Roguebook is a roguelite deck builder with a charming aesthetic and deep turn-based gameplay.
Richard Garfield is a name that holds a lot of weight in the world of gaming. Most famous for his hand in creating the legendary card game Magic: The Gathering, he has gone on to create numerous tabletop board games. Most recently, he is credited with his involvement in designing the now-defunct digital card game Artifact, a living card game for Valve’s Dota franchise. Now, he teams up with Faeria creators Abrakam Entertainment for Roguebook, a roguelite deck builder infused with the colorful charm of the fantasy franchise.
You start the game as Shanna, a warrior woman who finds herself lost in a mysterious world. After meeting up with a few friends, she finds out she has been trapped in the mystical Roguebook. This ancient artifact is the corrupted book of Faeria’s lore given free will by wicked magic. Each level is a page come to life in the world of the Roguebook, which you’ll explore using magic ink and paint brushes to uncover the hidden contents of each hexagonal space. This can reveal gold you can spend at various shops, hidden treasures or turn-based enemy encounters that offer rewards upon beating them.
There are four playable characters, each with their own deck that evolves as you acquire new cards on your journey. Each character has multiple archetypes they can use to build a solid deck and create synergy with their teammates using the unique qualities of their deck. Characters like Shanna and wolf man Seifer can team up with a focus on summoning ally cards, while big, red Sorocco can team up with nearly anyone because his cards allow him to brush off tons of damage.
One member of the team will take the brunt of the attacks from the front, while the other is safe in the back line, adding an extra layer of strategy to the mix. Deck building can lead to discovering tons of new card combos to devastate your foes in a ton of different ways. It feels satisfying to piece these combos together with the limited card choices given on your journey and the wide variety of play styles available will have you coming back for more. This goes hand-in-hand with exploration, as the best way to find new cards is to explore the current level you are on.
When you enter a new map only a small section of it will be visible, along with a single route to follow to the end of the level. You can reveal more of the map by using your paint brush tool to reveal a large portion of it, or defeat enemies to obtain ink and use it to create paths or uncover single map tiles. While each map keeps the same visual and gameplay themes, it randomizes itself for each new run to shuffle around the contents. While enemy attack parties and events may stay the same from run to run, their location, map treasures and extra cards for your deck are never predictable and it pays to remember what your favorites are.
You’ll experience all of this in a beautifully realized fantasy world. The vibrant visuals of Roguebook are enticing, as is the immersive orchestral soundtrack and colorful characters. Each new world is different from the last, with the bandits and soldiers from the first chapter being a far cry from the horrific rat people of the third. Random events also serve to bring you into the world with some light roleplaying that could result in some powerful buffs for your team. The characters are also fun and well-designed, with each combination of characters interacting with one another in a unique way to further immerse you in the fantasy of the world of Faeria.
As with any good roguelike, when you die it’s game over and you have to start all over again. However, each character will leave a failed run with experience points for themselves and the party as a whole. When a character levels up, their list of possible cards they can find grows to expand their strategies for future runs. You’re also able to find missing book pages on your travels, which can be traded in for ‘embellishments’ on the Roguebook to help you on future runs. This blunts the edge of the insane randomness that one could fall to in a failed run, since your extra pages can always go towards something to give you an edge on your next attempt.
This doesn’t mean Roguebook is without shortcomings. While the gameplay is solid and it’s easy to get lost in the beautiful fantasy world the game presents, it’s even easier to be ripped out of the fun by a random game crash or strange graphical bug. These technical problems plague Roguebook, as cards can be drawn as blank white slates or stay enlarged when you mouse over them. Combined with rampant randomness, these bugs can be incredibly deflating and nothing feels worse than abandoning a run after a successful boss battle because one of your rewards crashes the game each time you try to pick it up.
There is a lot to love in Roguebook. The brightly-colored visuals are fun and work well with the soundtrack to immerse you into the fantasy world of Faeria. Using ink to reveal the hidden world of the book, building your deck and fighting enemies with your favorite characters is engaging and can be a great time. However, the game is marred by graphical glitches and crashes that serve only to frustrate you and break the excellent sense of immersion the game presents. This makes the fight against bad luck a struggle in Roguebook, where a few botched card choices can also lead to disaster. Fans of roguelites or collectible card games will want to give this game a shot, but with all the technical problems it’s tough to recommend to anyone.
– Immersive visuals and audio
– Deckbuilding is fun, deep and expressive
– Progression is varied and meaningful
– Card acquisition can be frustrating
– Tons of graphical glitches and crashes
3 out of 5
Review key provided by Homerun PR. Roguebook releases June 17th on Steam!