STAFF REVIEW of Streets of Rogue (Xbox One)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Streets of Rogue Box art While I generally don’t gravitate towards rogue-lite’s, as I prefer a grand story and character progression, sometimes there are games in the genre that command my attention and I quite enjoy. Streets of Rogue is one of those titles. I initially made two mistakes when first starting Streets of Rogue though. One, I thought it was going to be a different take on Streets of Rage, a side scrolling brawler. This it is not. Second, simply from its visuals, I thought it was also going to be some variation of the Prison Architect games, but I was wrong again.

Instead, I got a twin-stick rogue-lite that is fully packed with humor and allows for a multitude of different play styles, promoting experimentation. One part The Binding of Isaac, another part Deus Ex, there’s near infinite replayability that is quite entertaining, and one action can set off other unintended reactions within the city.

While it doesn’t play a heavy role in the gameplay, there is a main narrative that revolves around trying to usurp the tyrannical mayor. He’s outlawed many things, including chicken nuggets (the prized currency of the people), and you, the Resistance, is trying to end him. After the tutorial though there’s essentially no story elements aside from a few quips here and there between characters. It’s an absolutely silly premise, but it fits, as the dialogue is cleverly written and full of laughs throughout.

Played in a top down view, the core gameplay is much like a twin-stick shooter, but depending on the class you choose, you may not even have access to guns. Levels take place in a city, starting with the Slums, Industrial Zone, The Park, Downtown and Uptown, working your way up to the nicer parts of town to confront the mayor.

The city is full of citizens, all going about their own business. Police patrol areas, gangs own territory, merchants have stores to purchase from, cannibals will gnaw on anyone that passes by and zombies will do their best to infect others. Wait, what? This is just a small example of the different types of NPC’s that inhabit the city and need to be interacted with in different ways. If you start shooting people, police will come after you. If you steal from people, you won’t be liked either. Streets of Rogue allows for a multitude of ways to handle any situation, which is part of its free form charm.

Each level has a main mission for you to complete, with a handful of side quests that are optional as well. You can complete these missions in any way you see fit as well. Need to destroy generators? You could simply shoot and destroy them, but why not set a trap, or hire a gang to do it? To do this, you’ll come across a variety of different equipment to use in any way, like banana peels, detonators, traps and a ton of other items that are fun to experiment with. While I originally only wanted to play with the Soldier class, shooting everything and everyone, once I started to try other characters and experiment, it was very entertaining to see what works and what doesn’t.

The final area of each level will also have some sort of disaster that occurs. Maybe a zombie outbreak happens, or bombs randomly fall from the sky, or an ooze slowly spreads throughout the level, or even a bounty is on your head, having everyone be hostile towards you. These add another layer of not only difficulty, but uncertainty. Maybe you were trying to play a pacifist run, but when everyone is attacking you, sometimes your plans go out the window.

As you complete missions and level up, you’ll earn those previous chicken nuggets. These allow you to purchase new mods and items for subsequent runs. This is a rogue-lite remember, so you will be dying a lot and having to start over, but there is some overall progression which makes it more entertaining each time. There are even modifiers you can toggle for specific types of runs. Want infinite ammo? Turn it on. Want to make things more challenging and items cost more? Go for it. It’s up to you how you want to play each run.

Furthermore, the class system is where Streets of Rogue really shines. I initially started out with a basic solider, but eventually tried a multitude of other classes like a doctor, zombie, gorilla, comedian, thief and more. Each one also plays completely different from the rest, as they all have their own abilities and play style. As a doctor, you don’t use guns, so you’ll have to rely on your tranquilizer gun and chloroform for takedowns from behind. Maybe your comedian can talk a guard out of his keys, or being a zombie to infect as many others as you possibly can.

Each class has their own main quest per stage as well, which plays into their own playstyle. I was quite surprised with the variety of gameplay, as each class can be quite drastically different from the others. Playing as a hacker is nothing like playing as a super gorilla, and you can’t expect them to play anything like a standard soldier.

Can’t decide on what character you want to play? Why not make your own? Yup, you can completely customize essentially every aspect of your character, from its looks, stats, perks and abilities. You have a set amount of points to use, and the better abilities and perks obviously use more points, but there are dozens of options available, making creating your perfect character simplistic. Certain abilities or perks may make things even harder, like people hating you, so it’ll give you more points to use to balance out the difficulty increase. There are a TON of options here, and I spent an hour just reading all of the hilarious descriptions.

Want to cause chaos and mayhem alongside some friends? No problem! Streets of Rogue supports up to four players locally or online. I could see this being extremely entertaining, as each player’s class would dictate a different way to solve quests. I did host a few games, but never had anyone join, and while there’s a player base and a server browser, it’s a little unintuitive to simply jump in and play with others.

The old school pixel art is endearing, perfectly suiting it for the humor and gameplay presented. Surprisingly, classes did look unique and distinct, which goes a long way to show how much heart went into the pixeled visuals. The audio is just as serviceable, as there are a few catchy tunes, but each level simply has its music repeated every play, so it does become stale after a while, especially the first few levels that you’ll be replaying many times.

Streets of Rogue took me by surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but came away with a rewarding experience that promoted experimentation. While some classes shoehorn you into a specific play style, being able to create your own opens up nearly unlimited possibilities and new experiences, all while laughing throughout. If you’re looking for a rogue-lite that allows you to tackle gameplay in a variety of ways, allowing you to be creative and a variety of multiple endings, then Streets of Rogue should be your next play.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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