It was Roguebook which kick-started my obsession with Slay the Spire last year.
Roguebook, from Nacon and Abrakam Entertainment, came into my life when it released on Steam last June. I spent a lot of time playing it on my laptop as a complete newcomer to the roguelike deckbuilder genre. I learned its intricacies, and soon figured out the importance of building a good pair of characters and having a strong deck to accompany them.
But with Roguebook then only available on PC, and console gaming being my preferred way to play, I was stuck. It had stirred a fire within my belly for more roguelike deckbuilding goodness, and so Slay the Spire became my go-to game for several months. But rejoice! Roguebook is finally available on PlayStation and Xbox, so my deckbuilding endeavours on console can broaden.
One of the greatest joys of Roguebook is that it isn’t just simply about combat. You’re given the opportunity to explore its world by using paintbrushes and ink that you’ll amass by winning battles. Paintbrushes expose a large area of an explorable grid at once, while ink pots will either expose one tile at a time, or allow you to reveal a line. By using ink, you’ll uncover new enemy encounters, useful items, new cards and more. And so exploring as much of the map as you possibly can is always helpful.
Unlike Slay the Spire, where your hero fights alone, in Roguebook you’ll fight with two characters at once. Each character has their own cards, allowing them to deal unique attacks and buffs. The pair share a defence shield, but their position on the battlefield may also change the state of play; some heroes may have buffs if they’re in the leading position, for instance. Or an enemy may hit you with a debuff that only affects a character standing in a certain spot. It adds another layer of strategy to the proceedings that extend beyond simply planning how to best attack and defend.
Like Slay the Spire and other deckbuilding roguelikes of its ilk, you’ll always know the intent of your enemy. You’ll know if their next move will be an attack, and for how much they’re going to hit. If you’re new to the genre it might feel a little bit like cheating, but it’s in fact the whole point; figuring out how to best counter their move and prepare for it is what makes Roguebook‘s strategic combat so rewarding. You don’t know what cards you’re going to have in your hand in any one turn, so you might not be able to block a heavy-hitting blow from an opponent. But maybe you have an ace up your sleeve that can debuff them, weakening their attack.
As if the word ‘roguelike’ didn’t give it away, you are going to die – and quite often – in Roguebook. But that’s the point. Sometimes you won’t get very far at all before an enemy encounter goes awry and your health is reduced to zero. Other times – either down to luck, excellent strategy or a perfect alignment of both – you’ll make it through to the final boss with barely a scratch. But this isn’t a once-and-done type of game. You’ll keep playing, no matter how far you get. Each run you complete grants you ‘pages’, essentially experience points to be spent on permanent upgrades. You’ll also unlock new cards and characters, and so the more of Roguebook you play, the better at it you’re going to get.
One thing worth mentioning is just how beautiful Roguebook looks. Playing on PS5, this is a gorgeous, crisp and colourful treat for the eyes. The world is brought to life with brilliant detail that jumps off the screen, and the array of enemies you find are all well-designed. Even when you’re getting your ass handed to you, you can at least appreciate the aesthetics.
For fans of Slay the Spire and its ilk, Roguebook is a no-brainer. This is a gorgeous, engaging take on the roguelike deckbuilding genre that carves out its own niche without ever feeling derivative of games that came before it. Combining the joy of map exploration and discovery with deep, strategic combat, the result is a game that absolutely nails replayability. If roguelikes are your jam, you’re going to find it hard to put Roguebook down.
Roguebook Review (PS5) – GameSpew’s Score