By Josh Speer / June 13th, 2016
Author’s Note: I backed Rogue Stormers for $44 on Kickstarter.
There’s a large part of me that wants to do nothing but gush about Rogue Stormers. After all, I backed it back when it was called Dieselstormers in order to see the project get realized, since I believed in the unique vision presented by Black Forest Games. They’ve been on my radar ever since they made Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams on the Wii U. Despite some technical quirks of that port, it was a fun, challenging and satisfying game. So when I saw they were working on a twin stick roguelike, I was instantly interested.
While it’s true the game has changed a great deal since its inception, I saw most of these changes as positives. They decided to make each character represent a unique class (you only start out with one and have to unlock the rest by playing). I also like how the roguelike features in the game make sure no playthrough is exactly the same, even though you’ll always go through a gauntlet of 7 different stages in a row. Hell, I even like the idea of unlocking perks which can change your play-style by leveling up as you progress. My main issues with the game aren’t because of Black Forest Games’ ambitious ideas, but with the execution of these ideas.
First let me be upfront and say that I checked the game’s requirements beforehand, and according to Steam, my laptop met or exceeded them. So imagine my surprise when I tried loading the game and had to wait a good 30 minutes the first time, only to have it not start up. The developers suggested I try out the Beta build instead and luckily that did allow me access. But the start up still took longer than any other game in my massive Steam library. Once the game got going, it mostly worked, though there were a few unfortunate kinks that threw a monkey wrench into my experience with this build.
Once the first level is generated, you’re told the mission and left to your own devices (besides a couple basic information tutorials that pop up the first time you play). One thing I appreciated is that Black Forest Games mapped the controls pretty effectively to the XBox 360 controller: one stick controls your movement, the other your gunfire, and the bumpers and triggers allow you to jump, dash and activate your special move. My only minor complaint with this is that they didn’t map the jump and dash buttons to the same side of the controller, but that’s a minor quibble. Honestly, the controls were great compared to the big issues I had; namely how the game is balanced and the slowdown that occurred every time I played.
Because of the random generation of stages, you never know how the stage will start. While that is mostly positive, a couple of times a bunch of large enemies generated right next to my starting point. Suffice to say, I didn’t get far on those playthroughs. Usually the game won’t start you right in the heart of a horde of monsters, but it doesn’t take long for trouble to find you. While I’m not adverse to challenge, I found even the smallest of enemies (tiny goblins that swarm you) took way too much firepower to put down. I also found myself frustrated how shooting them wouldn’t push them backwards at all. Their tendency to randomly lunge at my hero often lead to me losing way too much health way too quickly. Given that it’s often unclear where you need to go in a level to progress, this can be problematic, especially if your health is low when you find the boss. While it’s true that you can find stations that allow you to gamble coins for items (the results are random) and you won’t always be rewarded with health.
Another complaint I had was with the stage geometry; while the levels look fantastic-showing off dark, brooding landscapes full of mechanical refuse-it was often hard to tell where one wall began and ended. I oftentimes would fall into a room and not figure out how to escape until being murdered by an enemy shooting me through those confusing walls. While the game does indicate floors you can and cannot jump through, it doesn’t extend this courtesy to walls, which caused me more trouble than it really should have. My biggest issue, however, was with the constant slowdown. You never know when it would happen, but many times as I played the game would suddenly slow to a crawl, usually right as I wandered into a room full of goblins, orcs and mechanical mayhem. One especially frustrating instance of this was as I wandered right into a room, the game froze up, and a robotic raygun blasted a mine right underneath me. Not surprisingly this killed my player instantly before I could even respond. There are other stage hazards that can really make this a serious issue, such as floors that are sporadically roasted by fire and gauntlets of laser beams. I’ve looked online, and I’m not the only reviewer afflicted by this slowdown. If nothing else, I hope my impressions help spur Black Forest Games to either sufficiently tweaking the gameplay balance or to updating the system requirements to accurately portray what is required to run the game. Meeting the system requirements should not result in constant slowdown.
I know it sounds like I am just bitching and moaning here, but it’s coming from a frustrated fan. I really want to see Rogue Stormers be the best it can be but the unfortunate truth is it’s just not there yet. I want this game to be the tight, frantic, superbly entertaining experience I truly think it can be. Black Forest Games make great games, and all I want from them is to put in more quality control testing to get things running tightly. There’s still a lot to love about Rogue Stormers: it has a very definite identity and tone, great design, cool graphics and a killer premise. It just needs to find a way to make all the parts work together in a smoother fashion. I hope these impressions help that happen, and encourage those playing the game to speak up about any frustrations they encounter. Hopefully one day soon Rogue Stormers will be that twin stick shooter everybody is raving about.
betablack forest gamesImpressionsKickstarterRogue Stormers