Rogue Wizards: Endlessly Addictive, Utterly Conventional

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  • Time flies. Two simple words, yet this concept is never truer than when you embark on a passion project or start on an untimely distraction.

    I was in the midst of some very important affairs—researching on effective attacks against Ghost-type Pokémon—when my editor asked me to review Rogue Wizards. Why not? I’ll play it for a while, formulate some thoughts, and get back to my business. I’ll have a more thorough playthrough the next day.

    Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out very well. Let me sound like a press release and tell you right off the bat—Rogue Wizards, a “fantasy roguelike role-playing game”, according to its developers. And it is also endlessly addictive.

    Really, take my word for it. This isn’t the sort of game you can play in between breaks from work (I ended up playing it through the night till 3AM). But what confounds me about the title is this: I can’t quite decide if it’s a good game.

    Rogue Wizards isn’t quite a roguelike; I think a better word to describe it is “diablolike”, but like David Shimomura suggested a while ago, let’s not get so caught up with naming genres after games with ostensibly similar elements.

    You play as a banlit—someone who is not born with magical abilities—but has somehow learned how to wield magic and conjure fireballs, of course. There is some semblance of a story underneath it all, but the main point is to trawl through dungeons after dungeons and kill monstrous critters, either with weapons or magic.

    Unlike other dungeon crawlers, the use of magic is limited by how many resources you gather, which can also be crafted into life-saving potions. Combat is also turn-based, offering every character a single turn to make any move, from attacking to switching weapons.

    Permanent death can be switched on if you crave a more traditional roguelike experience. And like any dungeon crawler worth it’s salt, the loot is not only randomly generated, but also comes in spades, which meant I saw myself changing things pretty frequently.

    This is curiously at odds with the fact that the more you use your weapons, the more proficient you are with them. It’s like you’re subtly encouraged to stick with one battle-axe, but shinier battle-axes keep popping up, and it seems to only make sense to switch them out anyway. Nonetheless, these features work seamlessly together and make for an incredibly well-designed game.

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    However, there is one issue: the entire experience just feels all-too-familiar. There are some attempts to shake up the conventional dungeon crawler, such as the classless system; you don’t have to choose between being a beer-chugging barbarian or a deft bowman—you can be both if you like! Ultimately, these features still don’t deviate that much from the traditional formula of clicking, killing, shooting and collecting things.

    So this explains my dilemma at the beginning of this piece: what else does Rogue Wizards offer that a game like Diablo hasn’t? Is a game a good one if it doesn’t really offer any novel experience? Roguelike, dungeon crawling role-playing games drop onto Steam faster than lootable corpses, so is there really enough room for another in the market?

    These questions continue to circle my head even as I type. For instance, I have a colossal backlog of games, and clearing them will probably take me a few more years. That is why I’ve grown more discerning about the games I purchase these days—I simply don’t have enough time to play ‘em all anymore.

    Playing Rogue Wizards is by no means a laborious affair; it is very easy and very enjoyable to get lost in a ceaseless cycle of clicking and collecting. But at the end of the day, and at the bottom of the dungeon, purchasing this title would not have crossed my mind had I not reviewed it.

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