REVIEW: Rogue AI

Feels like every time I take on a tower defense or strategy game, I’m putting up a disclaimer before the review, reiterating that it’s ‘not my preferred genre’. I suppose it’s a combination of things; the games’ staid requirements of building and managing multiple tiny units don’t engage me much, and I’m generally average or below at completing them. Rogue AI (80 MSP) has the dubious distinction of amplifying those feelings and doubts from the start. ‘Today Humanity Dies’ goes the box art tagline, but playing as the AI, the reverse seems to be true.

Oh, failure screen. I know you well.

I can’t get pass the first stage that follows the tutorial. That’s not something I’m proud to lead off on, and renders this review essentially incomplete, but even with accounting for my dearth of skill, the game isn’t inclined to go easy on you on the ‘easy’ setting. Billed by the developer to me as ‘a defensive strategy game with a tower defense feel’, you’re not defending so much as surviving, despite having objectives for each stage. And ‘surviving’ (or trying to) seems to be the operative word.

In addition to the campaign, there’s ‘Survival’ mode, which functions as one big arcade level minus the story and objective bits, tasking you to build and hold out against enemy waves. Given that the wave difficulty escalates fairly quickly here (I never survived longer than a minute and a half), I’d hold off really digging into this mode until you’ve conquered or seen most of the campaign. Then there’s the almost inexplicable ‘Suicide’ mode, which is little more than an ego-deflater, throwing insurmountable enemies at you and killing you within fifteen seconds every time, no matter how you deploy. Putting these modes alongside the already-crushing campaign, it’s just not fun.

And all of it is further hampered by the game’s presentation. A tutorial level hands you the basics, that you need minerals and energy to do anything in the game, and a brief overview of turrets and how to defend yourself. You’re then dropped unceremoniously into the fray, left to figure out the rest of the unit and enemy types on your own. Your supplies don’t accumulate fast enough, even with upgraded units, and are spent as quickly as they are earned, making each move you make of the utmost importance. There’s no room for error.

The visuals too, aren’t up to standards. The layout of the screen, as well as the tinier text and icons, shows its iOS beginnings. Despite the developer’s efforts to translate it to a bigger screen, it still looks and feels like it’d be more at home on mobile devices.

Either way, I gave Rogue AI more than enough time to grow on me, but it’s just too basic and otherwise uninteresting / straightforward to draw casual onlookers in. The obscene difficulty is a mark against it, way too unforgiving and hostile to beginners, leaving it with limited appeal, except maybe to very strong adherents of the TD genre. There’s someone out there that will enjoy this game, but it’s not going to be me. Pass.

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