Rogue Is­lands

Noth­ing atoll like Minecraft


On­pa­per Rogue Is­lands just sounds like a list of buzz­words - Rogue-like, first-per­son, voxel, crafting, sur­vival shooter - but af­ter play­ing for a while it proves it­self to be some­thing more than just a com­bi­na­tion of the top key­words in the Steam store. The game fea­tures all those things to lesser and greater de­grees, but the com­bi­na­tion works and lends the game a charm and im­me­di­acy lack­ing in many other Rogue-like or sur­vival games. You’re a druid, and you must stop the Lords of Tor­ment from do­ing some­thing pre­sum­ably rather tor­menty by bat­tling your way across seven pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated is­lands, killing mon­sters, clos­ing rifts, and crafting up­grades to give you the power to stop the Lords. Sim­ple re­ally.

The ob­jec­tive is ba­si­cally the same on ev­ery is­land - close the de­mon por­tal - but how you have to ap­proach this ob­jec­tive varies due to the pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated en­vi­ron­ments, the type of en­e­mies, whether there is a boss bat­tle in­volved and the time of day. What may be a fairly sim­ple jump­ing puz­zle on one is­land might be a heck of a fight on an­other. Try and tackle a chal­lenge at night and you’ll have to face deadly, in­vul­ner­a­ble ghasts, but hide in your boat un­til the morn­ing to try again may lead to the druid be­gin­ning to starve if you haven’t col­lected enough food. Hav­ing to run back to safety at night is a core strat­egy to any game of Rogue Is­lands, but the more you play and the fur­ther into each is­land you ex­plore, the more dan­ger­ous that night time dash be­comes.

Al­though the game def­i­nitely has a Minecraft look, it re­ally is quite a dif­fer­ent beast. Play­ers can only “mine” a few spe­cific things and the crafting is lim­ited to new spells and new wands (each giv­ing the player access to a new suite of spells). Un­less you’re play­ing in a per­madeath mode, with the right in­gre­di­ents play­ers can also craft Night­mares, spe­cial items that trans­form a death into a trau­ma­tis­ing night­mare from which you awake back on your boat. It’s the game’s equiv­a­lent of lives, but in the pun­ish­ing tra­di­tion of both Rogue-like and sur­vival games, when you have a night­mare you are trau­ma­tised and don’t re­gen­er­ate mana as swiftly as pos­si­ble un­til you find one of the ed­i­ble plants needed to cure the con­di­tion.

Mana is the core stat of Rogue Is­lands, and not hav­ing it re­gen­er­ate as nor­mal is a terrible pun­ish­ment. Not only does mana power your avail­able spells, it is also a re­source you use for travers­ing the is­lands. The druid can run and jump, but a dou­ble jump spends mana and can boost the druid high into the air, or al­low them to glide for a short dis­tance. Bal­anc­ing mana for at­tack and move­ment adds a nice el­e­ment of sim­ple re­source man­age­ment to the game, and the use­ful­ness of mana makes find­ing a crop or raw mana - an el­e­ment that will in­crease your avail­able mana thresh­old - feels like a huge up­grade and in­cen­tive to play just a lit­tle while longer.

the fur­ther into each is­land you ex­plore, the more dan­ger­ous that night time dash be­comes

The stuff of pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated psy­che­delic night­mares.

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