Rogue Stormers Rocks You Like a Hurricane
It was brought to my attention while researching Rogue Stormers that it’s been through a lot of development trouble for years. I consider myself lucky for not having to deal with its history, because the Steam reviews for Rogue Stormers illustrate exactly why I have negative feelings toward early access. A Contra/Metal Slug type run and gun? I’m already in with no other features. Randomly generated? Could be interesting but could feel sloppy. I’m happy to report this isn’t the case, and the folks who have become bored or cynical toward this title are missing out, because the most recent build kicks ass, and I’m writing this review in haste so I can go play more.
The game roots itself in a weird medieval/fantasy/mutant theme. I was mowing down various goblins, orcs, and a variety of giant big daddy-esque critters. The first character you’ll get it is a machine-gun wielding werewolf, so there’s that. Later on you’ll pick up a blob woman, raging barmaid, and former opera singer. I can’t really pin down what the game is going for aside from monsters kicking the ass of other monsters, and I’m a simple man who totally buys in.
Rogue Stormers isn’t a straight copy of other run ‘n guns. Much to the dismay of long-time genre fans, the combat may be a little slower than anticipated. I see this as a positive feature. Learning how each enemy reacts to you and having the opportunity to avoid attacks kept the game from feeling monotonous and made me feel like a damn superhero. I actually improved with each play through. Sure, I’ve played Metal Slug 3 a million times but I still get annihilated like the idiot I am. I’ll attribute this to excitement, but the point is Rogue Stormers is one of the first times learning each enemy came naturally as I played it. I adjusted over time rather than having to be hyper-focused. I get that the joy of old run and guns comes from the frantic chaos constantly barraging the screen, but Rogue Stormers is a welcome departure from this style and it kept me wanting to play it. The twin-stick shooting is a different choice but it works so well for the genre, I’m all for it.
At this point “Rogue-like with RPG elements” feels cliché, and it’s easy to see why this can be a turn off. Rogue Stormers does a really good job making the case for what’s great about these features. To understand this it’s important to look at how the characters level up and interact with future plays. For one, the experience, gold, and health is shared among characters so there’s little competition while playing cooperative. Even when playing single player, the experience and perks are shared across the board. The leveling up system is a bit odd. In the place of a perk tree or something similar I found a dual slot machine. Two perks are given and you get to pick on that applies to all your characters. As you play you unlock new items and power-ups to appear in each crate. It’s got the reward systems down, though, and as weird as it is that you have to pick up randomly dropped experience, the game gives you enough to keep plugging away at it.
There are some boring technical details that keep me from wanting to give this a perfect score. I noticed a drastic frame-rate drop every time I enter a certain section of the first level. While the levels are randomly generated, the framework for each section remains the same and every time I got to this part my system would wheeze. I’m running the game on a PC that far exceeds the requirements, but I still tried all sorts of different settings and lowering my res to try and fix it. No dice. The positive side of my brain tells me this could easily be fixed in a patch, but it is really annoying to get through. The frame rate picked up after this section but that’s a significant irritation. The game defaults to a really strange controller mapping, so make sure you go into options and fix it, because the obvious choices like A to jump don’t apply here.
While the technical difficulty and the expectations may sway players from giving Rogue Stormers a fair shot, I can’t stress enough how well this game works. The game may not get rogue-like Contra to a tee, but it’s enough of an evolution and homage that it’s worth gathering an audience. I definitely recommend getting some friends together on your couch and blasting through as much of Rogue Stormers as you can, it’s one of my favorite games I’ve played this year.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Black Forest Games ; Developer: Black Forest Games ; Players: 1-4 (Local/Internet) ; Released: April 26, 2016 ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher.