Out now for Xbox One and Xbox Series X, Rogue Explorer is a roguelike where you have to climb the Abyss Tower. Beyond that there isn’t much explanation, with no plot points and a limited tutorial.
Rogue Explorer is an interesting game that I really wanted to like. There are a lot of neat mechanics that could’ve been great. In the main menu you have the option to pick between either starting a run through an area, or you could equip different items, accept challenges, and even craft and upgrade the items you have. You can sell any items you no longer want and use that money to either reinvest in your weapons, or you can buy upgrades for your character like increased health or dodge chance.
The runs involve playing through multiple areas in one level, fighting monsters and opening chests as you make your way to the vortex that moves you on to the next area. As you defeat enemies you level up, each time getting the option to choose between one of three upgrades that can improve mobility, damage, or things like experience gain.
All of these things come together to build a great foundation of what could be a really fun game. But sadly Rogue Explorer falls flat.
When it comes to the gameplay, both the movement and the combat are just awkward. All of your movement is slow and feels incredibly loose. The best description I can think of is that it’s like moving in syrup; everything is just oddly slow. Climbing and jumping are also awkward as when you jump up against a wall you are able to kick off of it and jump again. You are supposed to be able to do this back and forth to climb up larger inclines yet half the time I tried this I would just jump straight up instead. It ends up being easier to awkwardly keep jumping against the same wall to climb all the way to the top.
There is also a dodge roll ability that makes you invincible while you use it, which is normally a really nice thing in a game. The problem with the one in Rogue Explorer though, is that you move at the exact same speed as when you walk. And if that’s the case, why use it?
Combat isn’t much better. To fight you can either jump on your enemies head, or you could manually attack. Because of the aforementioned awkwardness with movement, you’ll never want to risk jumping on a foe.
But then, using the regular attack isn’t easy either. You see, when you attack, you don’t attack the area directly in front of you. Instead, your weapon automatically lunges forward towards your enemy. There have been multiple times where my weapon would miss an enemy if I was positioned too closely to them. Obviously this is hugely annoying, especially as you climb up areas where an enemy would stand on the edge and wait for you to get close to attack. Again, jumping on their head here won’t be much of an option, especially if they attack by swinging above their head. The only option is to awkwardly jump, try to attack, and then hope that your weapon heads in the right direction.
It is possible to equip a secondary weapon in Rogue Explorer; one that attacks automatically, but this too is inconsistent, not always attacking as often as it should. This means that some certain points of the game just turn into hopping, button mashing, and hoping that one of the attacks actually hits.
There are also a few quality control issues that came up while playing. One example is the music. For starters, each area’s song plays on a constant loop and when that ends the music will completely stop on the final loop before resuming. Granted, the music isn’t awful but it fast becomes redundant and the cut between each time it plays just brings more attention to it. There are also little jingles that play, but the background music won’t pause or even fade out, so both songs just end up playing at the same time.
Audio issues aside, it seems like Rogue Explorer hasn’t even been vetted for the English translation. Whenever I went to sell an item, the last button I would have to click to finalize the sale has been in Chinese. This happened every single time which leads me to believe it was just an oversight when translating. Okay, so it never affected my playing, but it isn’t a good sign.
Rogue Explorer is a game I really did want to like. I liked the inclusion of the crafting system and I think it could’ve been developed into a really fun rogue-like, or at the very least a basic platformer. But the amount of quality control issues have just kept piling up. I haven’t hated the time I spent playing, but have been left disappointed because of how much potential it had.
There are other issues too – like the bosses and enemies feeling worthless – and I could keep criticizing what would’ve made the game better. But at the end of the day that won’t change things. The movement and combat criticisms might be more personal preferences, since I like games with tight and responsive controls like Rogue Legacy or The Messenger, but even ignoring those criticisms, there are still too many issues for me to rate Rogue Explorer any higher.
Go deep into Rogue Explorer by visiting the Xbox Store