The success of Slay the Spire inspired many developers to adopt the addictive formula that blends deck-building and roguelike elements. The most recent title that draws inspiration from games like Slay the Spire and Darkest Dungeon is Rogue Lords, a game co-developed by Leikir Studio and Cyanide Studio.
In this dark fantasy turn-based roguelike, you play the villain trying to conquer the world and exact revenge on the forces of good led by the so-called Demon Hunters. Rogue Lords lacks the deck-building aspect made popular by Slay the Spire and Monster Train, but it does feature the same progression system.
The game is split into chapters that you must complete to advance the compelling story. You start by creating a team of three Disciples from Dracula, the Headless Horsemen, Bloody Mary, the White Lady, Lilith, Hecate, Baron Samedi, and Frankenstein and his Creature. Each Disciple has their unique skills and role in the party, so you’ll have to find the best synergies to make fights easier.
The game adopts a turn-based combat system where your party acts first based on the number of “action points” that you have. Disciples’ skills cost anywhere between 0 and 3 action points and once used, they must be recharged before you can use them again. You start with 5 action points, but this number can be increased by artefacts you might find throughout your adventure.
Your Disciples and the enemies you fight have two bars that represent health and spirit. Some skills do physical damage, while others do spirit damage. Since many times these aren’t equal, it’s best to use the skills that will deplete the enemy’s shorter bar, which can be HP or SP. It’s the same mechanic that Iratus: Lord of the Dead introduced about two years ago.
Another interesting tweak to the roguelike formula is the addition of the cheat system. Since you’re the Devil, you can use Diabolic Essence to influence the outcome of events, steal buffs from enemies or transfer debuffs from your Disciples to enemy troops. Each of these actions can be paid using Diabolic Essence, which can only be replenished from so-called Styx fountains.
Besides the typical Darkest Dungeon-like battles, Rogue Lords introduces “events” that should increase your Disciples’ stats or even reward them with powerful artefacts. It’s a nice touch that sets Rogue Lords apart from other titles in the same genre.
There’s a certain depth to the skills tree in Rogue Lords, as some of them can be upgraded two or three times for more devastating effects. Every time you fight an enemy, you can choose your reward: terror effect in X nights, 1 or more skills, X number of souls. The former will place positive effects for your band of evildoers in certain points on the map, which will trigger once you arrive at the destination.
The second reward is quite obvious, but I’d like to add that to upgrade a skill in Rogue Lords you need to own it three times. Because you get limited skill slots at the beginning of the game, it might be a bit harder to decide which ones are worthy.
Finally, the third option will reward you with a fixed number of souls, which is the in-game currency used to purchase skills, artefacts, or upgrade skills. This can only be done by the Grim Reaper, your go-to store throughout the entire campaign.
Maps in Rogue Lords are procedurally generated, but you can choose your route according to your needs. Sometimes you’ll need to visit a Styx fountain to replenish your Diabolic essence, or you might want to buy or upgrade skills at the Grim Reaper. Just like in Slay the Spire, you can only move forward, so once you choose a certain route, you can’t go back.
Visually, Rogue Lords is quite alright, but I’ve been blown away by the voice acting. I don’t know who to congratulate for the exceptional voice acting, but it’s amazingly good.
Rogue Lords shapes up to be a great entry in the roguelike genre. All the additions to an already traditional formula feel well-thought and extremely fun. I’m not sure how well the game is balanced, but I did struggle a bit until I understood how some of the new gameplay mechanics work.
The compelling story and mind-blowing voice acting are also aspects that I think will greatly add to the immersion. I can’t wait to play more of this when the game launches in Autumn 2021 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Review code provided by the publisher.