This is an early access game.
When a video games ingredients are comprised of key Bioware members, like Jane Whittaker who previously worked as programmer of Alien VS Predator and Kiaran Ritchie, principal animator at Bioware, it’s very likely that something special is being created. This is Keystone Games and what they’ve loving crafted, is a fantasy fueled FPS rogue-like game called Rogue Islands.
Initially comments on the game will speak about Minecraft, in terms of the visuals and seemingly the game-play. This is not a negative, given the popularity of Minecraft and how such a style allows for wonderfully bright and vibrant visuals, something that has as much a place in the first person shooter world, as does the grimy browns of Doom or Hexen. How the game does connect to those murky palette based games, is that it is a fast paced experience. This isn’t a friendly sit back, close your eyes, shoot and you’ll all fare well game. You need to be on your toes, because as much as you can destroy in this world, it can annihilate you and happily.
By fusing old school FPS games with a modern influence Rogue Islands offers plenty to do. You play as a Gnome-Druid (finally) that can levitate! There’s a strong focus on resource gathering, which is not a staple of classic FPS titles, though it has become optionable in some recent ones, like Far Cry Primal (which is essentially a FPS, but with spears and telepathic murder owls).
While she may be a big villain in the game, we’re impressed by how sassy The Silken Mother is, taking all the husbands for herself!
Keystone Games have put so much into Rogue Islands, allowing more seasoned or brave players the ability to opt for perma-death. The game is tough, to the point of being brutal. In order to allow yourself the maximum amount of time not being dead in the game, it’s worth noting that you don’t always have to go in guns and magic fists blazing, that sometimes hunkering down and evading enemies is an acceptable strategy. Those enemies are plentiful, in ghostly monstrous variety.
As mentioned there is a need to gather resources, if you truly wish to tap into the really fun side crafting and evolving your character and world. It also tickles our RPG needs by allowing us to craft items to help us succeed and learn spells that can have a devastating effect.
So aside from mixing the best bits of a variety of gaming genres, what else stands out about Rogue Islands? There is a constantly changing procedurally generated world, that expands your exploration endeavors and keeps you on your toes. The island adapts with your skill level. Though we’ve not obviously encountered them all, the developers boast 120 million possible combinations for how the island will design itself each time you die. We died a lot.
Here is the same view of the same island, showing how it adapts each time you’ve been killed.
Visually Rogue Islands is incredibly pretty on the eyes. The initial Minecraft vibes don’t cement themselves too long after you’ve come to grips with the world and explored. There is a blocky style but the sky at night, the flora and fauna, the creatures, characters and tone are incredibly pretty and unique to the roguish island, not another gaming franchise.
A criticism, is that we would have liked there to be more variety in music and also voice acting. The narration elements are done in text form and your Gnome Druid and enemies have a series of noises they omit, but just from a personal perspective there could be a lot done with having even the main character be voiced, especially if the dialogue was rife with humour. It’s not something that deters from the enjoyment of the game, just when nighttime comes, it can increase the feeling of isolation. That’s inside the game by the way, not our sad personal lives.
Keystone Games was founded with the aim of creating video games that players could enjoy but also to band together and raise funds to help support charities, especially those focused on aiding and supporting children with disabilities. It’s a rarity where you can find a video game that is worth your money, incredibly enjoyable and your involvement as a consumer or part of the community is actually contributing in such an important way, to so many lives. Would we recommend this game, if the creators had not implemented that proceeds will go to charity? Yes absolutely.
With winter coming, though depending where you live it might feel like it’s already there, Rogue Islands offers a cosy, warm world to immerse yourself in while you blast monsters and fire barrages of magic at ghouls, all the while being able to find times where you can simple enjoy the scenery and have a much needed respite from the world and its evils.
Rogue Islands is available on Steam, currently priced at £14.99 and Keystone have stated that the majority of RRP will go to helping disabled and terminally ill children.