The Serpent Rogue is a unique game that meshes potion crafting with combat and world exploration, giving you numerous options on how to tackle foes and explore new areas. With a bit of puzzling, ingredient finding, and use of different components, players are given a lot of choice in how they want to play. With a dark but strangely delightful environment, our The Serpent Rogue review will explain why this game is worth your time.
The first few hours of The Serpent Rogue will have you exploring, and the game doesn't hand much to you with the exception of information you can glean from World Tomes scattered throughout the world. The joy of this game, much like Tunic, comes from exploring and making discoveries that open up that next area or solve that next world puzzle. There's very limited dialogue beyond some early interactions, and the use of followers and pets to fight alongside you or carry an item that's required to cleanse corrupted areas. You're a silent protagonist exploring a harsh world.
What makes The Serpent Rogue unique isn't necessarily the crafting or potion making, but how those mechanics are used to influence the way you play the game. Wardens, or the protagonist you play, only come into being when the corruption of the world comes to an apocalyptic level, so you start out with nothing but a portable lab to create potions. Through harvesting ingredients from plants, enemies, or the environment, you'll have to research each one to determine what it does, then determine how to combine each ingredient for maximum effect.
You can, simply by switching a single ingredient, turn a health potion into one that deals damage. You can take a potion that turns you into a Valvran, and with one different ingredient, make it one that creates a Valvran to accompany you. Each potion, while not required to make your way fully through the game, gives you a creative way to fight and explore. One of my "aha!" moments in the game came when I found a chest but had to cross deep water to get to it. Once it clicked that I could create a specific potion to traverse the deep waters, it opened up parts of the map I couldn't see before.
There are 11 areas within The Serpent Rogue at launch, and each has different uses or ingredients available within. The Pier, for example, lets you recruit followers off the ship to assist you, and the Undertaker removes or revives dead companions. The Undertaking has an important use in that if there are too many bodies in one place, Ghouls will actually be attracted to the area, making it essential to clean up bodies outside of corruption storm areas.
What makes The Serpent Rogue unique isn't necessarily the crafting or potion making, but how those mechanics are used to influence the way you play the game
You'll find yourself returning to some areas after a corruption storm has wiped everything away, and the ingredients you need to create potions are available again. But, should you find yourself in a corruption storm, you likely won't survive -- it's critical to keep an eye on the timers in corruption storm areas. Death isn't the end, and you can recover your gear as long as you don't fall again. Corpse runs can be frequent if you're not prepared, and there is a very real chance to lose all of your gear.
That said, if you take the time to fulfill requests for potions regularly, you'll be able to build up a nice purse of money to spend on items at the shop or on followers at the pier. You'll need money to progress as well, as there are certain parts of the game that require coins to unlock so you can complete an obstacle that's in the way. As you expand your potion recipe list, more and more profitable requests will open up, making your hunt for ingredients to research that much more worthwhile.
If you're someone who also wants to swing a sword -- that is completely possible. Whether you find a sword, buy one at the shop, or craft one, there is melee weaponry available to you. There are also some accessories to reduce damage, improve health, or increase damage, too. There's a forge at your camp, which you can use to enhance your weaponry to increase the amount of damage it does or even turn it into a "healing" weapon that adds health on hit.
There's some useful mechanics around followers, beyond just having them around to help you fight. Sometimes, they have ingredients you need to research and you can take those items once you've hired them off the ship that rolls through periodically, and other times they're used to carry things that your Warden cannot. There's also animal companions that you can convince to join you by feeding them foods they like, but you have to "discover" them multiple times to figure out exactly what it is they like!
While I've found The Serpent Rogue to be a delightful and engaging experience, I do have to voice some frustration around the combat as a whole. Throwing potions is easy but can sometimes be delayed, resulting in a missed throw, and sometimes an enemy can run right into you, forcing you to miss your sword/axe swing. As you play, you'll figure out how to avoid these instances, but early on they can be frustrating.
Due to the fact that you spend the majority of the game with the ability to use potions, eat food, and enhance weapons and accessories, the final boss battle took me a minute to get down. All those tools are taken away from you, so the first time I was a bit frustrated, wondering why I couldn't use the arsenal of Damage++ potions I'd crafted. Then I beat the boss a few more times, and I realized that the way the final boss battle unfolds makes it more interesting and challenging, while also moving the story forward in a way that doesn't fully break the immersion. It's a challenge, but not one that can't be overcome.
The Serpent Rogue Review | Final Thoughts
While there are some flaws to The Serpent Rogue, overall the experience is positive. The lack of hand-holding combined with the satisfaction that comes from clearing a major obstacle makes this game perfect for someone who enjoys progression through discovery and problem solving. Having beaten the game twice (it is about 8-10 hours in length), and then exploring every nook and cranny available, I can't recommend The Serpent Rogue enough.
TechRaptor's The Serpent Rogue review as conducted on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Unique world that rewards exploration
- Wide variety of potions to craft to solve problems
- Multiple systems allow completion of game your way
- Clunky combat at times
- Some bugs around specific ingredients