Rogeobook has been one of these games that I had been really looking forward to. To tell the truth, more often than not, I only find out about a game once it has been released. Roguebook has been one of these few examples where I actually stumbled across it prior to it being available and that impressed me enough to remember coming back on its release day. When I did, I was surprised to find that the game already had a lot of reviews, quite some of them being negative.
Long story short, the developer got everything wrong that they could with their release. They had several paid for DLCs ready right at launch day. While this is not too special on its own, the fact that one of these DLCs actually contained relevant content wasn't such a good idea. After a heavy outrage from the community, they quickly apologized, made the DLC freely available and promised not to do such a thing again. So with that out of the way, it was time to dig deeper into the game and without giving away too much - I really liked what I saw!
All images taken from Steam
At heart, Roguebook is your classical Slay the Spire inspired roguelite deck builder. You travel across three randomly generated maps, fighting enemies, finding treasure, always trying to improve your deck, all to prepare yourself for the final battle against an evil boss. Ever since Slay the Spire invented the genre, there have been dozens of games with the same concept and most of them weren't all that good. Roguebook is a nice exception from that as it offers enough innovation and clever iterations on the proven formula to stand out on its own.
Firstly, unlike in most other deck builders, you actually control two separate heroes, each coming with their own cards and abilities. Their cards are still shuffled together, so you can draw cards from either hero, but the heroes you have determine which cards can go to your deck. At the moment, there are 4 different heroes available, allowing for a total of 6 different combinations. To me, that's a pretty clever way of increasing both the game's replayability and the ease with which further DLCs can be integrated. Any new hero introduced to the game will play differently with each of the existing heroes. So the more heroes they add to the game, the more you will get out of each of them. Even with the 4 we have now, though, there are a lot of different viable builds and a lot of replay value in the game already.
Having two heroes also changes the way combat works quite a bit. When you play a card, the action is always performed by the corresponding hero. A lot of these cards change their effect depending on if the hero is standing at the front or in the back. On top of that, there are many artifacts in the game that offer effects to heroes in the front or in the back. When the opponent attacks, he will always go for the hero standing in the front, so part of the game is to make sure that the right hero is moving to the back at the right moment. To do so, a lot of cards in Roguebook trigger a change of position on top of their normal effect. This additional layer of strategy makes it a lot more challenging to play your cards in the right order but it also feels really satisfying if you pull it off correctly.
In between fights, you explore the current level's map. This also works quite different from most other Slay the Spire style games. Usually, you are pretty much railroaded across a set amount of nodes and you only get to choose between a few different options. In Roguebook, you explore a full map made up of hexes which you slowly uncover while you move between points of interest. Whenever you beat an opponent, you are awarded either a brush or some ink which allows you to "paint" some more hexes around you. There usually isn't nearly enough ink to uncover the whole map so you have to plan ahead where you need to get before you run out of ink. This adds another interesting dynamic to the game.
Something else I want to point out is the overall quality of production that Roguebook has to offer. Most of these roguelite deck builders have pretty awful graphics after all. I mean I love Slay the Spire, but it certainly isn't visually pleasing to look at. Once again, Roguebook is a pleasant exception from that. It has handcrafted, very detailed graphics for all heroes, monsters, items, and maps. It's just a lot more relaxing to me looking at this game than it is looking at most of its contenders. There's also some voice over for the different characters and a decent ambient soundtrack. Overall, Roguebook feels a lot more like a modern era video game in terms of aesthetics but still offers complex and entertaining gameplay beneath it.
Roguebook is no Early Access title either, so it's actually a full release right away. While I enjoy the occasional early access title, it's pretty fun to actually play a game that's already "finished" from the get-go. To me, it's one of the best roguelite deck builders I've played so far and it's right up there together with Slay the Spire and Monster Train in the top 3 of its genre. I've bought it on June 17th and already played it for 21 hours - that's telling you a lot about how much I enjoy it, especially considering how much I struggle with finding time to do anything lately. For the last two weeks, Roguebook has been my guilty pleasure whenever I could squeeze out half an hour of time before doing something else again. It already offers 15 levels of "ascension". So while I've beaten the game in my second try, finishing all the different hard modes is going to take me quite some time still.
Right now, the game is sitting at 81% positive rating over on Steam but keep in mind that a lot of the negative reviews are still coming from the day 1 DLC controversy. If they keep adding stuff to the game, I could see it eventually move towards an overwhelmingly positive rating. The game is sold at 25$ right now and I feel like that's a really fair asking price for what the game offers. To tell the truth, I would have payed 40$ just as much so I do believe that the whole DLC nonsense was a honest mistake and no blatant greed. Anyway, I can only recommend getting the game. If you like Slay the Spire or Monster Train, I'm quite sure you'll enjoy Roguebook just as much as I do!
And that's all from me for today. Thank you all your reading and see you next time!