What is it with roguelikes and their punishing gameplay that makes them feel like a constant uphill struggle? Don’t get us wrong, the permadeath progression of roguelikes conjures some riveting moments, but wouldn’t it be great if the genre was a bit more empowering? If, say, you could control the Devil himself and manipulate the very fabric of the game in your favour?
Well, it’s funny you should ask, because right around the corner is Rogue Lords – a game that’s learned from some of the best roguelikes out there, while adding a devilish twist on the genre that we haven’t quite seen before.
And we’re not just talking about the fact that you literally play the Devil here, enlisting the help of nine Disciples who include Count Dracula, Lilith the Succubus, the Headless Horseman, and other unholy literary creations to take back the world from those infernal Demon Hunters.
No, the real devil is, as ever, in the detail.
Rogue Lords lets you cheat your way to victory, manipulating the turn-based battlefield and the very UI of the game to give you every advantage possible. Spend a bit of your health, and an underworld of devious possibilities opens up before you.
For instance, if an enemy hits you with a debuff in battle, you can spend some Essence to send it right back to one of their team (likewise, if they’ve activated a buff that you like the look of, you can steal it for your anti-heroes). Manipulate the health of allies and enemies, recharge skills without spending action points, and embrace the rules by breaking the rules.
In a genre where failure and a forced restart often occur by the finest and most frustrating of margins, this mechanic makes the game that bit more cunning. Besides, how often can you cheat and not feel like a terrible human being for it? You’re the Devil here, it’s what you do!
You pick three heroes at the start of each run, during which you not only do battle against demon hunters and other do-gooders, but traverse a nocturnal world that will present you with all kinds of weapon upgrades and interesting events. When you stumble upon an executioner who’s too nice to do his job, do you execute him, curse his axe, or teach him some cruelty?
Each event has a certain probability of success, but if you don’t like the odds then a little diabolical dallying will swing them in your favour (at the cost of your precious essence, of course).
Rogue Lords has a style and flow that will be familiar to fans of Darkest Dungeon and Slay the Spire, but its beautifully drawn Burton-esque world oozes with its own spooky charms and unique mechanics.
Beyond the shameless promotion of cheating, one of the standout features is that when one of your heroes runs out of health, they can actually keep fighting, but each hit they take will come out of your own Essence. It’s a great way to keep battles lively and balanced, stripping away that sinking feeling of inevitable defeat you get when you’re down to your last hero (looking at you, Darkest Dungeon).
Run out of Essence however, and your reign of terror ends… until the next run.
Rogue Lords is out now on Steam and Epic Games Store, just in time for the annual spooky season as Jack-o-Lanterns start to leer at you from between bare trees and dormant forces stir in the cold earth. Help evil reclaim its throne in Rogue Lords this Fall, and join the game’s impious procession on Facebook, Twitter and Discord.