After a good streak of months where I was at least moderately interested in one or more games from the Humble Choice bundle, the November offerings were – at least for me – kind of blah. I very nearly paused this one! While Roboquest was not the game that tipped the scales for me into leaving my subscription unpaused, it did look interesting enough for me to take it for a spin and talk about it a bit for UnwiseOwl’s monthly group review. Roboquest is an FPS rogue-lite which retails for $19.99.
I am nowhere near an FPS aficionado, but every once in awhile, I get the urge to just run around and shoot things. These fits usually don’t last terribly long, because despite being moderately competent with a (video game) gun, I don’t have much in the way of “avoiding getting shot” skills. When most people were blasting demons in DOOM, I was crawling my way through the dungeons of Daggerfall. It’s not unlike my experience with platformers, where I feel like I didn’t develop the requisite muscle memory when I was still young enough for it to stick.
So, Roboquest. The first thing you should know is that, while the game is still in Early Access (and has been for over two years now), and considering they haven’t yet announced the full release yet, it’s unlikely the developers will meet their “end of 2022” target. Now, I didn’t come close to playing through to completion, so I can’t speak to how “finished” it feels, but I can tell you, that it does feel pretty damn good to play – with some caveats.
I will say I very nearly bounced off the game before it even got started. It took me almost half a dozen tries to complete the tutorial level without getting dead … excuse me, knocked out. It wasn’t a problem of wonky controls, or overtuned difficulty, it was 100% a “I’m bad at this sort of game” problem.
The good news is, once you get through the tutorial, which should take any moderately competent player approximately one try, you can change the difficulty settings. I immediately changed the difficulty setting to easy. After a couple of unsuccessful runs, I knocked it down again to what the game calls “Discovery”. As you can see in the screen shot below, this is story-mode for roguelites. I am particularly fond of the increased duration on health and currency pickups, since it seems like the only way I can successfully play is to hide around a corner and poke my head out to pick things off one at a time.
Having managed to appropriately tune to game to my level, I found myself having – pardon the pun – a blast. You are a friendly robot, rescued by what seems to be a child explorer, who found you and got you fixed up. Now, you’re her scout, taking out all the rather unfriendly robots hanging around, and seeing what’s what in this almost obscenely colorful post-apocalyptic world. The story is merely a picture frame for an awful lot of gunplay, and while I suppose it might get more involved as you proceed, it doesn’t necessarily have to. Its doing its job just fine, and for most players, it’s totally not what they’re here for.
Well, I think I’ve probably already convinced you that I am completely unqualified to tell you whether or not Roboquest is a good FPS. Let me also assure you that I am completely unqualified to tell you whether or not it’s a good roguelite! It does have unlocks and metaprogression, so I’m fairly confident that it is – indeed – a roguelite.
Each time you start a new level your weapon choices are randomized, although you can always elect to stick with the very basic energy pistol. Ammo or energy is only a concern (at least on the lower difficulties) in that you need to either reload or cooldown, but you never seem to run out. As you gain experience throughout your run, you will level up, unlocking random perks to choose from which you get right away, but enemies only drop loot in the form of currency, which you can use to make purchases mid-run in a break room or after completing a level.
Now, let’s talk about a few quirks of the game. First off, there is co-op, but it only supports two players, which I thought was kind of an odd choice for this type of game. Secondly, and this is probably not going to surprise most roguelite fans, there is no mid-run saving. The first couple of levels go fairly quickly, but if you’re doing well, you might be in it for a rather long haul, and there seems to be no way to skip levels you’ve beaten over and over and start further in. I expect both of these things to be fairly common genre conventions, but I really prefer to have at least one of the two; either the ability to save or to skip already completed levels. I don’t always have a lot of time to commit to a game in a single sitting, and when I find myself looking for a roguelite it is precisely because I want to be able to dip in and out as I need to.
Still, it’s a fun little romp, and I appreciate the extreme nature of the difficulty settings, which manage to make you feel somewhat like a god, if you’re okay with the idea that gods sometimes have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. As is typical for me, I feel like I’ve selected one of the “fun bonus” games to talk about, instead of one that determines whether most customers buy or skip.
…and that’s sort of by design, these weird little extra games are really why I almost never skip a month, even when the headliners are very much not for me.