The roguelike genre has seen a resurgence in the last ten years, with many developers attempting to innovate and mix up the well-tread formula. Streets of Rogue is one such game, mixing the roguelike action of something akin to The Binding of Isaac with the strategy and immersive possibilities of Deus Ex. It is a mostly well done and solid mash-up that accomplishes the goal of giving the player a deep and varied gameplay experience that is ripe for replayability as well as multiplayer fun.
The main concept is seemingly simple but offers a huge range of possibilities in terms of interaction. Streets of Rogue is set in a huge futuristic city where a tyrannical mayor has taken away all the alcohol and proceeded to take complete control. You are part of the resistance that is trying to take the city back from the mayor. The story is not the main focus at all however and is dropped right after the tutorial. It’s just a launching point for the mayhem that you will inflict on the city. What little writing is present mostly comes from in the form of descriptions and random quips by NPCs. That small amount though is wildly entertaining and is genuinely funny; it gives the game a unique and goofy tone.
So after the main setup you are given a choice of certain characters that are a part of the resistance; each one is unique and offers very different experiences. After you pick your character, it thrusts you into the city, which is separated by floors with four randomly generated levels on each floor. Each level is an open area with buildings and features that have unique properties from banks filled with vaulted money, to a frozen lake that you skate on. To move on to the next level you have to complete a random set of assignments on that level. In addition to those each character has their own main quest that is specific to them. For example, if you pick the thief you have to steal a certain amount from buildings, while if you pick the hacker you have install malware on each floor. When you die though you lose all the progress that you made, which is typical for the genre.
Each character can really change the gameplay experience radically and that is what creates much of the replayability. Playing as the marine, whose goal is to blow up as much as possible, varies greatly from the slum dweller, whose job is to make as much money as possible. While some of the characters are not as interesting as others, it gets better when you can unlock even more crazy and weird characters by completing certain criteria, adding even more to the game’s content – like the zombie needing to spread infection and create more undead.
It’s exciting to explore how all the different items interact with the world and its inhabitants. Despite lasting for a while, that sense of discovery does go away after you get deeper into Streets of Rogue. If you’re looking for completely new content throughout you will probably be disappointed. Much of the depth comes from finding the relationships between familiar items and levels that you see over and over again. The experience also lacks in compelling long term progression, as while you do unlock a currency that persists that you can unlock passive buffs and other minor additions, it is not deeply engaging.
Playing with others is fantastic because the game’s layout works so well in a multiplayer setting. It’s a riot seeing all the different ways that two characters can create chaos in the open levels. There’s a whole new world of possibilities that open up when more than one player is involved. The time I spent playing with a fellow team member, James, was one of the best experiences I had. It can truly provide a great time and makes the whole game well worth a go if you’re looking for a local or online game to enjoy with a couple mates.
The visuals are nothing really to write home about; its perfectly serviceable pixel art style and the levels look sufficiently different from one another. The music is a big negative for me however, as while it’s catchy at first, it soon begins to grind on you after a certain amount of time. You die often, going through the same levels often, and each floor has the same one track playing. After the hundredth time you’ve heard that one track it starts to drive you crazy, especially on the first floor, which you will visit a lot.
Overall, Streets of Rogue on Xbox One is a totally solid roguelike game that will please fans of the genre and can easily eat up many hours, experimenting and playing around with the humorous world that Matt Dabrowski has created here.