Streets of Rogue is a rogue-lite where you take on many different roles in a procedurally generated city. It’s centred around player choice, freedom, humour and anarchic fun.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a game that lets you play it the way you want like Streets of Rogue. At the basic level, it’s a game about completing a number of mission-specific goals with your character on procedurally generated levels to allow you to progress. The way you go about completing these goals is entirely down to you using the unique traits of your chosen character. You can use force and shoot your way to the objective, you can bribe or even convince NPCs in the game to do your bidding by cracking jokes. You can even take on the role of a Gorilla and smash your way to the objectives.
Throughout the game runs strands of humour, which are genuinely funny. The story starts off in Streets of Rogue with a new mayor coming to power deciding to confiscate all the booze and set a curfew on the City instructing the police to weed out all the criminals. The Mayor has a deep personal hatred of Chicken nuggets since he got a bad stomach ache after consuming one, now chicken nuggets are the most valuable currency in the game. As part of the Resistance, it’s your job to take down the Mayor and restore some kind of normality back to the city. As the story progresses you’ll battle your way out of the Slums, Industrial area, Park and Downtown before making your way to a showdown with the Mayor himself.
Player choice is a big part of Streets of Rogue and when you first start the game you’ll have six different roles. Each role comes with its own unique loadout and character traits. There’s a Theif, Gang Member, Doctor, Hacker, Soldier and more. For example, The Hacker starts out with the special ability to manipulate electronic equipment with their laptop, whereas the Soldier can go in all guns blazing with a loadout including a machine gun, grenades and mines. You’ll have to pick the best role for the job to complete the level without dying before you can progress to the next. Player roles and characters offer real variation to Streets of Rogue meaning there are hundreds of hours of gameplay here as a playthrough with the Theif would be a huge difference from a playthrough with the Doctor.
The levels are randomly generated at the start randomising the layout, goals and inhabitants of the level meaning you’ll never get the same experience twice. Throwing in the character selection then you have an interesting game in the mix which may look like a retro 16 bit SNES game, but is huge in scale, ambition and execution. The objectives in the level range from blowing up a generator, break into a safe or completing the fetch quest for the bartender. As well as the objectives to get to the next stage of the level there are quests that can be obtained in the levels themselves rewarding you with valuable cash or XP to level up. Once you earn cash you can start buying items like weapons to attack or complete objectives, or food and other items like cigarettes to bribe the citizens of the city to do your bidding. There’s a variety of items like rocks, guns, grenades, cheeseburgers, lock picks wall passing devices (super useful!).
The sheer amount of options in the game can feel a little bit much on your first playthrough, however after a few hours with the game you’ll get into it and learning the systems, items and character traits become second nature. The game boasts almost unlimited freedom through its character choice and random level generation. Back at your home base, you can also add modifiers to levels to further enhance the variety. You could easily sink hundreds of hours into the game and not have the same run twice.
Streets of Rogue also has support for local and online multiplayer with up to three players which adds to the fun. Here combinations of players and roles come into play and finding the right pairing can be fun. What would a Doctor and a Werewolf do on a night out? You can find out in Streets of Rogue!
Streets of Rogue has great pixel art graphics and a funky soundtrack too. Sometimes with the UI there can be a lot of text and playing on Nintendo Switch can feel a little tricky at times, the game maybe best played on a big screen with a mouse and keyboard rather than a joypad. However, it’s a minor drawback in an otherwise enjoyable game.
Matt Dabrowski says of the game “I’ve been a fan of roguelikes and rogue-lites for ages, and I think there’s a vast amount of room for growth within the “procedural generation + permadeath” confines of the genre. When I had the idea for the game in late 2013, I absolutely couldn’t NOT make it, for a couple of different reasons. First of all, couldn’t think of any other rogue-lites that had tried to accomplish the same sort of free-form, player agency-heavy gameplay Streets of Rogue is doing. Years into development, I still haven’t seen anyone attempt it. ”
“I didn’t want to play it safe in my design. This is my experimental “go nuts” game, and I’ve always wanted it to challenge the norm. This has also made the game particularly challenging to develop, as I have no direct template to follow, beyond the loose tropes of the roguelike genre. Placing complicated AI characters into a world of emergent game mechanics in which the player has tons of options beyond “kill”, is a complicated task. Add in random world generation, and it becomes a staggering one! But with great risks come great rewards.”
In summary Streets of Rogue is an ambitious, funny and satisfying game that challenges you but always keeps you entertained. The rogue-lite genre is popular right now, but Streets of Rogue has the depth, humour and character variation to keep you entertained for hours on end. I played on Nintendo Switch but the game is also available on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Mac and Linux. Definitely check this one out.
Developer: Matt Dabrowski
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, Linux, PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date: July 12th 2019