Streets of Rogue is actually MORE chaotic than Streets of Rage
Streets of Rogue is an expression of beautiful insanity. What makes it so beautiful though, is how well ordered it all seems before the chaos begins. The player takes the role of a resistance fighter, battling against a tyrannical, corrupt mayor, who has established a vice like grip over a city. The mayor’s heinous crime? Outlawing beer and chicken nuggets. Of course, this degree of heinousness gives you full moral license to achieve your goal of liberating the city from the mayor’s grip any way you see fit, whether it’s through stealth and guile or blowing up entire city blocks with a rocket launcher.
The totally non-serious plot of Streets of Rogue was honestly something of a relief when I started playing. The comedic tone is firmly established right from the tutorial level, where a resistance leader is so shocked and excited at you being able to successfully open doors and use WASD to move around he literally explodes into a crimson shower of meaty goblets. It’s a nice break from the weighty choices of other roguelikes and RPGs to know that you can pretty much cause destruction without guilt since the universe you’re situated in is so sardonically, and amusingly, violent.
The graphics have the style of Prison Architect while the gameplay is Deus Ex via Hotline Miami: Streets of Rogue has a lot of nifty aspects from these games, but with a twist: every new level is totally different from any you’ve seen before.
Every new level is its own totally new procedurally generated ecosystem, but each one offers countless routes to achieve each level’s objectives. If you need to infiltrate a heavily guarded building to operate some switches or retrieve an item there’s countless ways to do it. You can use a hacking tool to remotely disable the various traps and unlock the doors inside. You could knock on the door, drawing guards to invetiaget before bonking them with a baseball bat when they turn their backs. You can even just toss a grenade at the wall next to a generator, blowing it up, giving you not only a rubble strewn entrance, but also disabling anything electronic inside!
Playthroughs unlock new characters, which allow for an entirely different way of doing things. While normally you’d spend much of your playthrough scrounging through trash cans for food, needed to restore your health, Vampire characters can creep up behind people and suck their blood for sustenance! Counter to this, certain classes require you to be entirely non-lethal! The doctor, presumably because of his/her Hippocratic oath refuses to use lethal weapons, relying on chloroform and a tranquilizer gun, which actually makes him/her an excellent stealth character.
Unlocking new characters can be done through getting certain achievements. For example, the “Jock” character can be unlocked be reaching a very high destruction score on a level, which I achieved unwittingly. Every so often, a level will inflict random modulating status effects on your character. I was inflicted with the “Giant” status effect, making my character suitably massive, meaning I was accidentally stepping through buildings and stone walls like a veritable Gulliver amidst the Lilliputians. This had the amusing consequence of giving me “Jock” character by accident. If that doesn’t illustrate how joyfully random Streets of Rogue can be, I don’t know what does!
The aforementioned contraband chicken nuggets are your currency for upgrades you can apply to all your characters. Though Streets of Rogue is, as its name suggests, a roguelike where your character is permanently dead when they meet their maker in each playthrough, spending some chicken nuggets allow you to add new traits to the “pool” each character can pick from each time they gain a level up.
What’s perhaps the most fun feature of all is the perfectly executed co-op mode. You can bring along up to four friends to help you achieve your objectives. You can used skillful teamwork and fluid co-operation… Oh, who am I kidding? Often as not you’ll work against your teammates as much as with them as your different playstyles collide. A shapeshifter might be trying to shift into live subjects to infiltrate the town, but a soldier will be gleefully shooting everything that moves – laying waste to entire mafia families with a machine gun for the loot they drop. My allies, I’ll admit, caught more than a bullet or two as I was blasting away with gleeful abandon. Countless hilarious moments will occur as you stumble over your allies, even as you occasionally work together well – for example, a hacker remotely disabling a building’s security before I waded in to finish off the guards inside.
Of course, it’s that obligatory time in the review where I have to find something negative to say about Streets of Rogue, but it feels painfully contrived to try and do so. I could gripe about how sometimes a chain reaction of random events sometimes causes you to die with great rapidity, but that’s pretty much part of the roguelikey fun. I could also complain about how I’d like more “biomes” – themes of each procedurally generated level – but if all I’m looking for is more of the great content that’s already there, that’s not a huge gripe.
Streets of Rad
Streets of Rogue shines because of how it gives you endless procedurally generated levels where you can try out any playstyle you can possibly think of. Of course, even when you go into a new playthrough with a specific plan in mind, there’s always some crazy curveball to surprise you. The simplistic graphics disguise countless onion-like layers of possibility within, and that’s a possibility onion well worth peeling, even if – like when you’re pulverized by a wall trap – it makes you cry sometimes!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One; Publisher: tinyBuild; Developer: Matt Dabrowski; Players: 1; Released: July 19th, 2019
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Streets of Rogue purchased by the reviewer.