Well, it has finally happened. In what is sure to be one of the signs of an impending apocalypse, KEMCO has moved away from making retro looking, turn based JRPGs to begin working in an entirely new field altogether. Their latest title, Overrogue, is a retro looking, turn based, card deck/roguelike hybrid. So, I guess the question that I hope to answer here is whether this is a hybrid too far, or does this unholy fusion work?
Story is always important – in my world at least – and to be fair to Overrogue, there is one. It’s fairly slight to be honest, and involves a battle for succession. You see, the underworld is a place of rules and laws, and these rules are set by the Overlord. The current Overlord is 444th in a line, and as he has been in charge for 300 years, he decides it’s about time he stepped down. Maybe he wants to play more demon golf or something, this isn’t made clear.
Anyhow, what this means is that the way is clear for anyone who fancies it to make a play for the throne, by collecting Sagan crystals and then announcing “I’m in charge!”. At least, I assume that is how it happens. We play as Sael, a vampire and son of the incumbent Overlord, and so he is kind of thrust into trying to gather the requisite number of crystals, despite being unwilling to be the new Overlord. The scene is set.
The presentation of Overrogue hasn’t really changed much from the last few KEMCO games. It is very much business as usual here, with large, low poly sprites wandering about, and while the design of the characters is as good as always, there’s nothing surprising here. The same goes for the soundscape – swishes and whooshes and stirring battle music are all here, as per usual, and again it all feels very familiar. It’s getting to a point where if you’ve seen one KEMCO game, it appears, based on the evidence here, that you have pretty much seen them all.
Now, if the presentation is more of the same (I hesitate to say “same old, same old” but that phrase did cross my mind when starting the game), then hopefully the gameplay will bring something different. And in this case, KEMCO does deliver something a little unusual. The game is split into two distinct halves, with Labyrinth runs, where you have to seek the Sagan Crystals, and then the rest of the game, where you can do quests for people in order to win them over to your side and make them into supporters, helping you in your quest to become Overlord. You can build, expand and improve your base as well, which takes copious amounts of gold, which fortunately is available by defeating monsters in the Labyrinths, and so the whole game is a pleasing kind of circle.
Starting with the Labyrinths, which are where you need to be in order to stand a chance of getting a Sagan crystal, and the combat on offer is very different than usual. You see, what happens at the beginning of the dungeon (for that is what they are, to be blunt) is that you are shown a map of the rooms between your current position and the room the boss lives in. You can choose to fight all the way there, or you can choose to avoid battles and try to gain as many advantages as you can from treasure chests, for example. However, it is only by fighting that your team gets stronger; able to take on the boss of the dungeon (or of the floor, in the example of later dungeons that have multiple floors, and multiple bosses).
You see, not only do you begin each dungeon run at level 1 (there’s that roguelike mechanic coming in), you also begin with only a basic set of cards, that are used for battling the monsters. At the beginning of each turn, your three protagonists have a total of three mana points each, and these points can be spent on using various cards that are drawn at random. You can use a few low power cards, or maybe only one high powered card. For example, the card “First Cut” uses no MP at all, so you can always use that, whereas “Heal Slayer”, a card that heals the person in the vanguard when an enemy is defeated, takes 2 MP to use. In this way, it is important to build your deck as you go through the dungeon.
You can find cards in chests, and buy them from shops, and the cards that you unlock will be available to be found next time you run a dungeon. Make sense so far? To be fair, the battle system is complicated and quite deep, so despite how bad a job I’m doing explaining it, it is always challenging, especially on the longer dungeons.
The other side of Overrogue is a lot simpler, and allows you to wander around, talk to people, visit shops and so on to build up your collection of treasures and cards. Developing your base will attract more followers, so you need to keep up to date with both sides of the game if you are to succeed.
There aren’t many downsides to Overrogue, to be honest, except for one, which is more of a personal dislike than an actual issue. My problem with roguelike games in general is the feeling that however well you do (or don’t do) it is out of your hands. If you don’t get the good cards you need to take down a boss, instead pulling a hand full of Ken Dodd’s tickling sticks (ask your parents, kids) then it just feels like you are on to a hiding to nothing and there doesn’t seem to be much that can influence things.
I feel like a game (any game) should have an element of skill to make it more than a random number generator, and honestly that is what Overrogue occasionally feels like. If you like an element of uncertainty, then fill your boots with Overrogue, but that side of things doesn’t work for me on a personal level. However, the combat system is deep enough to keep dragging you back, and the characters are likable enough. It’s just that Overrogue feels a bit too luck based for me.
Overrogue is available from the Xbox Store