Rogue Lords Review: Your Own Campaign of Terror

Command your own legion of evil and exact revenge upon your bitterest enemies in Rogue Lords. Summon your Disciples and learn their strengths and weaknesses, so that you can launch a bloodthirsty three-person army - and play some devilish, overpowered tricks of your own.

Rogue Lords Review Your Own Campaign of Terror

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s no wonder people are already dusting off their annual no-explanation-necessary costumes. Here is a new turn-based roguelike adventure, just in time for the festive season.

Rogue Lords isn’t just a fun romp through a despairing medieval land. It’s also a celebration of the world’s most enduring and beloved horror icons. Cyanide Studio and Leiker Studio depicts a dreary world overrun with a fascinating cast of characters, from Dracula to Lilith to Frankenstein’s Monster. For the first time, players will have the opportunity to control their favorite movie monsters in a rough, tough, nail-biting adventure!

Rogue Lords | PC Release Date Trailer

Rogue Lords is available for PC on Steam for your regional pricing.

Story – Venturing Out for Vengeance

You step into the shoes of The Devil, commandeering a legion of evil soldiers to spread terror throughout an already-dilapidated region run by demon hunters and a religious sect called the Sanctua Lumen. Before you can face your biggest enemy, Van Helsing, you must collect six relics with mysterious powers.

Because it’s in the nature of a roguelike game to die and try again, I found the set-up of the story a bit strange because you have to play through the chapter introduction and voiceover every time. It’s not a big deal, but it started to become repetitive for me and it was hard to pay attention to the story if I was just skipping through that. Maybe it would have been better to have the option to skip the chapter sections after you’ve already run through them once, because they don’t offer much except a little break.

Challenges you meet on your way to the relics can reward or punish you.

Challenges you meet on your way to the relics can reward or punish you.

The story isn’t much to write home about – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Each adventure towards a new relic provides a story that is pretty typical and doesn’t offer any exciting twists and turns. Your cast of Disciples are icons you know about from popular media, and while their character design is excellent, you don’t really get to know much about them beyond their portrait in the Devil’s Lair. You’ll be completely focused on the gameplay and getting to the end. In the end, the story works, but it doesn’t keep up with the adrenaline rush of the combat sections, and they almost feel like they’re in the way of the game.

Gameplay – Scaring Newbies, Challenging Veterans

Rouge Lords features the typical roguelike with deck-building elements, with a style that can be familiar to those who enjoyed Slay the Spire and Darkest Dungeon. As you travel through the story you customize the path to get to the final boss – choosing your own mix of skills, relics, and power-ups that will work best for you and your three-person party. Battles are turn-based, and each combatant has an HP and SP bar. The goal is to whittle any bar to zero, and deal a final killing blow.

The turn-based battles will have you at the edge of your seat.

The turn-based battles will have you at the edge of your seat.

The unique feature in the game is the use of Diabolic Essence – liquid from the River Styx that acts as the last chance life meter of your party. Should your Disciple get a killing hit, life siphons from this meter before an official Game Over for your run. You also use this to add to your Disciple’s HP and SP bars, lower your enemies’ health, and increase your chances at succeeding Encounters to earn stats.

I started off this game playing like a Goody Two-Shoes. I saved up Diabolic Essence and used them up to bolster my chances at Social Tests and cheat death in the most Elite Combat. However, I didn’t really get to go far because of the rising difficulty in each chapter. Soon I found myself lowering my opponent’s health to ensure victory, and that did the trick. In the end, relying on this aspect becomes essential to survival, rather than a just trivial fun trick The Devil can do!

Despite this fun “cheating” mechanic, Rogue Lords is a tough game. I went into it very casual, learning the ropes and getting into the groove like you do with most games of this type. It does get pretty exciting to understand what every Enchantment, Weakness, Effect meant, and how you bring this knowledge together with a play style that you are comfortable with. It was very satisfying to finally figure out your personal strategy that worked best for me – it did just take an embarrassingly long time to get there.

Watch out from random Threat effects and Ambushes.

Watch out from random Threat effects and Ambushes.

At first it was really frustrating to make it so far down a book, only to be completely wiped out near the boss fight. One round ramps up in difficulty quite quickly, and you might get shocked with how hard some mid-level enemies can hit while you’re starting out. With every defeat you can see what you could have done better, and each fight gets easier and the difficulty feels warranted.

The learning curve is very steep, and impatient players may get frustrated by this on the get-go. After all, the joy of this genre is the genuine sense of progression and the exhilarating close calls and utter failures. 

Rogue Lords is definitely for those people with a never-back-down attitude, and enjoy a challenge and the occasional gambling against the RNG gods. However, there were often times that felt unfair during my run, but I shook off that frustration and started to take the game more seriously (a little out of spite, I admit), and overall I had a fantastic time with the game. It’s very addicting to figure out your path and chain it into a powerhouse team that will bring you all the way to the boss.

Well-illustrated characters, icons, and backgrounds give that spooky cartoony feel.

Well-illustrated characters, icons, and backgrounds give that spooky cartoony feel.

Audio and Graphics – Stylish and Spooky

Now, Rogue Lords isn’t going to scare you silly like a Frictional Games or a Dark Pictures title. But it does have enough charm and style to keep you hanging around the game’s swamps and forests a bit longer. The game runs smooth as you drag your player characters around on the map. The user interface also allowed for clear explanations of what’s going on. It facilitated the learn-as-you-go model that this genre is known for.

The presentation of the game itself is pretty tight. While you are wandering around generic foggy areas and one path, there’s a certain ambiance that makes the whole thing work. Save for the occasional demon hunter ambush, roaming around and strategizing where to go next feels pretty good – you can take on or avoid optional encounters along the way. There are times when the map isn’t clear about what is a walkable path or not – one time I was stuck wandering around in one zone looking for an exit, only for the walkable path to be obscured by trees.

Wander a 3D map to choose the path that will take you to victory.

Wander a 3D map to choose the path that will take you to victory.

One of the most commendable areas in the game’s aesthetics is the character design – from your roster of evil soldiers down to the enemies that you face. I loved this game’s renditions of pop culture favorites. The 2D art and the models look really good. I liked the different effects, stances, and even barks that were used to represent the characters. I enjoyed Rogue Lords‘ take on these popular icons, and you can tell there was a lot of love that went into each design. The environments, whether 3D or 2D, felt like a unified experience that is a joy to look at and experience.

One area that I felt was a bit lacking was the sound design. The sound cues for some applied effects in battle are replicated – while of course there are probably too many classes of battle effects, it would have been nice to have a bit more variety, and would help me understand what exactly went on during the turn much faster. The background music, though effective, felt rather generic. It’s a good thing that the voice acting, especially for The Devil narrator and character barks, is superb and pulls you even further into immersion.

Rogue Lords was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by HomeRun PR.

Rogue Lords is a well-built roguelike that can get anyone in an evil Halloween party mood. The game has the style and addictive hook to keep devilish map-crawlers progressing through suspicious sanctuaries and nasty taverns. Lovers of the genre will find a familiar but engaging gameplay loop and new strategies to learn. However, its reliance on punishing difficulty, probably meant to encourage more risk-taking, can take a toll on the player's overall enjoyment of what is a really fun game.
  • Fun and addictive spin on the roguelike genre
  • Cool aesthetic and style
  • Great variety in characters, skills, relics, events etc. - they've got it all
  • Enjoyable voice acting and character design
  • Punishing difficulty can be more discouraging and random
  • Slow and buggy loading screens
  • So-so story, could definitely have been pushed further

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