Deck the Halls with Awesomeness
Roguebook is a roguelite deck builder game that puts players into a world of strange creatures, mysterious abilities, and curious scenarios. With multi-faceted combat and exploration elements, paired with a slew of options on tackling both, Rougebook is an addictive adventure worth exploring.
Players are trapped in the Book of Lore (which is from another game, Faeria – Chronicles of Gagana), where each page represents a new challenge. In Roguebook, you are challenged to explore a blank map (the pages mentioned) with hexagonal tiles placed all around. Within each level, a direct route is formed from your starting point to the mysterious boss of the level. However, to prepare yourself for the fight, you’re given ways to explore the map through a paintbrush and a variety of inks. As you explore, you can gain additional cards for your deck, battle enemies for some useful items, engage in world-building scenarios, among others. Each action has some sort of cost/loss analysis, so it’s up to you how much you want to explore and what kind of risks you want to deal with. For me, I never found myself overly cautious to explore, but rather kept pushing in hopes of finding more ways to expand and manage my deck and characters.
There are several characters that you can choose from for you duo-team, each with their own very unique card sets and battle styles. I found myself constantly gravitating towards two, but it is absolutely worth exploring all of them to experiment with pairings, combinations, and abilities. In addition to the constant bombardment of new cards (over 400 in total so far), there are also 40 different enemies to test your might with. With this, the more cards you start adding to your deck, the more buffs unlock for your team. There’s no limit in the amount of cards you can have, so keep exploring and buying cards that can benefit the style of gameplay you’re aiming for during that run.
What I found immensely engaging was the ability to modify your cards with certain runes or sacrifices. Let’s say, for example, you have a great card, but it costs just a bit too much energy to make it viable for you. With a certain gem, you can decrease the cost, making it much more of a power play for you. Or you have an amazing card that costs nothing, but you wish you had more of it. If you combine that card with a gem that replicates it during the game, you now have three copies of that card in which you can efficiently use. It’s been fantastic testing these combinations out, plus layering on the bonuses and effects from the characters themselves, to get a really satisfying and successful outcome. However, sometimes the cards aren’t in your favor (pun intended), and you get cards that don’t mesh well together or you get nothing when you’re exploring the map to help prepare for the level’s boss. Luckily, you do gain scrolls to upgrade certain items to help you on future runs (more potions hidden in the map, increased odds, etc).
In addition to the modifications, I kept digging myself into a hole on how to master numerous forms and techniques to combine to optimize each of my turns. Having the magical gears turn in your head until a four-card combination, paired with some passive abilities, absolutely devastated your enemies, is one of those ‘oh yea, I’m a genius moments’. And luckily, the more you play and experiment in Roguebook, the more it rewards you with the ability to succeed.
Continuing this trend, the game looks and sounds wonderful. The hand drawn nature of the cards and environment, paired with the fluidity of the character movement both in and outside battles, makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Occasionally too, you’ll hear your characters bickering with each other – a nice touch from Abrakam Entertainment.
Unfortunately, the overarching story is a bit lacking, which was a disappointment. However, on somewhat rare occasions, you’ll encounter various events where you need to choose an outcome (which I can gather is Roguebook’s attempt at building the world out further). I’ve encountered maybe a dozen of these and they all range in scope and outcomes. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens, sometimes I get a rare item, and sometimes I’m thrown into an unexpected fight against a horde of enemies. Though these little scenarios are a bit of fun, I mostly just wished I could go back to the deck building and fighting mechanics, the real highlights for me.
With the port to Nintendo Switch, the excitement and challenge of Roguebook is now on the go, as compared to the original release on PC. Gameplay is exactly the same as the PC version, but unfortunately has some performance issues. Most of the time, this turn-based card-management game is smooth and functional. However, the load times into battles can range from 5-20 seconds (near instant on PC), stuttering with animations occurs frequently, and the game freezes occasionally for 2-4 seconds before it fast-forwards to ‘catch-up’ with the timing of the animations. Despite all this, the game doesn’t lose any of the fun factor, albeit a little bit rustier than I would have liked.
Overall: 8.0 out of 10
Roguebook is a challenging, engaging, and strategy-focused adventure where one wrong move can ruin you…and have you clicking that ‘Next Run’ button immediately. The in-depth combat, paired with the enticing deck-building mechanic, makes this a must play for fans of this genre.
A copy was provided by the publishers for the purposes of this review on Nintendo Switch.
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A version of this review is also posted on Six One Indie.