Rogue Lords is a hardcore turn-based roguelite RPG where it’s good to be bad.
Sometimes, it’s better to be evil. When the world is yours and darkness rules supreme, being the ruler of Hell certainly has its perks. When good rises to face you in the world, however, it does so with righteous fury. In Rogue Lords by Leikir Studio and Cyanide Games, you’re the Devil himself and you must once again extend your influence to the surface world. Though, a world ruled by righteousness isn’t one quick to welcome evils’ corrupting influence. This means you’ll need powerful allies.
You’ll employ the likes of Dracula, The Headless Horseman, and Bloody Mary as your disciples on Earth. These characters will act as your eyes, ears, and voice to the souls of the living and those willing to accept your malevolent influence. The disciples are the focus of the game, with each one growing in dynamic ways as they do your bidding. There are many types of interactions these vile envoys can have, ranging from dialogue to combat, delivered in a delightful dastardly aesthetic.
You’ll love being evil in Rogue Lords. The dialogue interactions between your disciples and certain groups of civilians or witch hunters are full of nefarious flavor, with each one offering multiple ways to resolve the conflict. You may be able to convince a group of drunken crusaders to go too hard on bullying some civilians, to the point where they kill the peasants and become grief-stricken by their deaths.
These choices are weighted by individual stats such as ‘occult,’ ‘scare,’ and ‘ruse.’ The higher your stats, the easier the checks are to pass and successful attempts lead to your disciples gaining positive traits that buff these stats and others such as attack power. Failures can result in combat encounters, or your disciples arguing amongst one another. When your disciples disagree, they can acquire negative traits that are flat stat decreases, which can be frustrating to watch unfold.
The rest of the gameplay is based around combat. Rogue Lords uses a turn-based RPG style system, where your party of disciples shares a collective pool of action points to fight against the enemy. While each character starts with a set of skills, acquiring other moves to flesh them out is a matter of chance and gained through battles. Each disciple has a ton of attacks that are offered at random as a possible battle reward against normal enemies. You can get the same skill 3 times before it levels up and grows in strength, with 3 tiers of growth for each move. You can also acquire gear and relics for your disciples to further enhance their combat abilities.
The last main mechanic is the Devil Mode. Devil Mode lets the player warp reality and control elements of the in-game HUD and control the game on a different level. You can deplete life bars, steal buffs and power-ups, or open portals to overworld locations you may have missed. This power is tied to your main health bar, however, and when one of your disciples has their HP or Spirit bar depleted they become vulnerable. When a disciple is vulnerable, the damage they take is transferred to you, and when your meter hits zero it’s game over.
Rogue Lords is tough. There is a steep learning curve alongside the roguelite mechanics, as misusing the Devil Mode is sure to result in a quick end to your run. This makes it difficult to judge when it’s worth it to spend your own life to rig a win or sit on it in case a particularly tough enemy comes along later. This dilemma becomes even tougher to figure out later, when elite level enemies are able to deplete your entire life bar off of one vulnerable disciple.
Overall, Rogue Lords is an interesting and deep roguelike. There are a ton of stats that affect how different dialogue interactions can play out, along with stats that boost damage in combat. The aesthetic is immersive and goes hand-in-hand with the Devil Mode to make being evil feel good. It can be hard to take it all in at once, however, and it can be tough to get your bearings when the roguelite elements feel more imposed than natural. Hardcore roguelike fans should look forward to checking out Rogue Lords this Fall.