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Game Info:

Rogue Islands
Developed By: Big Fat Alien, Blue Sock Studio
Published By: Keystone Games
Released: September 12th, 2017
Available On: Microsoft Windows
Genre: Action Adventure, Shooter
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: Single player
MSRP: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Keystone Games for sending us this copy of the game to review!

Rogue Islands is a first-person shooter and survival game. It features a gnome druid who must survive harsh environments on several procedurally generated islands. While there, you must gather food, fend off enemies, uncover powerful crystals and ultimately close the portal to the demonic realm in hopes of eventually defeating the Lords of Torment. You have to be careful though because the game is unforgiving and it's easy to die and lose your character forever.

I'm not a fan of the Minecraft-esque graphics, the permadeath, the survival aspects and especially the fact that the build on Steam is not the fully realized version of the game. The most recent developer update mentions that the team is focusing on the console version at the moment, and any additional development would be " reworked into this PC version where it's feasible". It goes on to say that the Steam version is "a complete and fully playable game". After playing this version I agree, but it's hard not to wonder what else they had planned.

Rogue Islands draws heavily on Minecraft; the first sentence of the "About Game" section on Steam says, "If you think this is Minecraft, think again!" To me, it doesn't bode well that the first thing you feel you need to say about your game is that it's not just another Minecraft clone. The art style can most succinctly be described as Minecraft-esque. The graphics have the standard cartoony cubes with low resolution textures. They have ramped up many other visual aspects. The lighting and water effects are much more advanced than the terrain and character models. I'd say they use a bit too much lens flair, but that's just me. Special care was also taken on the spell effects; they are satisfyingly sparkly and explosive.

Rogue Islands
Highlights:

Strong Points: Large islands; Great procedural generation; RPG elements
Weak Points: Hunger system; Enemy variety
Moral Warnings: Heavy use of magic; Demons

The sound is adequate overall. The music is a mix of light and upbeat tunes with the occasional dark beat to add to tense moments. Most of the sounds are 8-bit inspired but the effects themselves are way too complex for something that would have appeared on a Nintendo. They're fine, and they suit the overall feel of the game, just a bit of a nit-pick on my part.

Rogue Islands features procedurally generated islands, full of: resources, enemies and a boss. The environment is your number one enemy as you'll often find yourself starving and poisoned, trying desperately to find some food. It succeeds in being a difficult game. The combat is first-person and predominantly shooting. I wasn't really expecting this, given the fantasy Minecraft veneer. The keyboard and mouse controls are fine and I had no issues once I found the button mapping. I tried the controller briefly, but found it slow and clunky to use, so I switched back.

The primary gameplay loop is: choose an island, explore the island, gather resources, try not to die, upgrade your spells, kill the nightmare, repeat. This is fine in theory, but the game is challenging, even on easy mode, so you get stuck in the "try not to die" part often. Anything you learn from early deaths about the locations of monsters and resources is pointless, because they're all going to be in another spot when you load that island again. The islands are large and the procedural generation is good; there's a lot of variety between the islands. I never found common spawn points for food or resources so it always felt like a treasure hunt. Through the repetition I learned about different monsters and how to upgrade my spells, but every moment just feels like a rush to not die and do everything over again. Some people will enjoy this aspect; I found it frustrating. The story is extremely minimal and gives a barebones justification to go from island to island in order to save your friends.

Rogue Islands
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 68%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 78%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 2.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

There's an elaborate crafting and upgrade system where nearly every item can be upgraded. That's not to say that there's a deep upgrade tree for everything. You collect spirit dust from killing enemies and then you can use that to upgrade everything except food. Personally, I focused on upgrading my spells so that it didn't take 10+ hits to kill the most basic of enemies. There aren't a lot of different enemies. So they're easy to learn, but lacking in variety.

The game relies heavily on its magical elements. Casting spells is a core part of the game and you have to engage with it if you want to get anywhere. Also many of the enemies are described as demons. All of this is done in a very cartoony manner though; fantastical magic and demons in a Minecraft world.

I'm split on Rogue Islands as a whole. I like some things about the game including the challenge and the sense of exploration. The lack of enemy variety combined with the constant need for food hinders my exploration greatly. If you look at the game more as an action-style shooter with other elements mixed in, you will most likely have a great time. I expected a shallow Minecraft clone experience but found something much deeper and honestly more frustrating. If you love roguelikes this is a game you should check out; if you don't then it's tough to recommend.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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