What epitomizes traditional roguelike twin stick shooters is fun multiplayer experiences that work both offline and online with friends. Rogue Stormers presents an interesting case of having an incredibly engaging single player mode with much less rewarding co-op element. With the recent release of the PS4 version, we decided to investigate and see what all the fuss is about.
Rogue Stormers is an engaging twin stick shooter where you take control of one of four different knights tasked with liberating the monster infested town of Ravensdale. Run and shoot your way through seven levels playing either by yourself or with a group of up to four players.
Rogue Stormers is available on Steam and the PlayStation Store for £14.99.
In the opening cinematic you are introduced briefly to the city of Ravensdale. A medieval metropolis that has fallen into disarray after discovering a new fuel called 'the goop' that turned them its citizens into horrible monsters and it is up to the player to save the day one bullet at a time. For those who wish to delve deeper into the history of the town and exactly what caused it to fall into chaos, you can unlock little stories and newspaper clippings as you progress through the game which offers humorous insights into different characters and the city itself such as the appropriately named 'Ravensdale Resistance Gazette'.
In the single player mode, you begin with only one character named Brecht as you progress through the game, tasked with taking on the orc and robot forces infesting the town of Ravensdale. As you run and shoot your way through the seven levels, you slowly being to unlock the four other characters. Each character comes equipped with their own unique abilities and perks. For example, the starting character Brecht, is a long to medium range character with a special ability that powers up his rate of fire whereas another unlockable character: Presto boasts a medium range fire weapon which does much better against crowds of enemies and bosses at short range, while giving the player the added ability of a temporary shield which, when activated which blocks incoming projectiles.
The variations don't stop there either. As you progress through the seven-level structure, you come across different perks you can equip to your character such as adding hit points or the cooldown rate to your weapons abilities. These stack as you progress and work well as in game empowerment mechanic that shows the player how powerful he or she is becoming with time. In addition, the game boasts an RPG like levelling mechanic whereby every time you level up, you gain a new permanent perk which is added to your chosen character. With a level cap of 60 for each character, the game boasts a rich replayability factor that will make the asking price of £14.99 very reasonable.
Players must also brave environmental hazards which chip away at your health bar and certain chests which contain useful perks but require a portion of the player's health. This creates a very engaging risk/reward system which results in a tactical approach to every level. Combine that with the randomly generated level design and various abilities to unlock results in a fundamentally strong gameplay experience. However Rogue Stormers does fall short in a number of areas, most noticeably of which includes the two co-op offerings.
Rogue Stormers offers both couch co-op and online play for up to four players, however, neither work particularly well. The online co-op is quite barren with very few other players available to join the party and start a game. When playing locally, the game's' difficulty spiked far higher than expected, with levelling being slowed and enemies far more difficult to take down. While this is usually expected, the added challenge only made for a more boring and frustrating slog through levels which offered little variation upon frequent play sessions. To add to this, the fact that all players bullet streams were the same colour often lead to difficulty figuring out who was doing what and aiming where leading to unnecessary damage intake and further frustration. Oddly enough, the enemies continue to drop single sets of health and perks which make for another frustrating layer or micro-management to ensure the party has the right tools and no one player hogs the picks ups.
One of the worst elements is the camera control being solely in the hosts' hands. This often resulted in a lot of the exploration being taken away from however the second, third or fourth players were, due to the fact they would be lost off to the side of the screen if they strayed too far away from the host. A split screen set up of some sort would have really been useful in this case and added another dent to the overall multiplayer experience. When a player in the team is killed the teammate must collect 20 health pickups in order to resurrect them which, along with the spike in difficulty seems overly excessive and often left the other player having to wait for up to 20 minutes in one case for me to find these pickups and in others mission failures entirely.
The game offers huge replayability but this element is let down by a largely bland enemy design of orcs, slightly larger orcs that shoot projectiles and other machine type enemies. I was hoping for a much wider selection of enemies that varied between levels but they mostly stay quite similar save for the bosses whose variety proved to be one of the highlights of the game. Should a sequel or DLC be in development it would be a wise idea to try and incorporate a few new biomes or locations with different enemy types to spice up the repeat trips through the levels.
With the huge amount of character customisation, the added bonus of gaining a respec ability upon beating the final boss provides the player with even more incentive to fine tune their character to suit their needs and adds yet another layer to the already fairly deep progression system which proved to be one of Rogue Stormers most redeeming qualities. I have spent well over 10 hours in the game just getting through the levels and levelling up my favourite character but can easily envision myself going back again to further build upon other characters and unlock more perks and skills. This strong gameplay loop is where Rogue Stormers truly shines as an addictive blend of gameplay mechanics and genres. It is unfortunately held back from being a truly great game with some co-op oversights in the spiked difficulty and confusing navigation when playing with friends either locally or online (when it works).
Sound & Graphics
The game's soundtrack is sadly one of the most disappointing features of the experience. The background music presents a bland mix of rock and techno which remains firmly in the background, failing to help shape the main gameplay experience in any way. It is a shame as a lighter, upbeat and melodic sound would fit much better with the humorous tone the rest of the game establishes.
The visual fidelity of the game is much stronger with sharp, vibrant and varied backgrounds accompanying each level. Explosions and gunfire pop and give the characters weapons a satisfying feel to them. The only downside is the characters themselves are difficult to distinguish on screen due to their size. This is a shame as in contrast to the bright and highly detailed portraits presented to the player on the character select screen, their physical representations are not as striking.
Overall, Rogue Stormers presents players with engaging and rewarding experience mechanically but is let down by a massively unbalanced difficulty between both single and multiplayer modes. With a few small changes to these systems, Rogue Stormers could have been an excellent game, but instead, I can recommend it only based on its single player offering which offers great value for money and countless hours of work and robot shooting mayhem.
|+ Solid roguelike and RPG elements make for engaging and rewarding gameplay loops.||– Difficult and frustrating multiplayer/co-op experience|
|+ Endless replayability for new perks and abilities||– Little variation in enemy design|
|+ Great level design and risk/reward gameplay|