One of the reasons I don’t usually play endless runners is that they’ve never been that interesting or complicated. You run automatically, you jump, sometimes you use powers, and collect things. Hooray for flash games from the 1990’s! I’m always impressed when developers innovate and try to improve boring or flawed gaming genres. So when I read about the recently released ROGUS: Kingdom of the Lost Souls by Iron Drop Studios I decided I had to give it a shot.
ROGUS is an endless runner unlike any I’ve ever played before. Again I don’t really play them much anymore so I can’t exactly say that will be the case for you, but I found it to be quite original in both gameplay and presentation of the plot. Make no mistake going in. This is an endless runner even with genre innovations and if that’s not the genre for you this is a definite pass. But if you do like them then this one is definitely worth checking out.
Visually it’s good but not impressive. It’s north of 8-bit pixel art, but noticeably south of many bigger budget endless runners such as Sonic Runners as an extreme example. I will say that I was very impressed with the motion graphics in this game. It’s subtle, but quite good for pixel art. It’s the little things like the dog walking in the tavern and enemies throwing spells at you. You might not even notice them at first, but they’re worth noting. The spells look pretty good too. Iron Drop was clearly inspired by Tolkien or at least the films when designing this game. The main character is without a doubt Gandalf the Grey and the background is Smaug’s lair in The Hobbit films. It all runs very smoothly. I didn’t notice any lag or graphical errors, but the loading between lives did appear to have some lag at times. Not an unacceptable amount but because it was inconsistent I was often worried that it might be a game breaking issue, but it never was. I will say that I was happy with the graphics but I wasn’t impressed by them.
The gameplay is what makes ROGUS special. While it is an endless runner that’s too simplistic of a description for what playing the game is actually like. Your first instinct will be to play it with a gamepad. It runs with a mouse and keyboard, but the gameplay is so fast paced with so many buttons that it might initially seem impossible to be effective without a controller. Not so. The game is actually more challenging with the controller than the mouse and keyboard. Partially because the controller support is a bit buggy. I had a lot of issues with button mapping but eventually got it to work well enough to play in a way I was comfortable with. But the main reason is that aiming the spells is so much easier with a mouse than with a joystick. This game is extremely fast paced and requires a lot of multitasking. It’s not just jump and powers. It’s jump, shield, 4 of 6 spells to choose from and possibly have to aim, and sword all at the same time. The enemies can’t do much, but they’re very fast and have excellent aim. In my opinion the monsters shouldn’t be able to throw so accurately and quickly in this specific gameplay scenario. You can’t just dodge/ignore enemies either. If you make it past them without killing them they can and will fire magic bolts at you from behind.
The game has six spells to choose from, but only four can be used at a time and only four of them are worth using if you expect to get a high score. Only one spell (fireball) in the game gives you the ability to attack enemies that you’ve already passed and only one gives you the ability to fly which is mandatory. Not mandatory as in you are forced to use it, but as in you have to use it to have any hope of succeeding. The randomly generated levels are a bit unfair. The chasms you have to jump range in size but too many of them are too big for a normal jump/double jump too close together. Your flight spell is very effective and lasts for a decent amount of time, but it also has a really long recharge time leaving you unable to deal with future inevitable large gaps. I did like the fact that the spells start recharging even while they’re being used. But even so that’s almost always not enough time in most cases.
Between the flight and fire ball spells, both of which you need if you hope to get even a mildly decent score, that only leaves you two more spots with four remaining spells to choose from. I can almost guarantee you that unless you’re trying to complete achievements you will use the tree monster and lightning spells. The other two are lazy copies of those two that are much less effective. You can’t pause and there are a lot of enemies all which can throw magic bolts at you and will if you’re at a distance from them whether in the air or on the ground. You’re essentially playing for the high score, which is recorded. The scoring system is actually pretty fair overall. Different spells result in different point values based on difficulty to use effectively and you also get points for time survived. There’s also a bonus multiplier for compounding kills. There’s an achievement for getting 1000 points in one run. It’s far from impossible, but it will take you some time. I have yet to achieve it, but I’m within 200 points. For an endless runner I’d say the game is a bit too challenging overall, but some would argue that’s more of a reason to play it.
The sound does not disappoint. Very appropriate music for all parts of the game that really expresses the plot relevant emotions of the story. ROGUS: Kingdom of the Lost Souls doesn’t have a huge soundtrack but for what it is it’s sufficient. The sound effects are good, but I would have liked the option to control their volume. You can turn the music off, but not control its volume level. I felt that the music and sound effects were leveled off well enough, but I would have wanted the sound effects higher (not the music lower) if given the option. I also felt like the game was missing something without a jump sound.
This is probably one of the most well written endless runners I’ve ever played. Not because the writing was super amazing, but because it was present in mild abundance. When the game first starts out you quickly realize it’s an endless runner from the short tutorial, but because of the way the opening is structured you aren’t really sure how it’s going to work. At one point I actually thought it wasn’t really an endless runner because the playable introduction sets up a pretty serious plot and implies that the game will ultimately end up being more than it really is. Multiple characters with dialog, time travel, and a number of locations deceived me into expecting a much bigger game. In some ways that ultimately disappointed me, but I appreciated Iron Drop taking the time to justify why I was playing the game. Something I’d like to see more of in all repetitive game genres. I still don’t know if there’s plot I haven’t gotten to yet because I die too quickly so that’s actually been a real motivator to keep me playing.
As with all endless runners, the game is based almost entirely on replay value. There are 20 achievements, many of which you get just for using spells a number of times. You’re also playing for the high score which I sadly wasn’t able to get up past 820. Between the introduction and learning you’ll get a minimum of at least 2 hours before you start to really get into it and from there it comes down to your personal goals. While it’s always hard to quantify the value of endless runners especially considering how many free ones there are, I think the $5 price tag is fair, but I would be more comfortable at the $3-4 range. In any case the price is certainly not excessive considering what the gameplay is.
I did not love ROGUS: Kingdom of the Lost Souls, but I definitely recognize the value in it as far as endless runners go. I guess the appropriate thing to say is that I respect it. Everything about it is fair/good, but nothing about it is overwhelmingly noteworthy. It’s just a solid game from top to bottom in a genre that’s gotten pretty lazy overall with clones, which this is not. If you like the genre then definitely check it out, otherwise it’s probably not worth your time.
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