Horror and Turn-based; two words rarely seen in the same sentence, let alone the combined genre of a game. The two genres rarely mix like chocolate and fries, but when they do it creates something amazing. Like mixing chocolate and fries it can also go awfully wrong and create an abomination of biblical carnage. When it comes to horror and turn-based games, they are less fear-inducing than supernatural-based. Rogue Lords is a game of the former, a supernatural, turn-based roguelike.
Rogue Lords puts players in the ethereal shoes of The Devil, controlling his warriors of the dark, and like The Devil, players will have powers beyond any mere mortal or other-worldly creature. After being weakened from forces of good, The Devil flees and seeks refuge in hell. While there, The Devil amasses a devotee of disciples to exact his revenge on the human world. The only problem is the Demon hunters have been training, waiting for when The Devil would return to their world. It is up to you, The Devil, and his Disciples to take back his throne and kill Van Helsing.
Each run, The Devil must choose three of his disciples to help him perform his evil deeds. At the start, the player only has Dracula, The Headless Horseman and Bloody Mary at his disposal, with six more to unlock later in the game. Each character has their own abilities that help them in the tide of a battle. The battles in Rogue Lords are similar to others in the genre, especially Slay the Spire, except without cards. To perform an attack with a character, the player must use action points. The game starts with five action points per round, which isn’t a lot considering most abilities can use anywhere between one to three points. It doesn’t help that once an ability is used in a battle, that it can’t be used again until each character uses their ability which recharges the other ones. If you are like me this can lead to turns where your characters don’t attack as they all need to recharge.
The abilities range from buffs to improve your character to attacks that deplete each character’s two health bars, the normal red one, and the blue spirit bar. I will be honest, I am not quite sure what the difference between each health bar was, as it seemed depleting either one, would kill the enemy. To defeat an enemy, players had to deplete a health bar, but that enemy doesn’t die when their health bar reaches zero; instead, either side enters a state of vulnerability. For the enemy side, this means one more attack that damages the health bar in the invulnerability state will be the end of them. It also means that if the ability your character uses takes damage from the other health bar, the enemy has a chance to either heal or attack. When it comes to one of your disciples losing all their health and entering the vulnerability state; it was a different story, because it meant if that character was attacked, The Devil would lose its health. Lose enough health as The Devil, and it was game over forcing another run.
Interestingly enough, sometimes it was worth losing The Devil’s health, especially when using Devil Mode. This ability changed the tide of a run or a battle by using his health to complete certain actions. This ranged from depleting an enemy’s health, stealing buffs from them, or making sure an event succeeds, allowing your disciples to improve their abilities. As fun as it was to use Devil Mode in battles, it also meant there was a higher chance of failure for a run.
When not in battle, Rogue Lords gives players different events that must be completed to progress the story. While Rogue Lords gives players a map to explore, it isn’t free to roam, in a sense, that you can’t go anywhere. It does have branching paths that gave players some choice, allowing them to peruse alternative scenarios. Once the player chooses to take a path, they are blocked from going down another (unless they use Devil Mode) with a wall of fog. Sometimes the branching paths led to similar scenarios, like all paths leading to battles, but they were still different as it meant players earned different perks depending on the path.
Battles weren’t the only events that appeared on the map. As well as battles there were little story events where players could choose how those events would be handled, the Grim Reaper shop, and side quests that could include earning a new relic or slot to buy new abilities for your characters. When doing the events, players are sometimes given three choices while others gave more, but depending on how they were handled and what options were made meant different rewards. Decide to use some of your health to improve your chances of completing a choice than you could. Still, this choice could affect the player later in the game but don’t use Devil Mode, and that choice ran the risk of failure, which could give your disciple negative buffs or even lead to a battle that is out of your disciple’s league.
Rogue Lords is a challenging game, maybe too hard in some places that it can frustrate players that are new to the genre. As interesting as the concept is, it may not be enough for some. The game is fun, but playing in long sessions can get a tad boring when there isn’t much progress being made in the game. Runs could last ten minutes, and if you are me, even less because I was overusing Devil Mode at the start. The game’s Devil Mode is the best feature, hands down, but it may not be enough for players trying to get into the genre.
If you enjoyed games like Slay the Spire and also enjoy the supernatural, then you will find a lot to enjoy here, even with the huge difficulty curb and the somewhat complicated system. There are better options, but there is enough in here that players will spend a lot of time playing this.
This game was perfect for run a day, but play it longer, and the game lost a bit of its charm. Either way, this is recommended to players that love the roguelike concept.