Review: Immortal Rogue06 Mar 2019 0
Review: Immortal Rogue
Released 20 Feb 2019
Waking up as a powerful vampire is a well-worn video game territory. So are relentlessly replayable roguelikes. Somehow, Kyle Barrett, developer of Ever Knight, has found a way to make both of these staples feel fresh and inviting with Immortal Rogue.
As the titular character, you spend your waking moments reaping civilization of its blood, one century at a time. As you haunt populations for consecutive centuries, you can play a large role in how society develops. Choosing to hunt social elites or rabble rousers may determine if humans progress into the stars, or revert back to barbarism. I wish this narrative device felt more substantial.
Conceptually, being a hidden figure that has secretly been altering human history from the shadows for years is great. But it never feels like an interesting story is being told, outside of the small info dumps that set up each new engagement. The choices you make regarding who to hunt don’t change each encounter substantially. At most, instead of just killing everyone, you kill everyone and especially one person in particular. Occasionally, you’ll be able to turn that special somebody, and add them to your coven.
The consequences of the decision can be significant, though. Moving forward or backward in advancement could mean that your next set of enemies could go from mostly wielding swords or bats, to being Terminators with laser guns. Enemies hit harder and harder - and there are more and more of them - the longer you survive. The more advanced the society, the more frequently you’ll find that the monsters that spawn to greet you can absolutely decimate you from distance. Some legible way of knowing how your decision will affect the movement of civilization would have been welcome here.
This is especially something I wish I had when I died and had to spend the next hundred years resting. Time moves on without you, so dramatic progress could be made before you’re ready to hunt again. The beginning of your run could be right smack in the middle of a robot uprising, meaning guns galore. After hours of play, I’ve found my way around this little difficulty bubble. But in the beginning, I found it to be overwhelming.
The nuts and bolts of playing the Immortal Rogue are simple, familiar, and satisfying. Swipes, taps, and holds encompass all of the inputs you’ll need to make mincemeat out of the well-armed general public. Light and heavy attacks strike with a that feel good stickiness, with just enough space before and after attacks to feel like you can zip out of harm's way.
There is also a pretty diverse set of weapons you can acquire that all feel unique. Even though you pick them up at random, they tend of be era appropriate. Sometimes you’ll pick up a cowboy six-shooter, other times a katana. They all seem to have a place in a strategy, or can be the kind of run-defining things worth building a strategy around.
The irony is that even though much of the game rewards aggression - all of your movement is in dashes, light attack chains get up close and lock enemies down, etc. - I had much more successful runs when I got a ranged weapon and just shot hordes of enemies from a distance. It’s not a complete imbalance, as the hordes can become untenable once you reach year 900. But some of the dirty tricks that Immortal Rogue plays on you, whether intentionally or not, might have you thinking conservatively.
The way enemies spawn often feels like there is no rhyme or reason to it. They sort of just show up from off screen, or from underground, or from thin air to come kill you. Sections of the map you've already covered might sometimes hide a random group of baddies that triggered at some point when you weren’t watching. The environments themselves can obscure enemies under them that you might not know are there unless you see a bullet careen towards you from behind a rock, or you just felt the need to dash behind a tall building. Not exactly game-breaking, but annoying.
I have had bugs that got me stuck on pieces of a map, unable to dodge away from what would shortly become an aggressive and devastating onslaught of enemy fire. They don’t happen often, but when they do happen to sabotage a run, you can’t help but feel frustrated. Ditto to the inconsistent responsiveness of the controls. Touch controls are hard to make work perfectly, and the design is intuitive, but the end result isn’t always. Slides and holds get confused all the time for me. You learn to work around it, but it can be a lot of work.
But man, Immortal Rogue is hard to put down. It has that perfect blend of small investment interactions and frantic, engrossing action that always convinces you to go one more time after a death. Mixing the perks you pick at the end of each level with all the gear and enhancements you can buy or inherit through your coven helps you produced strategies and builds that you can see working usually immediately. When I focus on one or two build ideas, it’s almost always rewarding to see them come to fruition.
So, despite its setbacks, Immortal Rogue seems to accomplish everything good about the popular roguelike genre on one of the platforms where they are a dime a dozen. It even makes the concept of playing as a powerful vampire something that at least feels new and different on its surface, even if it fails to do much with it. A gratifying, one-handed action game on mobile as sound as this one should absolutely not be overlooked by anyone seeking the next great single-player experience.