Arcen Games’ new downloadable content is here with Starward Rogue AuGMENTED, and it triumphantly marches roguelike gameplay deeper into the next millennium, one where robots and severed heads reign (That’s right, “reign” not “rain”—that would just be messed up.) As the story goes, the player is cast in the role of a disembodied head with control over a vicious machine of war, and you must save the princess! – Er… the robot. Rodney, to be precise. And he would be ever so grateful.
Starward Rogue is off to a good start, not over-complicating the objective and turning tropes on their heads simultaneously. In fact, nothing about the game is over-complicated, which makes it fantastically accessible. But it’s still infused with a great deal of variety thanks to a handful of diverse mechs, each with its own playstyle, as well as pages of unique enemies, environmental hazards, weapons, mods, and power-ups.
The AuGMENTED DLC just brings more fun to the party, boasting:
- A new gold floor with unique challenges and rewards
- 4 new music tracks composed by Pablo Vega and The Overthinkers
- 3 new mechs: The Zephyr, The Paladin, and the Warhog
- 90+ new items
- 30+ new enemies
- 125+ new rooms
- 8 new room obstacles such as the pulse trap and the flamethrower turret
- 10+ challenge rooms (a new room type exclusive to the gold floors)
- 6 new minibosses
- 9 new bosses
Piled onto the hundreds of instances already in the base game, procedurally generated dungeons, AND 2 modder-made mechs (Penumbra and Alpha) included for free in the December 2017 update, players will never have the same game experience twice. Which is important, considering each playthrough will be, at most, 5 to 7 floors and a couple hours (or, as your reviewer has discovered, at least 1 room and a couple of seconds). Pick it up, put it down in low-commitment fashion – perfect for the busy lifestyle.
The controls are simple: move, point, shoot. There’s also a small host of secondary and special weapons, which sit at the ready as well. Boss battles and enemy-heavy rooms turn quickly into technicolor firework displays, the sight of which can be quite enthralling, and therefore, its own kind of a hazard. I fondly recall Geometry Wars, but from way back when in the Xbox 360 days. Starward Rogue is a lot like that, with more mazes and mods. In short, it’s fun and satisfying, to the point that permadeath is less disappointing than one might think. If anything, it’s an opportunity to try a new mech and/or difficulty setting, and with difficulties ranging from Very Easy to Misery, there’s an option for everyone.
As in other games that I’ve had the pleasure of playing (namely, Jettomero: Hero of the Universe,) Starward Rogue’s soundtrack is brilliantly executed. If robots and severed heads made music, this is what it would sound like. Though, something of a point of criticism here: the soundtrack shifts room-by-room, and shop rooms have no music at all, which combines to stunt the listening experience. Which, of course, is only of concern because the jams are as tasty as they are.
As I climbed through levels and accumulated mods and power-ups, I did find myself a little disappointed knowing that these accomplishments would perish in the flames along with my disembodied head. In these moments I yearned for the stacking satisfaction of growing my power and strength, building it over the course of every playthrough. But I’m inclined to think that is just the type of gamer I am – you know, playing a Legend of Zelda game to max stats, chasing every heart container and side quest, finding every magical power and legendary weapon. The roar of raw power as it claws through your muscles rips out of your sword arm and mauls Ganondorf…Yeah, that feeling. And to a much lesser extent, it is here. Shrunk down to a Matt Damon-sized sensation, but still there. Inevitably, I take solace in the words of Robert Frost: “Nothing gold can stay.” (Thanks, Ponyboy.)
AuGMENTED takes an already well-composed dish and pairs it artfully with dessert. Something like – oh, I don’t know – the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen, perhaps. What’s more, the whole package will set you back less than $20, which is even less if you wait until one of Arcen’s upcoming discount events. Accessible, unpretentious, fun, fast, funny, whirring blinking lights, driving bass, the whole package – it’s a solid value by my measure!
A Steam copy of Starward Rogue and Starward Rogue AuGMENTED DLC was provided by Arcen Games for the purpose of this review.