Roguelike deck-builder Roguebook from Abrakam Entertainment and NACON is ready for you on PS5. Learn more about this gem of a game in our Roguebook review!
Roguelike deck-builder Roguebook from Abrakam Entertainment and NACON is ready for you on PlayStation 5. According to my 2021 Playstation Wrap Up, my most played game of that year was Slay the Spire. After allegedly putting in 495 hours into that game, I can say with great confidence that it was indeed my favorite game for 2021. There is something to be said about a roguelike deck-builder and how it just speaks my language, and Slay the Spire knew exactly what to say. It was a fantasy-themed deck-builder with a cyclical story with interesting characters and an engrossing wealth of cards, unique monsters, and interesting items and events to discover.
What does any of this have to do with Roguebook? Roguebook is not a secret Facebook group for people who like to play as Rogues in DnD. It’s a roguelike fantasy-themed deck-builder with a cyclical story with interesting characters with an engrossing wealth of cards, unique monsters, interesting items and events to discover, and after playing it for a while, I can say it’s just as good as Slay the Spire! The folks at NACON and Abrakam Entertainment seem to understand what it takes to make an intriguing deck-builder where every element complements the rest. Todd Howard would agree that “It just works.”
Roguebook starts you off with two heroes that, through chance, have found themselves trapped inside a book. The only way to escape is to navigate through its ever-changing maze-like chapters. There are three chapters to overcome, and, as is par for these games, there are monsters to meet and battle and a boss to defeat at the end of the path. Where Roguebook differs is the fact that it is possible to make your way to the end boss of a chapter in about 5 minutes of starting a run since the game shows you a clear path to the boss room. As you can imagine, this won’t be the best strategy. You are instead advised to run around the page uncovering events, gathering resources, and improving your party and your deck(s) to help you stand a better chance to survive the ever-increasing challenges. You find yourself having to judge the fine balance of becoming strong enough to challenge the boss whilst trying not to be too weak or too dead to face it.
A run can take about one hour to be completed, but as with every roguelike worth its salt, it is improbable you will finish the game on your first run. As you make many attempts to defeat the book, you unlock new cards for the heroes you play as, new items, and new events to encounter. Along with what can best be described as a post-game difficulty modifier where you are given additional bonuses in exchange for hindrances like more expensive shops or harder battles, it begins to offer you the true challenge of the game as you progress through the run. To offset this difficulty, you are able to permanently carry over upgrades that help your party members. These upgrades can be unlocked by finding treasure pages hidden throughout the maps or in specific events, and pages can be used to buy upgrades in a skill tree that also expands as you progress through the game.
Roguebook is full of little nuances that set it aside from its competitors in its field. For example, as mentioned previously, you play each run as two heroes instead of one – out of four heroes in total. Unlike other deck-builders, you have to observe and curate their individual decks and make sure they complement each other in their synergy. Some cards belonging to certain characters work best when played behind other cards belonging to your character or their partner. Even their dynamics can change mid-hand as a card you have been waiting to play all-match suddenly becomes hazardous since playing it might put your whole team in danger. Roguebook understands peril and the “narrative of the play.” The way the battle mechanics are set up allows you to curate your own story as you play through a run.
Heroes and enemies are lined up against each other on a 2D battlefield, and the positioning of your characters can affect certain dynamics of a fight. Allies at the front will take the brunt of the undefended attacks, so depending on whom you wish to lead your duo, you will want to avoid cards that force the back hero to come forward or force your leader to fall back, especially if their partner stands to die from the next hit. This is what I mean about each run telling its own story. There are quite a lot of systems to get the grip of, and wrapping your head around the idea of playing two characters at once might take a hot minute, but it becomes second nature once you get going. Whilst Roguebook could do a lot better to explain some of its more obtuse mechanics, for the most part, the game is easy to pick up and play. You’ll definitely find yourself saying, “just one more run.”
The game is not just fun to play but also fun to look at as well. The artwork is bright and colorful. The world maps of the book are always well put together, however random they may be… but the best designs are saved for the monsters and bosses. Each has its own gameplay mechanics and combat tactics for you to discover. The game encourages and rewards exploration of all sorts. The sound design and the music are also just as high in quality, encapsulating the whimsy and intrigue of Roguebook in full.
In short, Roguebook is just great and needs to be experienced by everyone. Fans of deckbuilding roguelikes – or those with even a passing interest – must make this a must-play as soon as possible. I don’t know if I’ll spend 495 hours playing this one, but I’ll certainly be coming back for more and more. Roguebook is out on PlayStation 5 with a $29.99 price.
This Roguebook review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by NACON.