Monday, 12 May 2014

Review - Rogue Shooter : The FPS Roguelike (PC)

Randomly Generated Doom

I have been excitedly awaiting the release of Rogue Shooter since the moment I first heard about it online. After all, here was a game promising to blend two of my favourite genres into one ultra, mega-game; the old school first person action of Doom (the greatest game ever made), with the randomly generated shenanigans of Roguelikes such as Spelunky (The second greatest game ever created). My imagination began to run wild, picturing the dark, atmospheric corridors of Doom, coupled with the addictive and infinite replayability that randomly generated worlds provide. Further depth would be provided by levelling up, perks, different player classes, computer hacking and using science to create new and explosive weaponry. In summary, it sounded like the perfect game. So,  it finally launched, with minimal fanfare, on Steam a couple of weeks ago, and I was barely able to keep my hands steady as I made the instant purchase. Can it possibly live up to my lofty expectations? Is it even a decent game on its own merits? 

Set on a towering space station named Helios, Rogue Shooter tasks you with surviving 100 floors containing a plethora of increasingly brutal mutants. Once 50% of the beasts have been slain, you can use the elevator to take you to the next floor. Before every fourth floor is a safe room, where you can breath a sigh of relief, stock up on essential items and repair your gear. That's the basic lowdown. However, Rogue Shooter is a far more complex experience than that, utilising a levelling up system, different character classes that dictate what equipment you start with, the accumulating of 'intel' which unlocks new gear, information and perks, and the ability to hack terminals and combine chemicals to create useful items. It can initially seem a little daunting to those of you not used to RPGs, but the handy tutorial stage gives you all the info you need, and it isn't long before you are leaving the safety of the reception area (complete with elevator 'musak') and heading into the enemy infested corridors of Helios.

Unfortunately, rather than enemy projectiles, the first things to hit you are the amateurish visuals, and incredibly annoying, poorly produced, music. Cartoony visuals in a FPS are perfectly fine - just look at Borderlands, Timesplitters, Outlaws, or the underated XIII - but here they look rather childish, especially as the sprites are so crudely drawn and poorly animated. Sure, I know Doom didn't have the greatest character animation in the world, but here it just appears very unprofessional. The midi rock music is utterly awful, but can be turned off, whilst sound effects are puny and gutless. There are also no lighting effects either. Everything is super bright, resulting in an experience that feels more like running around a supermarket than a monster infested space station. The movement is also quite slippery, and the fairly ridged movement means the game feels far closer to Wolfenstein 3D, or the Blake Stone games, than Doom.

As you kill monsters, they drop useful items, which can be collected by tapping the action button as you move over them. This seems odd, as other collectibles such as ammo or health are picked up automatically. New weapons, from grenade launchers and miniguns, to twin pistols and shotguns, can be found this way, and can be switched around using the intuitive menu system, brought up with a tap of the space bar. Be warned though, this does not pause the game, so must be done when the area is cleared of any adversaries. Computer consoles can be picked up and hacked via a short mini-game, providing addition intel, and scientific materials can be combined in your inventory to create cool items such as grenades, clocking devices and health packs. 

XP is earned through combat, with levelling up granting you new perks which grant bonuses such as rapid reloading and critical hit chance, as well as essential upgrade points. These points are important as, unlike your progress or equipment, they are stored upon your (perma)death. They can then be used to upgrade either your starting health, your attack damage and your inventory capacity, making your next attempt that little bit easier. There are other elements that add to Rogue Shooter's depth, such as an extensive, and often amusing, journal of info on the different monster types, equipment and materials found in the game. The safe rooms allow you to use vending machines to stock up on ammo, health, tools used on the workbench to repair your equipment, and rations. Yes, rations. For some reason your players diet was considered worth including, so each time you move up a floor you use 3 rations, with running out completely rendering you hungry, prone to sluggishness and poor accuracy. 

Of course, all the RPG mechanics in the world mean nothing if the game itself isn't fun, immersive and rewarding, and this is where Rogue Shooter falls flat.
The complete lack of any atmosphere, the boring level design and the ropey presentation kills off any enthusiasm to persevere, and it isn't long before you realise that, despite its incredible potential, Rogue Shooter just isn't much fun to play. The fact that the combat - the bread and butter of any FPS - is feeble and unsatisfying, destroys any interest you might have had for combining chemical elements, hacking consoles, or repairing equipment. While this all may sound quite harsh, possibly due to the fact I was so excited to play this game for so long, the simple fact is that, despite sounding like my perfect game on paper, after only a few days I was getting pretty tired of it.

Sure, I came to it with pretty high expectations, and maybe I am being overly harsh due to being such a huge fan of the genres Rogue Shooter combines. Maybe those gamers who don't hold Doom, and other classic FPS games, on such a pedestal, will be able to look past the visuals and lack of mood lighting. Maybe they will have an absolute blast and find it a refreshing experience compared to modern, story and QTE-heavy first person shooters. This certainly could be the case. However, for me personally, I could never get past the crude visuals, incredibly basic level design and lack of ambience to fully immerse myself in Rogue Shooter, and no amount of RPG elements can change that fact. Reassessing the earlier comparison I made to Blake Stone and Wolfenstein 3D - both fantastic games - I would say Rogue Shooter is more like the Ken's Labyrinth (Google it) of 2014 and is, thus, best ignored.

Title : Rogue Shooter : The FPS Roguelike
Developer : Hippomancer
Year : 2014
Systems : PC (Steam)
Price : £6.99
Genre : FPS, Roguelike