The fight between good and evil is a tale much older than we can fathom. Having somewhere to fight against and something to work towards has kept us motivated - it has kept us alive. This being said, it’s not always enough. That story sometimes runs dry, you just have to hope everyone else is strong enough to keep you going.
Rogue Lords will likely be quite familiar to you if you’ve played some of the best indie games of the last decade or so. Taking clear inspiration from the likes of Slay the Spire and Darkest Dungeon, it’s a turn-based RPG with the flow and progression of a deck builder roguelike. After being vanquished and recuperating for years, the devil is ready to wreak havoc on the world again. You are the devil.
This plays into the nature of roguelikes in an interesting way. You must die and lose because that’s the role of demons. Your enemy, the demon hunters, have to protect precious artifacts to stop the resurrection of the Devil and it is your goal to collect them all. Luckily, you have all the time in the world and as many restarts as you like. You won’t be doing it alone though.
You must choose three minions from mythology (Like Bloody Mary, Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein) to do your bidding and make your way through areas to take on the final boss. You start out with only three unlocked and earn more skills, buffs and characters to play with in subsequent runs. Its gameplay loop feels very much like Slay the Spire. After you win a combat or complete some story event, you go forward on a map, well-choreographed with events. They have elite battles that net you a relic, a shop for buying skills, random events and a few extras. Essentially, you tend to have your route picked before you start your run.
It does differ in some noticeable ways. With three characters, you have to spread out your defenses and make sure you protect them all. As well as this, enemies have two central ways of killing them - HP and SP. They both function as health for different attack types. You have limited Action Points each turn and you have to make sure you’re blocking enough to stop the inevitable death awaiting you. Rogue Lords clearly wants you to die a lot, having the difficult ramp up sharply throughout a map. Unfortunately, its difficulty doesn’t feel nearly as consistent as Darkest Dungeon or Slay the Spire. I found myself going from incredibly difficult runs to easy ones without any real change, making growth feel inorganic and, ultimately, unearned.
You can use your devil powers throughout runs to tip the odds in your favor but this must be manually restored through events. The problem is events can upgrade your skills, level up your stats or have unintended consequences down the line. Making the right decision about your build can be a tricky one.
As you earn new skills and characters, the game itself becomes much easier to handle so they crank up the difficulty from the start. Having to make your way through a handful of books to finish the game, it often feels like you are being reset, with slightly different skills each time. The variety of new cast members is certainly charming but the game's inconsistent difficulty can make that refresh a bit of a slog.
While the story is a rather generic spooky tale, events keep the game rolling, playing on old tropes and stories. Rogue Lord’s writing feels like that torrent of B movie-inspired parodies from the 2000s. It’s Sharknado, so caught up in regurgitating what you know that it loses itself somewhere in the middle of that tornado. Luckily, the ride is fun enough to not leave the theater.
Despite its issues, Rogue Lords is still a fun game. Having to plan that strategy around three people gives depth to combat, even if you end up mostly relying on one buff character, begging that your others don’t die. Choosing to invest in stats, relics or skills can be an interesting challenge and planning your route around doing the most evil you can often encourage a fun sort of role play in your head. There’s a certain joy in just being the worst sometimes.
Rogue Lords - Final Thoughts
If you’re looking to fill that indie-shaped hole that Slay The Spire, Ring of Pain or Darkest Dungeon may have left, Rogue Lords is a nice bandage for a time but it’s too shallow and inconsistent to really retain its place for very long. Its gameplay is fun and its aesthetic is charming but its uneven difficulty and lackluster writing may leave you thirsty for a little more. Though it may sustain you temporarily, it lacks real bite.
TechRaptor reviewed Rogue Lords on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
- Decent Gameplay Loop
- Fun Theming
- Varied Cast
- Inconsistent Difficuly