Monday, October 10, 2016

Rogue Stormers (PS4)

I am super late getting to this game, but to be fair I did get it late. Regardless of my past due review what I have to say could still hold sway with what those of you who have yet to play or purchase the game think about it. Let me elaborate ...

Black Forrest Game's latest single player, and multiplayer Metroidvania style platformer brings with it an unusual combination of gameplay elements. Along with the basics of platforming utilized within the usual 2D (3D accented) environments also comes twin-stick shooter controls that are further enhanced by the use of shoulder button, and face button functions. There's that, and the fact that this is a rogue platformer. Meaning that each level is randomly generated. Everything from the contents of the chests, to the environments themselves are randomly constructed before you actually get into the gameplay. Despite it's random nature the levels which are alphabetically assigned in the loading screen sequence, and titled therein in episodic fashion are done in "Battlegate" playthroughs as well as boss battles that ultimately lead to a final boss encounter. You will make your way through each level as one of several pre-designed, and unique characters who each have unique weapons and perks with which they can combat minions of 'Hector Von Garg' that spawn forth from strategically placed Transgoop portals. It seems old Hector is about as corrupt as our own politicians, and has overthrown with the help of his orcish goons the world in which the game's heroes, and heroines live. As a dedicated hero, or heroine it is your duty to end his reign of terror, and put a stop to his goopy ways.

Rogue Stormers, as it were comes in three different playable forms. You have the singleplayer mode in which you can go solo as well as two multiplayer modes tied to both couch co-op, and online play with available spaces for up to three other players to join in the fight. As I briefly said earlier each playthrough is comprised of Battlegate, and boss battle stages which are each in their own way random encounters due to the randomly generated system that runs the game. To begin with you will be able to select only one of the playable characters to play as in these platforming based battles. That character's name is, "Brecht", and he is the more agile run-n-gun type. He carries an auto-rifle type weapon, has a special ability called "Lunacy" which basically boosts the power of his shots, and an added passive perk that grants him an immediate 250 gold coins, and boost to various stats. Which will aid in his crusade.

Each character within the game, in their individuality, have a similar yet different set of weapons (Main & Secondary), special abilities, and perks and/or upgrades. As you continue playing as the character of your choice you will level them up RPG style by collecting souls that are dropped from killed minions, and will also gain through game overs optional jackpots that gift the chance to unlock more upgrades, and perks. Some of said perks can also be obtained during a level playthrough. Regardless of where you get them think of the upgrades, and perks as extra passive boosts to stats. Things like improved health, offense, and defense included in that. You can also obtain power-ups during playthrough discoveries which gift you secondary weapons, and add additional in-game perks to your character. These can be found in chests that vary in appearance according to rarity, and cost as well as from Jackpods that also cost a certain amount of gold to activate. For the really good loot you'll need keys which can be found in both Jackpods, or chests.

As far as controlling the character goes it varies according to which controller layout (A, B, or C) you have set within the "Options" menu. Basically, the movement is done either with the (Dpad), or the (Left Thumbstick). To fire your primary weapon you'll be using either the (Right Thumbstick) to shoot in all directions or one of the face buttons (SQUARE) along with the (Left thumbstick) to do the same. The secondary weapon, which is more of a toss out explosive, sentry, or projectile can be used by pressing the appropriate shoulder button (R2). Characters can also dash via the trigger button (R1) or jump using (X) or (L2). To activate the characters' special ability (which has a percentage cooldown) you'll need to press (L1). I should also mention that certain face buttons (TRIANGLE ...) act as the 'Interaction' function which basically allows your chosen character to loot chests, and activate Jackpods. As I played I preferred to use the more traditional layout that had the face buttons set for the shooting, jumping, and interacting functions. It should be noted that this, "B" layout of which I speak also keeps the other controller options intact in case you want a more customized approach to gameplay.

When it comes to unlocking the other characters it basically requires repeat playthroughs, and grinding. The gameplay itself is quite challenging, and unforgiving in it's set difficulty though, and unless you adapt well you'll likely struggle without co-op partners. Speaking of which I was unable to experience either multiplayer mode. I don't have friends for couch co-op, and the online was a virtual ghost town at the time I did my playthroughs. It's unfortunate to see online in such a state, because I actually enjoyed the game. It's a proper Metroidvania/Shmup hybrid, and is designed really well. The only real flaws happen when the game has it's crashes, and those seem to be few, and far between.

Visually 'Rogue Stormers' has a sort of 2.5D appearance with it's background elements, and character sprites that each hold a more 3D build. Of course there's also plenty of special effects ranging from weapon fire, goop, and even environmental blazing electric hazards. For what it's worth the game does also start off with a pseudo cinematic intro that contains panel art done up in a comic book style. It clues the player into why the characters are fighting, and who exactly the enemy is. Other than that you will only find added bonus material in the form of story unlockables which can be viewed from the main menu listing, and obtained during a playthrough. Before I forget I should also mention that obtained 'Upgrades' can also be viewed along with their inclusive details in the main menu listing of the same name. Also, before each singleplayer or multiplayer playthrough you will be prompted to select one of many 'Perks' which are located in a grid beside the character selection display. This will help you in your playthrough through the extra stat boost/s.

Needless to say 'Rogue Stormers' definitely has it's replay value, but it is a shame to see it only viable in singleplayer and couch co-op multiplayer.

The Verdict ...

I really liked what Black Forrest Games did with 'Rogue Stormers'. It's not often you see such a blended platformer work out so well. Everything from the character controls to the staged layout of playthroughs came together in a way that was truly complimentary. Nothing really felt out of place, though it could be argued that some control schemes are better than others depending on the players' preferences. That, and the occasional crash did have it's slight sting on my overall impression. Nothing too serious though. I'd say that if you are looking for a new kind of platformer that is unique, and you have some couch co-op buddies to game with then this might be a good game for you to pick up. It is a budget release, and won't cost you as much as a "Triple A" game. I personally think it's a good deal even without people to play with online. That is my opinion. Take it as you will.

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