Big Fat Alien, Blue Sock Studios and Keystone Game’s Rogue Islands may look like a Minecraft clone upon first glance but underneath the beautiful voxel surface lies something far more sinister. A true survival action adventure if ever there was one, Rogue Islands will punish you from the get go yet strangely draw you back in for more.
So let’s start with the basics of Rogue Islands. The game is, at its core, an action adventure first-person shooter. It does however have a twist to it that makes it far more enjoyable than most other games currently available in the genre. Levels in Rogue Islands are procedurally generated and will never be the same. The player’s character, the wizard Motwort, is on a quest to save the world from the Prime Torment, a demonic force that’s been wreaking havoc. As Motwort, players will have to explore 10-15 islands, perform certain tasks on each island and ultimately find their way to the Prime Torment and save the day.
Rogue Islands however makes this an incredibly difficult task. Within the first 5 minutes of playing the game, chances are you are going to die… A lot. The distinct lack of a tutorial makes the game’s learning curve a literal Mount Everest to climb at first but therein lies much of the title’s enjoyment. The first 30 minutes of gameplay will involve players repeatedly dying as they explore and try to get to grips with the game’s world. It may frustrate some gamers but should you have the patience to stick it out, you’ll soon find yourself hooked on Rogue Island’s formula. Explore, defeat enemies with magic, forage for food, craft and complete objectives while trying to stay alive.
Each of the islands you visit have a specific main objective to complete. For example, one of the islands I visited required me to climb a great tree and meditate at the very top. This was not only incredibly challenging to do but rather fun to attempt with the odds stacked against me. The fear of dying and having your progress reset keeps you on your toes and suddenly, you become so much more aware of your environment. As day slowly turns to night, panic sets in. Nights in Rogue Islands are filled with ghostly baddies that will devour you and it’s quite honestly, terrifying. The only way to remain safe at night is to return to your spawn point, Motwort’s trusty ship and literally hide inside it until dawn breaks.
Rogue Islands makes players adapt to survive. Venture out too far away from your ship and should night fall, chances are you’ll be ghost chow. Venture out with no food and starvation will set in and slowly tick away at your health. Run into a group of enemies and you’ll be waging all out magical war in no time. Rogue Islands makes you think as a gamer about the consequences of your actions. Much like games such as Dark Souls reward patience, the same applies to Rogue Islands. Since the odds are so heavily stacked against you, the sweet taste of progress will keep you coming back for more. There is some reprieve at least in the form of Nightmares. These are craftable items that quite literally save your life, by writing off your death as a nightmare, as Motwort wakes up back at his ship.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. The voxel aesthetic works really well for the game is visually pleasing. Caves, mountains, lush forests and deserts look amazing and just beg to be explored. The procedural generation results in some truly breathtaking islands to explore. The game’s user interface is simple enough to understand and the soundtrack is well suited for the type of game Rogue Islands is. Surprisingly, the narrator’s voice acting is great too and every island’s load screen delivers a tiny tidbit of story that builds up Rogue Island’s lore superbly.
From a gameplay perspective, Rogue Island’s first-person camera perspective is great and the controls handle just fine. Crafting new items and fending off enemies with a multitude of spells and magic never gets old. My only gripe is that Motwort sometimes struggles with jumping and gliding due to his mana limitations in the early game and this can hamper progress somewhat.
Overall, Rogue Islands is a game that will torture you at first but once you get the hang of it, will deliver one of the best gaming experiences in the Roguelike first-person shooter adventure genre. Motwort may live a hard life in his quest to save the world from the Prime Torment but if you dedicate enough time to this game, you won’t be disappointed at the sense of satisfaction you’ll feel throughout as you progress “just a bit further!” than you did the last time.