Available On: PC (Steam Early Access)
The rogue-like genre has absolutely exploded in the last several years thanks to indie developers. FTL. Rogue Legacy. Spelunky. Risk of Rain. Binding of Isaac. Darkest Dungeon. The Flame in the Flood. It’s becoming a well-worn genre that demands more of each new game.
Streets of Rogue, now out on Steam Early Access, distills many of the most successful elements of the games before it with free-form, procedurally generated level designs that promote creative mayhem. And you can do it with friends.
Cops, Vampires, and Gorillas
Streets of Rogue tasks you with a very 80s premise – take to the streets to make your way up from the slums to the high-rises to defeat the corrupt mayor of the city. After a legitimately hilarious tutorial you’re taken to the home base where you can unlock new upgrades, traits, and weapons. This is still a rogue-like, meaning you start each game at level 1. Unlocking new traits and weapons allows them to appear as level up rewards or quest items.
You can choose from several different character classes with wildly different abilities and playstyles. The Slum Dweller is the most basic, earning extra experience and stat boosts. The Soldier comes loaded with a high-powered machine gun and weapons. The Doctor can’t use weapons but can instantly take down foes from behind with his syringe. More advanced classes can also be unlocked, such as the Comedian, the Vampire, and the Investment Banker. Some work much better than others (the Comedian is lame, the Shapeshifter is incredible).
I was impressed with how much the different classes completely changed how I approached each level. The Soldier would simply murder everything in her way, while the Thief could sneak into places without alerting anyone. Likewise the Hacker could disable traps or vent poisonous gas into buildings, killing a room full of foes without breaking a sweat.
It’s this freedom that puts Streets of Rogue a cut above other Rogue-likes. Any given level offers several randomized quests to tackle. Quests range from neutralizing an enemy to retrieving an item or rescuing a captured ally. The circumstances can vary, however. The captured ally may be held up by mobsters or at a police station. The item in question may be in a locked door behind a shop, guarded by a security camera.
Your method of completing quests comes down to your class abilities as well as the items you find. If you find a pack of cigarettes you can throw them into a building’s air filter, causing all the occupants to run outside. You can use wire-cutters on windows for alternate access, or bribe guards with stacks of money.
You can also hire your own followers from the residents that fill each level. An impressive AI brings each level to life as guards patrol buildings and flocks of people wander the streets. If a fight breaks out expect everyone around you to react appropriately – often with hilariously violent results.
Grand Theft Rogue
Combat plays similarly to the old top-down Grand Theft Autos (or for a recent example – Retro City Rampage). Weapons include swords, police batons, and axes, as well as pistols, shotguns, and explosives. Fights often erupt into complete chaos, with fully destructible environments and bystanders jumping in or running away.
To top it off may levels include major disasters or events. You may enter a level during a riot, which features large-scale warfare between gangs, goons, and cops. Bombs could randomly drop from the sky. Or how about a killer Terminator-like robot that pursues you with a rocket launcher? While I only experienced about half a dozen different events in my many playthroughs, they were a fantastic addition that breathed new life and fun challenges into each run.
Multiplayer works seamlessly, though you’ll need to choose to join or host an online match first. Up to four players can join in a session together. You must be on the same level but you’re given complete freedom from there. The game is chaotic enough with one person – with more it gets delightfully crazy, though I did experience a bit of lag when multiple explosions rocked the screen. Streets of Rogue also features local co-op play with dynamic split-screen, which is really spiffy to see from an indie game.
The only thing keeping me from a blanket “Stop Reading and Buy This Right Now” attitude is the lack of levels. Right now in Early Access Streets of Rogue features only six levels: three for the Slums and three for Industrial, and both have the same dimly lit brownish tileset. Even with procedurally generated levels it’s a disappointing lack of content. Eventually unlocking 20 characters is amazing but replaying those same few tilesets grows tedious.
Streets of Rogue is extremely impressive for its Early Access debut. It’s a fully functioning cooperative rogue-like that gives you a lot of fun tools and toys with which to solve each level. The large cast of playable characters creates a lot of replayablity for a genre that’s already dripping with it. It also features a head-bobbingly awesome jazzy soundtrack. Hopefully several new zones are added with new color palettes and higher level challenges as it leads up to launch later this year.