Games like Diablo and Torchlight are known for being massive, sprawling epics that seem to go on forever. 100 Rogues take all of the elements of these games – the random dungeons, the levelling up and skill assignments, the equipment, the items – and boils it to a five minute quest for survival. In a brilliant genre-defining moment for the iPhone, 100 Rogues has invented the first one-session roguelike.
Like any roguelike, players will explore level after level of dungeons in a quest for better equipment and more experience. The end goal, which is presented in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, is to find and kill Satan. Players will explore these dungeons utilizing an interesting turn-based system that manages to feel like real-time action. Every step and action you take will consume one turn, but you’ll move and attack just as you would in any action game. It’s a neat blend that makes the gameplay feel more edge-of-your-seat than it really is. The gameplay is both tremendous fun and a great match for the iPhone, but it isn’t the thing that makes this title stand out.
Whether we’re talking about Doodle Jump or Canabalt, survival seems to be the mantra of successful iPhone development nowadays. 100 Rogues embraces that mantra in its design, as each play session lasts only as long as your character does. Traditional roguelikes often feature respawn points or town portals that, while usually penalizing you for death, never really let you stray too far from where you left off. 100 Rogues breaks that tradition with a ten foot hammer. When you die, you’re dead. Game over. The object of the game then becomes not to finish the quest (in fact, we’re not really sure if it is finishable) but to survive as long as you possibly can.
Players will get to choose between a knight and a mage before beginning their journey, each with their own play style, abilities, and skill tree. The mage is squishy and prefers ranged combat over melee, while the knight is tough and always eager to get in a bad guy’s face. The character select window also hints at two characters that may become available in the future, though whether they’re unlockable or future DLC is anybody’s guess at this point. As players level up they’ll be able to purchase new abilities or stats using skill points. The Human Crusader can purchase the “whack of glory,” a magic hammer that knocks enemies back a few squares, while the Fairy Wizard can get spells like “Teleport” that will move them out of harm’s way. A good variety of spells and abilities like this open up as you proceed, but if you’d rather you can just purchase upgrades to your health and ability points.
The presentation in 100 Rogues shines as brightly as the rest of the offering. 16-bit visuals and music make this feel like the SNES roguelike that time forgot. Every character animation, be it hero or enemy, looks natural and detailed. Variety is in full bloom as well, with a good deal of effort put into making every enemy and piece of scenery as detailed and unique as possible. In terms of retro game design, 100 Rogues has the look down perfect.
In addition to the main game, a challenge mode is also featured that will put your wits to the test. Most of these task you with defeating a certain group of enemies within so many turns – a feat that sounds simple but is usually dependent on figuring out which ability to use when or which path to walk before the attack. There are some real headscratchers in there, providing a nice bonus for logic-inclined gamers.
As it stands, the game has one crippling problem right now that makes it hard to recommend despite the praise we’ve heaped upon the game – it constantly crashes. Developer Wes Paugh has publically stated that it’s a bug related to equipping shields and that a patch is going out to the AppStore asap to correct the issue. Responsibility like this is to be commended, but that doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating.
In presentation, gameplay, and charm, 100 Rogues excels. The team at Dinofarm games have taken a genre that once seemed impossible to bring to the iPhone and reinvented it from the ground up. 100 Rogues is a fantastic game, and it’s one we’d recommend that every old school gamer spends some time with – but we’d suggest waiting until you see a version number other than 1.00 in the App Store. Either that, or stay away from the shields.