PAX West 2017: Choose Your Friends Carefully When Walking the Streets of Rogue

Having covered an earlier incarnation of Matt Dabrowski’s Streets of Rogue a while ago, I had a decent idea of what to expect. It’s an ultraviolent action/RPG brought to life with stylish pixel art, featuring wide open gameplay. Basically, the player reaches a “floor” and is tasked with completing (or failing) all of the missions available there before moving on. Each of these can be done in numerous ways. Capturing a required object can be done through stealth, using distraction and subterfuge to infiltrate the building. Going in guns blazing is also an option, though that can bring the heat from myriad cops, gangsters or just friendlies aligned with the faction that is currently being murdered. So it was that I was happily playing the game, solving missions, bribing bouncers and gangsters for protection accruing a pile of useful items to use for subsequent quests when fellow Hardcore Gamer writer Chris was given a controller. That’s when all hell broke loose.

A small bit of explanation: most of the staff makes it a point to visit the publisher’s booth whenever they are present. TinyBuild always has interesting games on display and the staff they have running the booth are both fun and energetic. It’s a destination, offering both respite from the insanity of the show floor in favor of a completely different type of insanity. Chris did have an appointment with these folks earlier at PAX, but had some free time to tag along for mine. As I was playing, he and the present PR staff were spending the time joking around, mocking me with a poorly photoshopped picture of myself in an unflattering situation. That is when he noticed the fact that Streets of Rogue offers four player local co-op and asked for a controller.

When playing co-op during this game, it becomes a bit competitive. Not only are there various items, weapons and equipment up for grabs, there is also an element of how to solve the missions. Thus, I found myself attempting to complete quests in a manner “proper” for the game while Chris decided that each and every inhabitant of the city would look better as a corpse. Say a shopkeep needs an important item retrieved. It is up to me to find it, return it, and pull Chris away from the area before he decides to feed said shopkeep a grenade with a rocket chaser. This maniacal murder spree made finishing these tasks much more difficult, as everyone would either run or open fire upon seeing me, simply due to my association with Chris. So, it’s an accurate portrayal of reality.

It’s not that the game becomes unwinnable even with a psychotic teammate. Should a quest giver explode, the mission is failed. All that means, however, is that it has been touched and it is marked as complete. The player can still move on to the next floor. This is fortunate as I proved to be an ineffective rodeo clown to Chris’ rampaging bull. I eventually relented and agreed to accept and participate in Chris’ style of play. That is when the game sent a bazooka toting killbot after the pair of us.

It happened on the floor after our mutual murder spree began and the thing was unrelenting. No matter where we ran, no matter how we tried to outsmart it, it would find us and spread our innards across the landscape. With a high defensive value and an HP bar that would put Dirk Diggler to shame, it took quite of bit of effort to knock it down. With the demo’s generous respawn system, this was the perfect opportunity to check out the myriad classes available to play. The soldier became my favorite as he spawns with a machine gun. Others might prefer the vampire, werewolf, or gorilla to wander the streets. The result was pretty much the same, though. We would spawn, run away, attempt a quest, and find the robot bearing down on us.

Throwing everything we found at it, its health bar would be chipped down before our bodies became experiments in particle physics. It was then time to respawn and try again. Through attrition, the machination was finally felled. Elated, we proceeded to continue on our adventure before realizing that the show floor has long been closed and the booth staff would like to finish packing up and go eat dinner if it was all the same to us. Hey, I said that we liked them, not that they liked us.

The point to this article is that I wasn’t able to finish my homework because Chris. Then I realized that, holy crap! I was able to experience Streets of Rogue exactly as it was intended. This is a title that has a structure with which to play. Following it is one way to make progress. It is just as viable to throw it all away and just be stupid while still making progress. The nature of this title allows for any number of ways to “win,” some of which are not the most obvious. That is part of what makes this work in progress so endearing. It’s in Early Access right now, so anyone can check it out. Just don’t expect to have things go the way you want it if you are playing with friends. Especially Chris.