Play How You Want

For PC

Today I had the opportunity to play a demo for Streets of Rogue, an upcoming rogue-like game with RPG elements and a ton of ways to play. Streets of Rogue is an action-adventure game that allows for both solo and cooperative local play. Levels are divided by “floors” and each one takes place in a city district, complete with residences, shops, bars, and so on. Players are free to enter buildings and interact with the townsfolk either peacefully or violently. There are items to buy, refrigerators to loot, and locked back rooms stocked with safes and treasure chests.

Each floor has a small number of simple missions to fulfill, such as neutralizing a target or acquiring an item. Missions usually involve putting yourself in harm’s way, but can sometimes be finished with bribes or threats. These quests will often take place in dangerous buildings, filled with traps and guards. Players can go in guns blazing or use stealth to sneak in and out unseen. Both methods award experience points, and both offer their own challenge.

Players may collect many different weapons throughout the course of a game, from baseball bats to knives to a variety of firearms. Melee weapons break after a period of time, and ammunition is limited. This ensures that rampaging through an entire level can’t be done easily, and it encourages players to fully explore the environment to keep their inventory healthy.

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There are numerous power-ups to find as well, such as pills that turn you into a wall-stomping giant, and syringes filled with mysterious chemicals that can have any number of effects. New items are earned each time you complete a mission, and many of them are powerful enough to sway the course of a run.

The city is divided into a number of smaller communities and factions. There are rival gangs that will shoot one another in the streets, and cops that patrol the perimeter and attack criminals. Scientists stay cooped up in their labs, ready to harass anyone who disrupts their work. There are slaves and slaveholders, prisons with high-strung guards, and every day citizens with a number of different jobs. Each person will react to you differently, and depending on your class, some may attack you on sight.

There are lots of classes to choose from, and the game plays differently with each one. The shopkeeper class can buy items from any of the game’s non-hostile NPCs. This allows you to disarm guards before you break into private areas to perform missions. Scientists come equipped with sci-fi weapons like freeze and shrink rays, and can manipulate computers in ways that others cannot. You can play as gorillas, vampires, shapeshifters and other outside-the-box classes, with many more set to be added for the final release.

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With so many disparate elements and various ways to explore the city, it’s easy to suspect that the game might come across as disorganized, or that its identity might be mixed. From the time I spent with Streets of Rogue, the ideas mesh beautifully. The game is coming together as one would hope, and it works so well that one can’t help but wonder why it hasn’t been done before. It’s possible that the later game could stagnate, and that missions may not feel as fresh by the mid-point, but as an early demo,  Streets of Rogue is precisely what one would hope to see.

In the long run, balancing may prove to be the biggest obstacle for development. Certain classes are easier to use than others, and powerful items, such as skeleton keys, significantly lower the difficulty. With meticulous collecting, it’s fairly easy to get a powerful arsenal of weapons and items over the first few levels, setting the stage for an overpowered character. As it is, the difficulty doesn’t scale too intensely over the course of the demo, aside from the third and sixth levels, which each feature unique hazards.

All said, Streets of Rogue has an extraordinary amount of potential. It’s an exciting project that left me wanting to play well past the last available level. It offers a great deal of personal freedom that is rare for a rogue-like game, usually reserved for open world AAA titles. Streets of Rogue is kind of the blooming onion of game demos. A really good first taste that you hope will be matched by the main course. The Streets of Rogue demo is available for free at streetsofrogue.com.

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