Roguelike-like FPS Rogue Shooter Blasts Out With A Demo

By Alice O'Connor on April 28th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

Revolvers!

The roguelike-like spirit has meandered across video games history for a few years now, turning old things new with a little roguelike RPG kick, and now it’s hit the unusual host of wonky ’90s shareware FPSs. Rogue Shooter: The FPS Roguelike launched last Friday, looking and sounding like something from the dark corners of a 1996 cover disc but pleasing with procedural generation and oodles of items and stats crafting and all that.

A hearty launch discount brings it down to £3.49 on Steam and a demo’s that-a-way too.

It is a mid-’90s wonky shareware FPS, with garish crude monsters chasing you around a 2D plane in 3D space station corridors. Running-backwards and circle-strafing (and sometimes maddeningly snagging on walls), you shoot them until they fall over. Meshed in with this is a roguelike-like layer of finding new items with new stats and abilities, levelling up to unlock new perks, repairing items, and a persistent progression of collecting ‘intel’ to unlock new starting loadouts.

It’s tricky to demo a roguelike-like, and Rogue Shooter’s hides what would be the game’s lasting appeal. It doesn’t offer enough to get a taste for the variety of items and skills that make such things interesting, or to get far enough for deaths to inspire furious streams of cussing. It’s locked to the lowest difficulty too. Nor do we get to unlock different loadouts, which one imagines will present some interesting challenges. But we do get to shoot things, which is somewhat key to the game.

The retro vibe is a curious one. Shooting looks, sounds, and feels weak because hey, it’s retro. The monsters are an eclectic selection of wacky aliens and carnivorous plants and whatnot because hey, it’s retro. Levels are sprawls of intersecting corridors because hey, it’s retro and it’s an unimaginative procedural generation algorithm. The style didn’t click with me, though I am but a mewling babe so the nostalgia may tug at your heart more. Have a look:

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47 Comments »

  1. Tacroy says:

    Shooting looks, sounds, and feels weak because hey, it’s retro.

    That’s a pretty silly justification, Vlambeer’s Gun Godz (which was on RPS a while back) looks, sounds and feels amazing despite being more-retro-than-thou.

    • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

      Yeah, I mean, didn’t DOOM’s guns feel quite good as well? And I mean, for many, DOOM, is THE retro fps.

      • Shodex says:

        All the guns had great kick in DOOM, as did they in Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. I’m honestly hard pressed to think of any of the popular 90′s shooters that the guns felt weak in, I mean that was all the games had. Guns and bad guys, so they had to at least get that right. Now I haven’t played this game, but if they’re trying to be like a mediocre/bad shooter from the 90′s all that will lead to them being is a mediocre/bad shooter in 2014.

        I never got the mentality indie game devs have where “it’s okay if this is bad, it’s retro!” It’s not retro, your game came out last week. You can mimic the retro gaming style without being poorly made.

        Apologies for cynicism, I haven’t had any coffee and seeing people misuse the term “Roguelike” always puts me in a grumpy mood.

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          I agree with all previous commenters, there is no place for weak stuff in today’s gaming environment. Quality is never something to hold back on, quality is timeless. While graphics and some game mechanics were held back by technology before, there are numerous examples of other areas where a lack of budget didn’t mean lack of atmosphere, sound design and general gameplay. You can’t live in the past and get away with it.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            Was going to mention pretty much every game that’s just been mentioned here so I guess I’ll just +1. Some of the greatest ‘retro’ games, past and present, have gunplay that feels freaking amazing.
            And this is from someone who’s always up for a little (or a lot of) nostalgia.

          • Shodex says:

            Like Kaeoschassis said, the retro games we all remember felt great. If I look back at some of my favourite classics, DOOM and the original Castlevania they are barbaric, yes. But the game play feels good. Really good.

            Games back then made themselves good by specializing, finding a very specific goal and putting all their effort into that one thing being good. These days everyone is trying to invent the universe, quantity at the expense of quality. Graphically retro games fall short of the modern games, but that doesn’t mean they fall short in every way. Especially now that pseudo-retro pixelated stuff is super in, I don’t think you can get away with saying “My game feels weak and looks bad, because it’s retro!”

            And while we’re being honest, I want to go back on my statement that retro games look worse. This isn’t true by default. Retro games were limited in graphical capabilities, but many had good art direction and style. They looked barbaric, not cheap. Rogue Shooter looks cheap, no doubt that’s because it is cheap and I’m not insulting it on that fact. But you can chalk up it’s ugly graphics because of “retro.” Hell, I still think Morrowind is the better looking game than Skyrim. Simply because outside of the technical level, everything was more interesting to look at.

