Review: Rogue Wizards08 Jun 2017 2
Review: Rogue Wizards
Released 06 Jun 2017
Sleep deprivation has long been a reasonable yardstick by which to measure a game's entertainment value. Who among us hasn't bargained that we would quit after "Just one more turn," or "once I level" only to keep going against our better judgement. It's the mark of a very compelling game, at a minimum. This week a recent free-to-play release Rogue Wizards has had me up later than was altogether wise more than once.
Rogue Wizards is a turn-based tactical role-playing game with an average plot but excellent action and loads of gear to equip and spells to sling at the bad guys. The story is one of bringing equality to a magical land where only the nobility is supposed to have access to magic. You're not noble, but you do have magic, and meet several companions in the same position. The lot of you take on the status quo, and the unsavory magi keeping things the way they are. The story is serviceable with a positive vibe, but it's not the reason to play the game.
Quality dungeon crawling and non-stop turn-based tactics is what Rogue Wizards really offers. The game is stylish with line-of-sight graphics that pop up before you as you advance and fade away behind you as you pass. This provides a fog-of-war feel where any step might reveal a mess of monsters to face. There are a lot of different monsters to take on and bosses to dispatch, each with distinct powers and abilities.
Luckily, you'll be well equipped to take them on thanks to an ever-growing trove of magical weapons, armor, and other items. Rogue Wizards is all about gear, gear, and more gear. Seriously, there's a lot of gear. There are six slots to equip and a wide array of options for each. Items come in different rarities and naturally the rarer a thing is the more powerful it is, and can become.
Items are not static in Rogue Wizards and grow in power over time. They start out with one or more special powers which rank up to become more effective as you use them. Powers are things like increased critical-hit chance or severity, a bump to one of your ability scores, or a percentage chance for a cool magical spell when used like a rain of boulders or burst of fire. Items also level up and gain new abilities over time as you use them. Legendary items will end up with eight or nine powers if you use them long enough. You can also add new powers to items you own in a shrine, which is a great strategy to prepare replacements for aging gear as you level.
The way Rogue Wizards handles gear reminds me a lot of Diablo 3 and gear-centric MMOs like World of Warcraft. It isn't as detailed as those games and is a more casual approach, though you can still get your min-maxing on. The breadth of equipment options, and pros and cons of different equipment, enables different tactical approaches to gameplay. The chakram, for example, can hit everything in sight but does a lot less damage than a bow. An axe operates similarly in melee range, dealing less damage than other options, but in an arc.
Magical items and the warrior's way aren't your only defenses against the monsters of this world. You are a wizard, after all, and your spell book will be a constant companion in your quest. Magic comes in six different schools—fire, earth, lightning, nature, ice, and cosmic—each of which has three spells. You learn spells by spending gems, one of the in-game currencies. Gems also allow you to rank up spells as you level which makes them more powerful. Once you reach rank ten in the first spell of a school you're able to learn the second. At rank twenty you can learn the third spell from a school.
The biggest distinction between spells is whether they are instant or not. Instants don't require you to spend a turn to switch from your martial weapon of choice to ready the spell and then spend a turn to switch back when you're done. As such, instants are where it's at. They are efficient and can be quite powerful when used in the right situations. The game doesn't list out the instants before you learn them so I'll reference them: Ignite, Stalagmites, Sentinel, Swarm, Shield, Banish, and Anomaly.
Rogue Wizards offers two modes of play. You'll start with the campaign which is extensive—it took me 25 hours and 24,799 turns to complete. I finished at level 72 after having earned 592K gold and looted just under four-thousand items. Playing through the campaign unlocks Gauntlet mode, which is a roguelike high-score chaser. Gameplay is the same though you earn points for progressing through a series of dungeons. Your best scores are tracked along with stats on how you died, how many monsters you took with you, how much loot you acquired, your total quest time, and if you suffered the ignominy of falling with a health potion in your possession. There are four different, progressively harder gauntlet levels: dungeon, cavern, master, and cosmic. Each has its own personal and global scoreboards. Gauntlet mode is a lot of fun and ups the replay value after beating the campaign.
THE FREE-TO-PLAY MONETIZATION
As most mobile gamers know, and a quick glance at either gaming store will confirm, the free-to-play monetization model dominates the market. It's a trend that doesn't look to be reversing any time soon and a reality facing any game developer is that most mobile gamers do not want to pay for a game upfront, if at all. Rogue Wizards is a premium game on Steam but this reality seems to have pushed the developer to go freemium on mobile. Luckily for those of us who appreciate good tactical RPGs he did it right. There are no energy timers or invasive ads. There are no glorified slot-machine mechanics where you dump in gems for a chance to get a super-duper rare thingy. There are optional ads that give you gold and gems, up to three per day, if you watch them. There are also IAPs for buying extra gems. The game plays well without buying gems and should satisfy gamers looking for a fun game at no cost.
There's also a "Gem Drops x 2" in-app purchase that doubles the rate at which gems drop while in a dungeon. The IAP costs $5 and the difference is quite noticeable in the game, especially at high levels. The developer says the gem-drop IAP is designed to create the same balance in the mobile game that exists in the premium Steam version. In this way gamers that prefer a more premium gaming experience can pay their five bucks and have it. Gamers that don't want to pay anything don't have to and can watch some ads to supplement what is already a reasonable gem drop rate. You can, of course, do both if so desired.
Rogue Wizards is an excellent tactical RPG. The line-of-sight graphical style is appealing and the game is easy to play and understand. If you enjoy tons of loot and optimizing a character's gear, it is the game for you. It really scratched the Diablo 3 itch for me right from my phone. What's more, the game is free and its monetization system is smart and respectful of players. I hope the developer finds success with it and that more freemium game makers experiment with these types of approaches.