Rogue Stormers is a 2D roguelike co-op shooter that's designed to be enjoyed with friends. It's a shame that no one's playing it...
Rogue Stormers isn't too heavy on plot. Its opening brief slideshow tells you what's up: A big green goblin named Hector von Garg has taken over the city of Ravensdale and it's your job as "stormers" to wipe out his mutant horde and take the city back. Go!
There are five stormers in the game but you start with the option to play as just one: Brecht, a dopey-looking werewolf thing. It's rather strange that more characters aren't immediately available or at least easy to unlock. I played for a few hours without unlocking a new one so I can't really comment on the rest, other than to say that they look equally as dumb in the (greyed-out) character selection screen.
Once you've decided whether to use Brecht or Brecht, you can choose to play solo, local co-op or online co-op. Solo is incredibly boring as there are loads of enemies to mow down and the larger ones take loads of hits to kill (although some of them do cut you a break by getting stuck in the scenery). Getting through levels on your own is subsequently a real slog as well as being incredibly difficult because you're given very stingy health pick-ups and not many hit points. To make things even harder, there are no continues and your health doesn't even get refilled at the start of the next level.
Co-op would be the preferable option but amazingly, not a lot of people seem to be playing online. I played over several days shortly after Rogue Stormers' release and only managed to find one online game (see the video below). This might be due to the fact that hardly anyone owns Rogue Stormers but it's also because there is no drop-in / drop-out co-op. So, if you want to play with randoms, you'll have to be lucky enough to find a pre-game lobby. Once the game's in progress, you can't join. I tried waiting in my own lobby for what seemed like an age but no one showed up, so it probably is because hardly anyone bought it.
Luckily for me, I have a long-suffering girlfriend to help me with such situations so I was able to give the local co-op mode a good test run. Each level tasks you with running and gunning past hordes of goblins and a bunch of other weird creatures before getting to an end-of-level boss. The twin-stick controls function well and the developers had the good sense to make L2 jump instead of X so you don't have to be repeatedly taking your thumb off the right stick to jump. Clustertruck devs, take note.
The levels are somewhat procedurally generated. I say somewhat because rather than being completely different each time, it's more like a random patchwork of the same areas just arranged in a new order. This makes each journey to find the boss unique and keeps things a little fresher than fixed level design would. Even so, almost constantly having to take on such a glut of enemies means things still get repetitive quickly. This isn't helped by the fact that you have to restart the whole game over when you die. I get that's the "rogue" part but with a game that only has seven levels, I can't help feeling that such a mechanic only exists to hide that there's so little content.
While the level design is random, the bosses are always the same and they're even harder to overcome than the regular levels. To help you, each time you die you're rewarded with a perk that is permanently attached to your character. The more you collect, the better you'll be equipped to try again. There's a good range of variety in these perks as well as in the secondary weapons you pick up while playing. In addition to offensive weapons like grenade launchers, you can also receive shield emitters and health grenades that can prove vital in such an unforgiving game. Unlike the perks, however, these are all lost when you die which only adds to the feeling of disillusionment you get at having to start back at level one every time.
Rogue Stormers' reward system encourages you to plug away at the same stages repeatedly, perhaps getting a little farther each time, until you finally beat it. Sadly, doing so is nowhere near fun enough to warrant such dedication. The tedium is alleviated somewhat when playing with others, but good luck finding anyone who will join you.
- + Lots of perks and weapons
- + Procedurally generated levels help keep things somewhat fresh
- + Co-op play alleviates some of the tedium
- - Off-putting difficulty level, even in co-op
- - Although it's a roguelike, starting the game over when you die is a real drag
- - Incredibly monotonous to play solo