Streets of Rogue (Alpha)
Streets of Rogue is unfortunately not a rogue-like version of Streets of Rage, but rather an open-world street-life roguelike/lite where you can choose to undertake quests to build your power and fortune.. or just life an every day life on the mean streets of a procedural generated city.
Streets of Rogue aims to be a freeform experience where the player can approach goals however they wish. It’s an intriguing thought but an ambitious one – many games from indies to AAA to Peter Molyneux have aimed for this goal and not quite succeeded. While this game is very early in development, an alpha has already been released that gives a glimpse of how well Streets of Rogue may live up to its promise.
Seemingly heavily inspired by the design philosophy of games like Deus-Ex, the game intends to allow players to find a colourful range of solutions from stealth to all-out combat and everything inbetween in order to meet their directed or self-determined goals. As per a sample from the developer:
“Let’s say the player has a mission to retrieve a piece of paper with a valuable formula from a science lab. He could run in, shoot everyone and take the formula. He could bribe the guard, walk in, stealthily tranquilize the scientist with a dart and take the formula. He could poison the lab’s air filtration unit, causing the scientists to run out, at which point he could pickpocket the formula off a scientist. He could hack a computer and open the doors of some caged gorillas, causing them to run out and beat up the scientists and allowing the player to grab the formula in the hullabaloo. That one caused me giggle out loud, which meant I obviously had to make the game. (And by the way, it’s actually possible to do all of those things in the game right now! )”
That last line is important. Streets of Rogue may only be in alpha, but you can already mess with lab security to enjoy some hearty gorilla-related causes of death. Something that’s surely been overlooked in games since Bad Street Brawler. Anything inspired by Deus Ex gets points too – I’ll never forget opening the alien containment pens in Hong Kong and then watching the grey beings file out and begin vigorously radiation-blasting scientists, while the Men in Black would respond by indiscriminately firing into the room, causing an all out war to erupt. All while I sat perched from my hiding place to see who would survive last. Whoever wins, we lose. Aren’t videogames grand?
In any case, whether the game can pull this off or not is the big question. The best way to find out was
wait 26 months for the inevitable Kickstarter take the Alpha for a spin and see what kind of mayhem I could get up to. Following are the painstakingly recorded captain’s logs, star date 19XX, of my bold new mission.
Run 1: Intelligent Gorilla
There is already a varied mix of characters to choose from, from bartenders to doctors.. to hyper-intelligent Gorilla. I think to anyone interested in maximizing violence potential, or perhaps with an ape “fursona”, the choice is clear. It is time to free my fellow primates from those cruel internet scientists and put them to work punching and smashing things with their large ape fists as God intended. Following from Planet of the Apes’ Roman themes, I dubbed him Caligula, and headed out into the mean streets.
Immediately I found a fellow beast imprisoned in the first building. Naturally, I was able to punch through walls, an ability all apes are known to share, in order to quickly free him while the scientists in the other room remained unaware despite a sudden increase in their heating bills. Caligula’s buddy, Judas, immediately launched forth from his former containment and beat the scientists to death, then waited obediently for his next command (I could get used to this). Like a gang of Droogs we hit the mean streets looking for more furry fist beasts to add to our growing primate army, but the quest markers on the map noted we could stop off and neutralise a few drug dealers in exchange for a tasty syringe filled with a mysterious liquid that, surely, would be a good idea to inject into our rippling furry biceps. Moving forward with nothing but our fists and some bananas, we engaged. The battle was bloody and furious, but the invention of gunpowder quickly caused me learn a valuable lesson about why humans are the dominant species on earth. The drug dealers returned to their hovel to peddle their wares while my former-comrade and I were presumably made into neat looking rugs. RIP Caligula. Ape. Hero. Consumer of Banana flesh.
Run 2: H-h-h-acker made of flesh
Since brawn failed me, it was clear that for this run it was time to take on a more intellectual approach. Donning my John Lennon glasses I jacked out of
the fadecyberspace as the Hacker. Ready with my laptop for hacking into computers and a handful of time bombs for those rare occurrences when subtlety fails me. Immediately I realised that, Watch_dogs style, I could use my laptop to hack computers remotely without that pesky need to physically operate them. I instantly hacked into a science lab from outside its fortress like walls, and told the computer to flood the room with deadly gas – a ventilation feature which of course we are all familiar with in all our homes – and watched the scientists slowly succumb to poisoning. Feeling that toxin-based torture was a bit too slow, I hacked again and this time opened the doors, freeing my previous ape brethren who proceed to burst from their cells and finish the job that the poison began. Upon leaving the labs, with their fur soaked in blood but causing no distress to onlookers who were presumably used to such occurrences, I tried to parlay with the apes in order to recruit them to my side. Unfortunately they responded with “Ook ook ook” and thudded off. I tried offering them a banana to sway them without words – alas such an option doesn’t seem to be present.
Moving on, my next objective was to neutralise a bartender. Why was he the target of wanton assasination? Shadowrunners don’t have the luxury of questioning such things, but he no doubt served a badly mixed Long Island, a mistake punishable by death in many jurisdictions. Learning from my past animal life, and thanks to a more developed frontal lobe – I decided to avoid direct confortation and went around to the back of the building and placed a timebomb there. Waiting for 10 seconds, the fireworks began: the walls exploded into a shower of bricks, and the bartender within was quickly converted into a fine red mist, granting me a quick though debatably more messy victory. As a crowd hysterically began punching anyone within fist-length range, it was time to slip back into the shadows and prepare for the third and final mission to “retrieve” an item from a shopkeeper.
I at first approached the shopkeeper and the option to bribe him for the item popped up. It was a bit more expensive than the $20 or so I had, so leaning on tried and true methods I went to place another fancy timebomb. The shop keeper was not in the optimal position to place it from outside, so I did the only sensible thing and placed it in the center of the room for maximum destruction. Apparently walking into a building and placing a stick of dynamite with a clock attacked to it causes people to feel a bit uncomfortable, and suddenly everyone was rushing at me, fists flying. I tried to swing my fists back, but my weak hacker frame, spent hunched over a keyboard while eating only soylent powder, were not enough to withstand the onslaught. The shopkeeper was also equipped with a shotgun. That was probably the more pressing point. My body was left lying in front of the store as it crumpled into dust amidst the explosion. Perhaps a fitting way to go out, then. Let SHODAN sort them out.
As you can see, Streets of Rogue at this point is an extremely crazy and chaotic game. At the moment the experience isn’t structured the game simply assigns you random missions per each ‘floor’ of the city (perhaps its one of those megacity/arcopolis thingys). Each mission grants an item as a reward, which is also random – so you could recive something as useful as a banana up to a teleportation device. You can of course engage in non-mission based activities, like buying slaves or freeing slaves, breaking into houses and looting safes, and so on. Completing the quests opens the elevator to the next floor, where the process effectively repeats. So it’s more of a violent sandbox at this point – which each character beginning with a selection of items to cause havoc in different ways, and each quest rewarding you with more and more crazy items such as flame throwers, gigantizers which make you giant and able to walk through walls and cause a lot of destruction, the above-mentioned teleport devices, and erm, mini-fridges to store food in.
The set of actions you can take are colourful, yet limited, and the action does feel a bit repetitive after a short while. There are a few neat functions such as knocking on windows to distract guards, knocking on people’s doors then lobbing a grenade inside, or recruiting strangers off the street to help you cause a distraction. Overall though, you are mostly limited to bribing, looting or killing to build up enough resources and complete quests. Of course, the point of the Alpha demo is basically just to mess around with and see what happens, and it’s a pretty fun, if short, diversion.