As a general rule, space makes everything cooler. Samurais in space becomes Star Wars. Ship exploration is space becomes Space Rogue! From developer Red Beat, Space Rogue is an exploration and survival game where you take on the role of the captain of a space ship. Slowly, you'll recruit new crew members, mine hazardous planets, purchase deadlier weapons, and blast any nefarious pirates that make the mistake of crossing you. A mission system is also in place to provide you with an overarching goal to accomplish as you prowl the universe for the means to survive. With random events and a plethora of choices to make, this game can easily suck up a good portion of your time. Is it worth the purchase? Let's break it down.
I would love to say that Space Rogue is the first of it's kind. A randomized, rogue-like, space game where your decisions as captain determine the fate of your ship? Unfortunately, I would be amiss to not mention how similar this game is to Faster than Light(FTL). FTL, another steam game of the same style also exists and has been pretty popular for a few years now. These two games are quite similar, which makes it slightly harder to determine the merits of Space Rogue. On the surface, you may declare Space Rogue as simply a 3D copy of the preceding FTL. However, there are a few differences that distinguish this newer game from FTL. I must admit I also initially assumed it would be a simple copy, but please read on as I was pleasantly surprised at what made Space Rogue unique.
This is why we play the game, right? To truly be the captain of your own spaceship, soaring through the black abyss with your crew's safety as your only concern! This is the dream we so wish to be a reality. To be honest, Space Rogue nearly accomplishes this perfectly, with one exception: a captain is one of the initial members of your crew. All the decisions you have to make, the tough choices that constantly present themselves to you, feel weird when you have clearly a unit onboard claiming to also be the captain. It would be one thing if it was clear this is supposed to be you, but he is just another member of your crew.
That being said, everything else totally sucks you into the game. One such example of how this game weaves a web of immersion is all the different choices you will be presented with. To start, you are able to pick what ship you wish to play as, each one harboring its own unique style and overall mission. More are unlocked as you play, giving you lots of incentive to replay the game. You will also be given frequent choices on how to deal with other ships and enemies. Do you let the peaceful cargo transport by? Or do you blow it out of the air to collect their wares? Will you negotiate with the pirates? Or is violence truly the only language you share? Even the small decisions presented to you will test your thought process as the captain Once, I had to really think about if I actually wanted to try and mine resources from a planet. My ship's health was low, and once or twice before I was attacked by pirates while doing the exact same thing. I would've liked the precious metals, but the risk was too great and I ordered my men to continue towards the nearest repair shop.
Another way exploration is handled is with the map itself. While FTL is a somewhat linear game, Space Rogue feels much more like you have total control over your destination. In the missions I played, I had no time limit, so while I could see where I was supposed to go, I decided to take the long way in hopes of gaining a much-needed edge. Each map links to the others by a warp or two and contains over a dozen unique planets and locations. There are also a plethora of moving ships about, further randomizing the sector. I loved traveling back between places I had already been because there was a strong chance something new was present or I could investigate a planet that I missed on my first visit.
The second reason we love space games is for those awesome SPACE BATTLES! Unfortunately, Space Rogue kinda falls flat here. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of options on how to fight and your battle will largely be determined by what you have equipped and what you have upgraded. But when I finally got to the combat itself, I was left wanting more. Nearly every battle started with me pausing, targeting one single piece of the enemy ship, and then unpausing. My weapons would instantly decimate the selected system and the enemy more often could never recover. Most battles of mine ended within ten seconds. Am I a fantastic space captain? Perhaps, but there could definitely be a balance tweak.
One thing I don't like is how all my weapons are instantly ready at the start of combat. While this makes sense in context, gameplay-wise it just rushes the combat. I would much rather prefer a few moments to really take in the ensuing battle. To experience the calm before the storm. It does feel good to be so powerful after a short amount of work, but maybe this is why the customizable difficulty option is present.
That being said, there is a lot of content present to still excite you about ship battles. There are several weapons, drones, ship augmentations, and upgrades to pursue which will really diversify your ship each playthrough.
Graphics and audio
When I said this game could be considered a 3D version of FTL, that wasn't completely a negative statement. While FTL's aesthetics are well done, Space Rogue takes it up a notch by displaying the game in 3D. Both your ship and your enemies' ships will pop out at you backlit by the black void of space. You can actually see your crew running between rooms to either take down foes that have boarded you or to quickly patch a breach in your hull. It all has much more weight when you can see this much more of the game. As above, this is another way the game creates immersion.
The backgrounds of this game are also impressive. Instead of the static, but still appealing, 2D images of FTL, Space Rogue's backgrounds are all moving and rendered behind your ship at all times. Space feels much more real when you can actually see stars shooting past you and planets slowly rotating.
This game has a great soundtrack! You really get that space vibe from the synth-y and futuristic music that plays in the background. There are a couple songs in particular that I was really rocking out to. The music in the game really helps drive home each situation and always feels spot on. For an early access game, I was thoroughly impressed with the current soundtrack.
For the most part, the UI of this game is ok. Things are easy to read and distinguish because of some strong artistic choices. I was hardly confused, which came in handy mid-battle often. While a lot of the buttons and icons repeat, the game gets massive points from me for its navigational map. Each planet looked unique, I could clearly tell what my available paths were, and finding my way through the overmap was a breeze. One little details I really appreciated was old-school TV effect present on the sudden news broadcasts that would pop up. Little touches like that eventually warmed me over on the UI.
Being an early access game, there are going to be bugs. I noticed a few particle effects getting stuck on occasion and once one of my crew members became lodged in a wall after a jump. Try as I might free him from the wall, there he remained until he eventually died. That was a bummer. But really, that was all I noticed. It could be much, much worse. Take any bugs you find with a grain of salt, as the game is solid for the most part.
I would love to see more content eventually come out for this game. While there is a lot so far, certain things feel a bit lacking. For instance, there are three classes and three races your crew can be. Even though the text was present that stated their differences, I really couldn't tell them apart aside from their color scheme. Only the captain unit was really unique and that was because his death was an instant game over.
Another negative thing about the game in all fairness is it's similarity to FTL. They are arguably pretty similar. However, a few design choices here and there have made it more noticeably different. In regards to this, if you have played FTL, this game is going to feel a lot like that. However, if you are new to the rogue-like space survival game formula, then you might get a real thrill out of this game. I can only tell you that, as someone who has played FTL, I still enjoyed this one.
So is it worth it? In short: yes. Long story: maybe. If you have never played a game like this before, or if it simply interests you at first glance, check it out. You might just be surprised by how interesting this game is. But if you are a grizzled veteran of gaming with a degree in space games, you might find too many allusions to previous games. All in all, it isn't fair to determine one game's level of fun by comparing it to another. Yes, it is similar, but I challenge you to find any game that isn't like at least one other. So if you like space, exploration, survival, or the tough decisions a captain has to make, give Space Rogue a look.
|+ Cool, theme appropriate soundtrack.||– Familiar game feel and style.|
|+ Big, sandbox-like map.||– Repetitive combat.|
|+ Interesting choices and decisions.||– Limited content at points.|
|+ Missions and ship variety.||– A few bugs.|
|+ Customizable difficulty.|