Tiny Rogues is a game developed by RubyDev as its first major release. It is currently in Early Access (specifically, the current version is v0.19.1b) and scheduled for a full release in 2024. The game takes inspiration from a variety of different sources, including retro dungeon crawlers, 80s PC games, top-down twin-stick shooters, and procedurally generated roguelike games. If you’re interested in one or more of these genres, Tiny Rogues is shaping up to be something you might enjoy. These elements are woven together in such a way that the game feels simultaneously evocative of other indie roguelikes found on Steam while also providing a unique experience that sets it apart from others.
Tiny Rogues is currently available on Steam for $5.99 at base price.
Story – Conquering Death
Currently, the game has quite a simple story. A group of heroes travels through a vast, perilous dungeon ruled over by Death. Along the way, they collect souls from enemies and grow stronger to take on the embodiment of death itself. As the game is currently in Early Access, the story may develop further in future updates.
Gameplay – Delving Through A Randomized Gauntlet
The player chooses a hero out of a list of starting classes, each with different starting equipment and perks, and ventures into a dungeon spanning ten floors, fighting through rooms of enemies and bosses before ultimately facing off against Death. Across these many floors, the player will fight through rooms of enemies, each having their own attack patterns in the form of colorful projectiles. The player will find and collect many different items during their journey. One type of item is stat-boosting items that let them level up and unlock new perks. Another example is weapons of differing quality and attack styles whose damage scales to your current stats. Other items will do things such as provide temporary effects to your character or your weapon, or open locked or blocked doors to secret rooms. Every floor ends with a fight against a boss, currently each floor has two.
Along the way, the dungeon-trekking adventurer will find themselves encountering places such as shops, taverns with NPCs, chests containing treasures and valuable items, random events that provide random effects, and more. The game currently has floors in the same order each run, with variants for each of them planned later on. The developers also plan to add new-game-plus content in a later update.
Like many procedurally generated roguelikes, Tiny Rogues uses a heavy amount of randomization. In a given run, you might choose a class that specializes in a certain stat or weapon type but only gain items and weapons that benefits a different type or stat. This means that much of the game is dependent on luck. The endgame can be a breeze or virtually impossible (or virtually impossible to even get to). A player might do everything right in a run but still find the final boss to be nearly unbeatable if they haven’t gotten good enough items. This can sometimes make it feel like the game relies more on luck than on player skill. However, the game’s various items are balanced enough that you can pull through with any combination if you’re good enough.
Tiny Rogues functions like a top-down shooter. You move with the WASD keys and aim and attack with the cursor. Every attack from both the player character’s weapons and all of the enemies is a projectile. Even melee weapons fire projectiles, just shorter-range ones compared to the other types. Enemies will attack in groups, showing the player with a range of bullets but in predictable patterns. Some enemies will be purple, denoting that they’re enchanted and will use additional powerful attacks.
The player fights back by using many different types of weapons. The three general categories are melee, magic, and ranged, but each of these have many additional weapon types. These different weapons provide many different playstyles to choose from. Scrolls rain down projectiles wherever you point your cursor. Maces send out a short-range wide strike. Guns fire quickly and have a long range but use ammunition. The player can find many other different types of weapons throughout their journey, offering many different playstyles.
The player faces a boss at the end of each floor. The boss has two phases, with the second adding more elaborate and frantic attacks. These fights prove to be the highlight of the game, always providing challenge and fun.
The character moves fairly slowly by default, and ways to permanently increase their speed are uncommon and unreliable. Instead, they can use dashes, a move that replenishes over time and makes them dash across the screen. The character is invincible while dashing and the number of dashes they can do in a row depends on their dexterity and other factors. Late-game enemies and especially bosses often have attacks that are so fast and numerous that dodging them with movement alone can seem impossible. Simply dashing invincibly through attacks might not be as satisfying as dodging the normal way. The many enemies’ vast variety of attack patterns don’t feel as special if they’re all avoided about the same way.
Like many other indie roguelikes, Tiny Rogues has a way to unlock features that influence future runs. This comes in the form of souls, a currency you obtain in regular gameplay. Thus far, these can be used to purchase new character classes, or “Gifts”, different items the player can start the game with. Souls can also purchase “Blessings”, minor upgrades that apply to all classes. This screen also has an option for “Cinder”, ways of increasing a run’s difficulty, but it has not yet been fully implemented.
The vast number of classes Tiny Rogues has already does make gathering souls to buy them fun. Each of them plays differently due to having unique starting perks. It’s also satisfying to purchase upgrades to get a little better each run. However, there’s currently only a finite and relatively small number of things to purchase. After you buy everything, souls become largely worthless and will quickly pile up. Hopefully later updates to the game will alleviate this issue.
Graphics And Audio – Flashy Pixel Combat
Tiny Rogues has an interesting aesthetic inspired by older PC games of the 1980s and early 1990s, most specifically those of home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64. There’s even an effect that makes it look like the screen is that of an old computer monitor, which some may find slightly disorienting but that also adds to the nostalgic effect. While there’s no shortage of indie games that use a retro pixel aesthetic, and even ZX Spectrum games specifically have gotten a few indie homages, Tiny Rogues still provides a unique form of nostalgia. The flashy visual effects make it very satisfying to fight through hordes of enemies. The screen having mostly pitch-black space also makes the bright colors stand out more. It provides a nice contrast.
The music similarly uses a combination of 8-bit music and more modern instruments. This gives the songs a style that fits both the feeling of an old-school computer game and of a classic dungeon crawler RPG. The resulting tunes may not be especially memorable, but they definitely give the game a fitting atmosphere. The tracks for the boss fights provide a standout example of this game’s music. They each fit the tone of the boss battle and make for an exciting fight.
Tiny Rogues was reviewed on PC.