile!
So before my closing thoughts, I’ll give my Wishlist of things I think would improve at least the Switch version.
- An Option to prevent picked up weapons from vanishing when holding an identical weapon of Max Durability or Max Ammo.
- An Option to prevent picked up weapons from vanishing when holding an identical weapon of Max Durability or Max Ammo.
- And especially a Toggle option for Movement of the Camera with the Right Analog Stick, possibly mapped to R3.
Streets of Rogue has been a Revelation to me. I had no idea this experience so apparently simple could have such depth. It was a surprise and a great joy that I’ve had a lot of fun with and will be coming back to often. Especially with all the ways, I can Tinker with Custom Characters in a way that feels rewarding. I’m also going to recommend you support the creators by purchasing the OST. It’s just the perfect accompaniment to a reckless and chaotic jaunt as you tear a bloody swath through the Streets of Rogue.
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Robert Kelly Ball
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