            Being retro doesn’t inherently mean it looks bad. You can look pixelated and retro, and still look fantastic, feel fantastic, sound fantastic, etc.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            @Shodex – Absolutely agree with you, on the whole. I think there’s a lot to be said for your point about specialization, and I CERTAINLY think that a lot of older games – and a few newer ones going for that style – look far better than modern equivalents. Style is what’s important here. If you have a style, a direction, that’s recognizable, nice to look at, bold, whatever, it’s always going to be those things. Just throwing in the very latest tech and looking as realistic as is possible at the time doesn’t replace that. In a couple years your game will just look dated.
            I don’t, actually, feel like Morrowind had a particularly interesting style, but that’s just a matter of taste, it doesn’t make what you said any less true.

            Y’know what still looks and feels great today, btw? Descent. Somewhat surprising, but its sound design is wonderful, its style is simple but very appealing, and god DAMN does it feel nice in motion. The guns really don’t feel half-bad, either particularly the lasers and vulcans.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Descent remains awesome, yeah. So smooth, too.

        • Phasma Felis says:

          I was actually awfully disappointed with the gunfeel in Quake. DOOM’s shining gunmetal renders were replaced by a handful of washed-out, pixelated polygons; the thundering, devastating shotguns with glorious fullscreen reload animations became a weedy, barely animated “pok, click-click” that literally couldn’t one-shot a dog; the howling scream of the plasma rifle gave way to the vague, gappy sizzle of the Thunderbolt.

          Quake 2, of course, brought it all back in spades.

    • The Army of None says:

      Vlambeer have to be the Kings of Gamefeel.

    • zontax says:

      Jan willen from vlambeer did a great talk about “game feel”. it show a couple of neat tricks you can use to make your game feel more responsive.

    • Eclipse says:

      as did Doom, shoot feels a lot weaker in modern shooters than the old ones actually

  2. ColCol says:

    A note should be made that the game has around a hundreds levels and no save feature in any form.

    • Baines says:

      If the later levels stay similar to the first few you can play in the demo, then they are fairly short.

      Still, it would be nice to have a “pause” feature, where your save is deleted upon resuming.

      • zero182 says:

        EDIT: THE DEV JUST PATCHED IN A SAVE AND EXIT FUNCTION! :)

        If you were to finish the entire game, from what I gather it would take about 4.5-6.5 hours. The lack of a save and exit function (which deletes the file upon loading, of course) is a total deal-breaker for many folks, and is also rather ludicrous. I really hope the devs patch this in :/

        edit: I decided to buy the game for the hell of it, and it looks like a complete run would take closer to 7-8 hours -_-

        • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

          Are you kidding me? No save? At all? Eight hour play, no save?

          Yeah, not even getting the demo then. Thanks for saving me the time.

          Also, this looks oddly like the old game ZPC, with the black outlines on everything.

          • zero says:

            The dev has just now patched in save and exit! :D It seems they are listening to the players :)

  3. Shodex says:

    Sure doesn’t look like a Roguelike to me.

    • ColCol says:

      Shit, call 1-355-elbereth. Get the Roguelike police over here.

    • MaXimillion says:

      Tried to tag it on Steam as “Not actually a roguelike”, but apparently that’s another helpful tag that Steam in it’s infinite wisdom has decided to get rid of.

      • animlboogy says:

        Is it even possible to find actual roguelikes on Steam? Now I need to check and see if there is a tag for “Actual Roguelike”.

        • *Junon says:

          Off the top of my head, ToME, Dungeons of Dredmor, and SotS: The Pit are all on Steam. Varying degrees of adherence to the strict interpretation, but there they are.

        • physys says:

          WazHack
          Sword of the Stars: The Pit
          Dungeons of Dredmor

      • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

        At least there’s “rogue-lite” tag

  4. hemmingjay says:

    The game is a tremendous amount of fun for the money although the lack of any save feature is maddening since I don’t have the four or five hours it would take to run the 100 random levels in a sitting. The good news is that the random weapons and levels mean that it’s fun every time you load it up. I have roughly five hours with it already and can see tripling that in the coming month. To me, that makes it more than worth it.

  5. aliksy says:

    The shotgun from doom is in my opinion the best common use gun in any FPS. (I say ‘common use’ to exclude silly things like the BFG that you probably carry around and use once)
    Reply fail. Meant to reply to ‘weak guns’ comment at the top.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I’d actually say the shotgun was MORE fun and better feeling than the BFG. Not that I didn’t love the BFG, mind.

      I think we had a discussion a few months back that basically amounted to “you can judge the quality of an fps by its shotgun”, and I am definitely sticking to that.
      However, this is dirt cheap and I still might pick it up just for all the random goodies. We shall see.

