Roguebook is a roguelike deck-builder and while I’ve played a few before, I’ve enjoyed maybe three: Loop Hero, Race for the Galaxy and Hearthstone (…kind of). There are numerous others, but they just aren’t my first pick when I think of a fun game I want to play. However, being a fan of some in the genre and having learned that this game takes place in the same universe of Fearia (another game by the same people which I really enjoyed), I was more than willing to give I a spin. However, when critics in the gaming website/blog-sphere start spewing overwhelming praise on something, red-flags go up for me personally. Maybe I’m just being cynical or maybe I’m just tired of being lied to. I saw the promo video found on Steam/YouTube and it’s telling you how it will possibly be your new favorite deckbuilder and whatnot. Will it though? Will it really? Let me break the game down and give you my two cents.
If you haven’t played a deckbuilder before, they boil down to planning and strategically picking your cards and then hoping that RNG doesn’t screw you over like it probably will when it’s least convenient. As you progress you gain access to newer and stronger cards that can help make your odds better. Throughout the game you will have options to pick up or pick between a few different cards to expand the starting deck and some gems along the way to give them bonus effects. Having a plan going into a new game doesn’t always work. You’ll have to curate your deck the best way you can given the options as they come up. More than a few times I’ve had to change my strategy because the game doesn’t want to give me what I’m telling it to. (My Switch is just rude to ignore me when I talk to it.) There have been times when the cards I got had amazing synergy and the damage I could pull off was ridiculous. Then there are other times when I just couldn’t put a deck together to get me past the first level. There are pros and cons with the with each card (with power(s) and cost) so you need to pick wisely.
On that same note, it’s a lot more RNG than I expected compared to others that I’ve played. Every game you start will give you a small number of cards and you’ll build from there. The starter cards will remain the same. There’s no, “I want to pick specific cards to start with”. I’ve seen some people complain about this on Steam. I can understand where they’re coming from, but is it a truly bad thing? The game is different from others out there and this is a good thing. I do like devs trying out new ideas and concepts. When you get into the more difficult fights, you get “pages” that you’ll use to fill out your skill tree. This can lead to health boosts or map vision bonuses and more. While you may not be able to pick specific cards to start out, you can spec into having the game randomize basic attack and/or defense cards to something nicer for a cost. While the starting deck doesn’t get larger, it does change things up and that’s kind of the point. No doubt there are some cards that I would love to always have in my deck, but the point (I assume) isn’t to make the game easy for you. It’s to see how flexible you are given the changing circumstances. As I said, some runs are harder than others, but when I see “roguelike” in the description I don’t usually think I am going to beat it without stress. However, them putting 20 hours to “beat” the game almost shamed me.
So there are cards; that’s a given. There is also a total of five characters to pick from (if you pick up the DLC character) with which to create different two-man teams. Each character comes with their own set of cards and playstyles. I did end up picking up the DLC character even though he’s in the main game and he will randomly show up to steal something and run off like a punk. (I hated him, but reviews seemed high and I was enjoying myself.) The options aren’t endless, but there are few combinations to make. I’m not sure how effective they would all be. Some characters definitely lean more tanky than others and I can’t really escape needing a meat-shield. I’ve got straight damage cards with Socorro and Aurora and gemmed for defense and still came out on top. That being said, a “bad combo” can be good with the right cards and gems showing up. On top of that, they all play different so Fugoro (the thief/merchant) is a great addition… mostly. He also highlights one of the main issues I have with the game.
For the most part Roguebook is a lot of fun. I don’t mind losing and there’s a fair amount of that in the beginning, but the main gameplay loop is really enjoyable. I love the whole strategy and risk/reward aspects of the game. However, once you make it to the third (and “final”) area, the game starts to more noticeably stutter a bit. I don’t mind a bit of framerate drops here and there and that does happen. Additionally the game isn’t an ARPG dependent on my twitch reflexes so I was able to look past it mostly. Near the end of my first victory, I had set up a deck that had cards and Ally summons that resummoned multiples of themselves and they were all free (shown a few pictures above). It was pretty glorious. I’m not sure the game is optimized for this amount of assets right now because I was waiting for a few seconds for things to happen. When I was on one of the bosses and showing my sweet deck off to my wife, I had to wait for over ten seconds for the game to do an action I told it to. At one point it didn’t even finish an action so I lost one summon and another time the game didn’t follow through with an attack. Now, I’m at fault for not reading what cards and gems will do at all times, but even my wife caught it and asked me why what just happened did. To which all I could do is shrug my shoulders. It just got too bogged down I guess.
Adding Fugoro to my party just made the lag appear for me on the first level instead of the third with a lot of summons… so there’s that. Having played a few more hours, there’s mild lag in all three levels, but it’s more noticeable in the third. I’m not even talking about how the game has up and hard-crashed on me multiple times…
I remember playing FPS’s and looking for servers with 200-300 ping and being happy about it. I could work with a stutter. The better example is Ultima Online though. It was an MMORPG that has existed for a long while now. I would be inside a cave of dragons hitting one and running off and healing. Rinse and repeat for a long while. Then, out of nowhere, your horse wouldn’t move, but it would still be doing the running animation. You knew the crash was coming. Then it kicked you out and there was the frantic keyboard slapping as you logged back in as soon as you could. When you were booted, your character didn’t log out with you. You could be killed by monsters or other players. But I always came back. It’s much the same here. I will give you that Roguebook crashes and the lag is annoying (I’m hoping that they patch it up), but the game is far from unplayable. I’m still really enjoying myself and even now, I’d rather be playing it than writing this review. That says something… either about how good the game is or that I’m maybe, not so secretively, a masochist apparently.
With the state Roguebook currently is in on the Nintendo Switch, it’s not the easiest to give it all the praise I’d like to. It is fun. It’s also cool to earn new cards and build your deck the way you want to and hope that it works out. When it does work the way you intended, it feels great! I spent a good chunk of time reading the cards and looking at different gems; there’s so much to take in. When I stopped sucking at the game so much and could make it to the third stage, I started noticing the lag. While I can’t 110% recommend it on the Nintendo Switch, I can more likely recommend it on Steam. The reviews seem to be pretty good as far as lag goes, they may have done some patch work on it. I wouldn’t say not to buy it on the Switch, but just remember the lag. It’s far from unplayable and once this issue is gone or lessened, the game is easily one of the best deckbuilders I’ve played. (So the journo’s weren’t lying this time, who knew?) It’s a lot of fun, even when you lose. The funny situations, the RNG strategy and the art really are quite amazing and the game really does a great job expanding on the universe started with Fearia. I just wish it was more optimized.