PAX South: Streets of Rogue is Smartly Chaotic

As a publisher, tinyBuild has become one of my personal favorites. They just have this knack for creating quality games like No Time To Explain, and releasing incredible experiences from other developers, such as Punch Club or Party Hard. These are people who absolutely know what they are doing. So, it was with much eagerness that I sat down to try out Streets of Rogue with none other than tinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik.

As the name would imply, Streets of Rogue is a roguelike title that takes place in a somewhat modern world. Played cooperatively, players choose a class from one of dozens of options, each with their own benefits and potential drawbacks. For example, there is an accountant that has an easier time with money, but also a wicked drug habit that must be satisfied by visiting dealers.

In fact, each of the player classes will have different quests to complete on each map before the team can move forward. Some people might need to be whacked, others might need to be rescued. Both altruistic and criminal, there is a wide variety of objectives to complete, rendering the game endlessly replayable. This is especially impressive as this is a title created by a singular entity, one Matt Dabrowski.

During my playtime with Alex (that phrasing sounds worse than it is), I took control of the soldier class while Alex went with the hard punching gorilla. It was almost like Every Which Way but Looseif Clint Eastwood’s character accidentally shot the primate in the back whenever a conflict occurred. So, more like Clint Eastwood’s actual life, minus the yelling at chairs.

While this game is a roguelike, all of the action is in real time instead of the simultaneous turns that other games of its ilk use. The retro pixel graphics might not display it well in screen shots, but the marketing description of this feeling like Nuclear Throne mixed with Deus Ex is extremely apt. The twin stick action style of the former shows through, being both challenging but fair. The feeling of latter is shot through the game’s DNA. The “levels” feel like pixelized representations of an actual urban area; tasks can be completed in many different ways depending on the skill make up of the classes chosen.

There was one simple murder quest that needed to be taken. Alex, being the veteran player, started to suggest a more low key route so as not to draw unwanted attention. He didn’t speak quick enough and I shot the target through a window, drawing the ire of both the target’s allies as well as law enforcement. My action could have been seen as smart or stupid, depending on how the player wants to approach the game. Either way, we were popular. Very popular. Eventually, we completed our tasks on the map and beat a hasty retreat.

As expected, my time with Streets of Rogue was highly entertaining. There is a wealth of options to explore, the vast majority of which I didn’t even witness. The controls felt tight and intuitive, and the game itself is held together smartly enough so that actions have predictable responses when thought through, while being open to emergent possibilities that are sure to create some memorable moments. Best of all, the final version will be releasing to Steam on March 8, so people won’t have to wait too long to see what all the fuss is about. The especially impatient could also download the alpha for free.