  6. LogicalDash says:

    How does it differ from Paranautical Activity?

    • ColCol says:

      I would say it has more character building and random elements. I would say PA feels much more fast paced and arcade-y. IN RS there are more chances to just lay low and unload all you have on a hallway of monsters. You don’t have to be constantly moving, like in PA.

      • The Random One says:

        Okay. How does it differ from Tower of Guns, then?

        • ColCol says:

          Only played a little of that, would say the same exact thing. Tower faster paced, less rpg elements. Also, I like the enemies in Rogue shooter better. Not a fan of tower’s drone robots and cannons.

          • Wedge says:

            Of course Tower of Guns contains 3d gameplay, functional enemy variance, and pre-fab level design. This is a 2d (from first person perspective) gauntlet of endless random hallways and generic enemies.

  7. zero182 says:

    **Well, the devs just added save and exit to the game. So it appears they are listening and responding to player feedback :) And this is a damn good start!**

    Personally, Im a bit disappointed by this. It feels as though it has significant potential to actually be a damn good, ‘retro’ style with modern elements type of game. However, what it comes off as being is a somewhat cheap feeling, cheaply made game that justifies this as ‘retro style’. It could be epic. It could be a $30 game. Instead it really feels like a $5-7 game that could’ve been more. However, hopefully the devs plan to patch it significantly after release; I remain somewhat optimistic :)

    The main issues I have:
    -no save and exit/suspend feature. The game takes somewhere around 5-6 hours to finish a run through…what the hell; enough said.
    -lack of any proper resolution options/support. Poor screen scaling.
    -no ability to rebind aiming. Im not sure if there is some sort of mouse acceleration going on here, but it feels off.
    -a number of game-breaking bugs.
    -very lackluster weapon sound/feel. Although the weapons themselves are rather awesome.

    Dear devs, many of us want to love your game, please continue working on it after release and make it great :)

    edit: I forgot to mention that the steam overlay does not function at all in game. Which would not be so bad, if the mouse was not locked to the middle of your screen while the game was running no matter what you do :(

    • Panzeh says:

      There’s nothing wrong with making a 5 dollar game. It really needs a save and exit feature, but I feel like I got my money’s worth.

      • zero says:

        I am not saying there is anything wrong with it :) Just that with a bit more work it wouldn’t need to be a $5 game.

  8. yayo says:

    Looks like nothing to a retro FPS, just a crappy and cheaply done thing. I’m sure the devs are lovely people and they have feelings, but seriously: you shouldn’t ship shit like this. I wonder how it managed to get on steam.

    • Wedge says:

      Have you looked at the release list of games on Steam lately? Everyone boo-hooed about Greenlight and now there’s basically nothing that DOESN’T get posted on Steam. This is exactly what they were worried about happening, since their storefront needs a major revamp to deal with this.

  9. The Random One says:

    I remember I had one of those shareware CDs with 50 “games” (demos) when I was young. I remember it had some great stuff on it, like Heretic and Rise of the Triad. I remember it also had this super weird game that, reminiscing on it nowadays, was an attempt to market FPS to children. Your character was in a weird semi-abstract labirinth, and the game fiction had you shooting goop at aliens instead of murdering Nazis.

    This game feels a LOT like that game.

  10. *Junon says:

    Everything that appeals to me about this game is right in the title, so I eagerly picked it up on release day and have rather enjoyed my time with it. My only gripes:

    -the oft-mentioned lack of a save or suspend feature.
    -at that, the lack of a true PAUSE feature. Hitting esc brings up the same menu spacebar does, and the game does NOT pause during this time. I’ve gotten used to taking breaks at the start of a floor, before hitting ‘e’ to begin, but still….
    -Variable Music and SFX volume. It’s either on or off. The elevator sound on level transitions is particularly annoying because it’s much higher in volume and way more resonant than the other sound FX.

    When I first tried the demo I also didn’t really like how the map and radar were on different sides of the screen but that’s no big deal after several hours of play. Now I begin a floor in Kill Mode and only pay attention to the radar and once it’s cleared out I switch to Loot Mode and worry about completing the map.

    Good little game that could use a touch of polish.

  11. Kemuel says:

    As a child who grew up on demo disks between ’95 and around ’05, I have a deeply nostalgic love for wonky ’90s shareware FPSs. I’ll be stoked if this delivers on that alone.

  12. *Junon says:

    For anyone that might read comments on stories two days removed from the front page, the devs have responded to the demand for a suspend save feature and implemented it. If the update isn’t already live it should be very soon.